A girl almost a woman 1890-1898

At the age of 17, Josefina Oliver begins Notes 1, the first volume of a personal Diary that will have, upon her death at the age of 81 years old, a total of 20 volumes with 8.400 pages fully edited by her.

In 1894 her mother Juana Rebasa, who had previously returned from Spain on a blurred date, dies at the Hospice for Demented Women in Buenos Aires (Moyano Hospital at present).

The family silences her mental instability, and reinforces this social taboo when omitting the notice of her death in the newspapers necrology. In spite of this, the girls wear rigorous mourning clothes.

A year later, some neighbours surprise Josefina with a novelty:

‘(…) Raquel called us and we went with her, Candriani, Tavaracci (…) They took a photograph of us at the terrace…’ Notes 1, p.112

Since then, she experiments and learns about this special pastime and the techniques of the machine with her neighbours and her friends, the Graus.

Meanwhile, Pedro Oliver who is looking for a rural real state, finds

‘(…) Chacra Sta Ana: 120 hectares next to San Vicente Railway Station – 40 km away from Buenos Aires – Dad bought it in 1896 – to Mr Juan Anasagasti We spent fourteen summers there – it was an orchard – casuarinas, eucalyptus and Carolina poplar streets – all the vegetables, all the fruits, all the flowers – A plantation of a thousand peach trees – break, 8 or 10 horses- 2 dairy cows-, etc. (…)’. ‘I’ Autobiography, Diary 16, p.162.

Many friends visit them there, take photographic groups and sometimes lend them their cameras.

By that time, her maternal grandmother, who lives with them, starts having health problems.

On August 1897 Josefina writes:

‘(…) Tuesday 17th- I agreed with the English North American Lisbet Price, to be Granny’s nurse. After an hour she came back with her trunk. She wears a hat and gloves. – She sleeps in Granny’s bedroom. – She turned out to be a well-informed, kind woman, an artist and really unhappy (…)’. Notes 1 p.188.

Catalina Alou de Rebasa dies in November. Lisbeth stays some more months as an English teacher becoming, especially for Josefina, a model of a possible and rare woman because of her ability and, above all, for her autonomy.

After their mourning, the Oliver sisters take up their active social life. When gathering with their friends they develop, illuminate (hand-colour) the copies, on paper and on fabric, and design stamps with pictures from professional studios.

Josefina loves going round the city and recording its scenery on the diary, while she takes pictures of group walks, cultural events, patios and home interiors.

These records show Josefina´s endearing relationship with Buenos Aires, originated in the public education Josefina received as a child together with the evolution of the village into a megalopolis along the first twenty years of her life.

In this way, there is a symbiosis between Buenos Aires, with its power that inspires, encourages and propels Josefina in her works, and Josefina who leaves her monumental work to the City, which is now recovered and exhibited in the 21st C.