E.S. Goodwin: Mystery no longer

Posted 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.

E.S. Goodwin, now given her full name on Flickr

E.S. Goodwin, now given her full name on Flickr

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.

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7 Responses to “E.S. Goodwin: Mystery no longer”

  1. Effie Says:

    You are quite the team. Thanks for all the references and research!

  2. Patrick Miller Says:

    I own a painting signed E. S. Goodwin. Does anyone know if she was a painter? If so does anyone have any info on where to see more of her work? Or any info on her period would be great! Thanks

  3. Penny Says:

    The ES Goodwin story continues…
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/smithsonian/3397805195/#comment72157622978091748

  4. Jennifer Says:

    This is my Uncle Frank Goodwins mother. I have several of her screen paintings. Mainly of cats that she owned or saw in her garden.

  5. Finding Elizabeth « The Bigger Picture Says:

    [...] the original photo. Over the next few months our volunteers went back and forth with information. By July 2009 our Flickr followers had found a high school yearbook photo positively identifying our …, an artist who lived in DC and attended the Corcoran School of Art. An illustration of dinosaurs [...]

  6. John Whitman Schneider Says:

    My maternal grandmother, Lucetta Sabin Whitman, Who lived with Elizabeth growing up also had 3 screen prints of cats ( 2 cats and a Tiger) and a color pencil drawing of 10 seagulls in flight. They are now in my possession in Germantown Md. My mom says she has an oil painting by her of someone in the family. As she has moved recently to make way for the Intercounty Connector, locating it may take a bit longer. Mom,Fay Whitman Schneider, age 85 , is well and living in Montgomery County, MD still. Jennifer, have we ever met? my age is 59.

  7. indicommons» Blog Archive » Flickr Commons Fans Shine in the New York Times Says:

    [...] media is making today to an institution as venerable as the Smithsonian Institution, highlighted by Commons fans’ identification of Elizabeth Sabin Goodwin. Find out how many more ways social media is increasing the knowledge possessed by the Smithsonian, [...]

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