Some of the faces are stiff and hostile. Some are complaisant. Some seem unaware their picture is being taken. Here and there, a very few stare right out of the photograph at you, as though they sensed that some day this snapshot would be resurrected from a trunk or album or attic and that someone, you, still unborn then, would look at it. These are the ones who haunt you, the ones who seem to be sending you their greetigs across this birdge of time.
"Generations of Women: Private Lives" is small show put together by women students at Jersey City State College and funded by various New Jersey state associations. It is at one of those disshelved converted homes on the Hill that house funds for this and centers for that: 122 Maryland Ave. NE, opposite the Supreme Court.
You may find you can't get into the room because someone's holding a meeting, or you may have to work around people sitting on the floor stuffing envelopes. But you should try anyway. The show is open through Oct. 10.
There is a wedding party in New Jewersey. A Brooklyn Seder. A sunny group of travelers at a Greek taverna. Mrs. Barbour and friends at the sewing circle, 1890. A family in Oriente, Cuba, 1940.
Standing in her kitchen, one arthritic hand grasping a teapot on the woodstove for reassurance, Rosa Graham faces the world at age 109. She wears the same firm, calm face as a much younger black woman, Sarah Butler Bonner, a school teacher at Eaton, N.C., in 1908, who must have been in the midst of the same struggles the older one reflects.
There are great-great-grandmothers and babies in sailor hats. There is a black chambermaid, just 19, her first job, shown sitting rather self-consciously in the fancy chair where her employers were photographed. It is 1913, on the Eckel estate in Wycott, Pa. There are old cars, old houses, outrageous feathered hats, gaiters. And a radiant young mother with her baby., in Portugal, 1928.
From a poster at the entrance: "We looked in attics and basements, in closets and secret corners, in family albulms and ancient chests for the women who preceded us. We were seeking their likeness, their loved ones, the objects they held dear . . . ."