A rather fashion forward choice for this young lady, the short hair was not common for most women as it is today. There could be several reasons why she cut her hair. Hair was cut when one suffered a high fever, in the hopes that removing the hair would help the patient cool off. It could have been damaged in a fire; hair is extremely flammable and open flames were common during the 19th century. She could have suffered from a bad case of lice, and the hair shaved and the scalp treated with kerosene. She could have sold her hair to raise funds, a la The Gift of the Magi. Human hair was used in the hair pieces so popular with upper middle class and upper class women to augment a woman’s own hair. The various fashions – from pompadour to ringlet curls – put a lot of strain on the hair and sometimes, women just didn’t have a lot of it. In some cases, short hair could have been seen as shameful, but some young women and teenaged girls cut their hair short for fashion alone.
The high neck and puffed sleeves put this photo in the 1880s. The CDV was made by Constantine Jennings, Photographic Artist at 38 Bridge Street in Chester, England.