Women’s Stories – Past and Present

Happy New Year! We hope you had a restful and pleasant holiday season, and that you were able to share it with friends and loved ones. We have so much in store for 2018 that we’re excited to share, but we wanted to start the year off with something near and dear to our hearts, and to the heart of Headhunt Revisited. This weekend marks the second Women’s March – a moment in history that makes us really stop and consider the role women have played throughout history, and the important stories that still remain untold. This little glimpse of Caroline’s life is a reminder of just how important it is that we continue to honor the legacy of talented women and ensure their contributions to society are not forgotten.

Caroline Raymond Mytinger at approximately age 23
Caroline Raymond Mytinger at approximately age 23, Cleveland, Ohio Courtesy of the Stoughton Family

Caroline and Margaret’s legacy today is one of connection with family and the past. At the very end of 2017, we had the pleasure of sharing Headhunt Revisited with some of Caroline’s living relatives. Carol Stoughton, one of Caroline’s cousins, gathered her family together to view the film over the holidays, and learn a little bit more about Caroline’s life and experiences. It is humbling to hear about all of the ways Headhunt Revisited has given families in the places Caroline and Margaret visited the opportunity to reconnect. We were honored to be able to bring the story of Caroline back to her own family, who took the time to share their impressions of the film with us.

December, 2017

“What a great vicarious experience my husband and I have had since 2004! That year I happened by chance to open a thin folder of letters in my father’s vast collection of letters from several generations of my family.

The letters piqued my interest to learn more about the amazing life of my cousin, Caroline. An internet search discovered the Headhunt Revisited website of Michele Westmorland, a modern day adventurer, a professional underwater photographer. She had worked near Papua New Guinea, learned about and became enthralled by Caroline’s story and has dedicated the years since to researching Caroline’s life, organizing a voyage in 2005 to retrace Caroline’s journey, and poured her resources into this documentary. She has produced an award winning film that beautifully weaves together Caroline’s adventures. Michele’s photography on her many trips back to the South Seas to help the indigenous communities celebrate their rich cultural heritage, and then to introduce a young male artist, Jeffry, who is painting his fellow citizens in their current dress and activities. Here is a true story, “stranger than fiction.” Here is a wonderful display of Caroline’s realistic portraits in vibrant colors. What a joy it has been to follow Michele’s tough but successful quest and admire how she did it with such grace and benign intent for the inhabitants of Melanesia! And oh what a cousin, that Caroline! “

The above illustration was of Caroline modeling for a renowned artist creating an ad for Amolin. She was approximately 18 years of age and attending the Cleveland Institute of Art.

Caroline’s achievements are impressive feats even in the 21st Century, let alone for the time period in which she lived. Fortunately for us, Caroline was an avid writer, and through her books and the letters she wrote to friends and relatives, we’ve been able to learn so much about a truly remarkable woman. With all of her bravery, charisma, and talent, it’s easy to forget the fact that Caroline faced challenges that continue to resonate with women today. In one letter penned by Caroline to her aunt, she touched on an issue that many women still grapple with. Caroline had a low sense of self-esteem, and described herself (not without her trademark sense of humor) as tall and thin with “large feet and orange tresses that hang around most of the time and make me look like a beastly flamboyant poodle”. In addition to being highly critical of her own appearance, Caroline was also highly critical of her art.

“The Blue Feather” by William J. Edmondson courtesy of the Cleveland Museum of Art. Caroline Mytinger as the model.

It’s shocking to think that someone as talented as Caroline would struggle with the same insecurities that many of us continue to face today. Although she criticized her own appearance and skills, Caroline was a Gibson Girl model and a highly talented artist. She pursued her passions with determination and, in her own words, the “inclination to work like a trench digger”. Despite all of her insecurity, Caroline pushed through to accomplish something very few women did in her day, and did it with compassion, an open mind, and cultural sensitivity.

In light of current events, uncovering Caroline’s letter to her aunt is a timely reminder of the incredible support women can give to one another, and the achievements we can reach together when we work to uplift, celebrate, and support one another. We’re so proud to have the opportunity to celebrate Caroline Mytinger’s work, and we can’t wait to show you what we have in store for 2018!

3 Comments on “Women’s Stories – Past and Present

  1. I love following this story. I discovered Caroline’s books about ten years ago working in an antiques store..

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