E.S. Goodwin: Mystery no longerPosted by Penny in Articles
In March, many of the Flickr Commons institutions posted photos of women, to mark Women’s History Month. The Smithsonian took the opportunity to solicit help from the “crowd” in crowdsourcing: they posted some images of women for whom they had little more than a name. Who were these women? the Smithsonian asked. They were once noteworthy enough to have their portraits taken for the files of the Science Service.
Identities followed for many of the mystery women, and fairly quickly. “K. M. Drew” turned up in a biographical dictionary as Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker, an English botanist; “Mrs. Howard S. Gaus” needed a name adjustment to be recognizable as Bird Stein Gans, a child development specialist and cousin of Gertrude Stein. Mrs. Gans was matched to her correct name beyond a doubt when a Flickr user found her passport photo for comparison.
But then there was E.S. Goodwin. A few suggestions came in, but nothing solid. For months, no leads — and there were no beakers or books near her to even suggest what she did.
In July, however, the mystery was solved in an extraordinary cascade of discoveries by Flickr users, and now E.S. Goodwin — Elizabeth Sabin Goodwin — is surely one of the best documented women in the Science Service set. Washington DC librarian rockcreek got the real breakthrough on July 9, by finding a 1924 wedding announcement from the Washington Post about the impending union of Miss Elizabeth Sabin and Francis Le Baron Goodwin, both artists. As if that weren’t enough, rockcreek also found Elizabeth Sabin’s high school yearbook photo — with a clear match to the original image. Flickr user Brenda Anderson followed up the next day with some genealogical explorations, including a New York Times obituary for Elizabeth’s paternal grandfather. Within hours, Wisconsin-based local history researcher vintagepix posted the obituary for Francis Goodwin, and rockcreek was offering to stop by the cemetery where Elizabeth Sabin Goodwin’s husband and parents were buried (with hopes of finding a tombstone for Elizabeth as well).
Sometimes, it just takes a name and a face … and a lot of volunteers with research skills and a shared love of solving mysteries.