Image Young girl’s garden tea party, 1915

TLF ID R8623

This amateur black-and-white photograph shows a young girl in Queensland in 1915 participating in a make-believe tea party in the back garden, her guest a manufactured well-kept doll sitting in a child’s wooden high chair. The girl, dressed in a belted white frock, is ‘pouring’ tea from a child-size china pot into small cups placed on a tray on a circular decorated cane table. The table is covered in a hand-embroidered cloth. The girl has a large bow in her hair, long white socks and ankle-strapped black shoes.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This photograph records a naturalistic image in a domestic situation, possible because of the proliferation among more affluent families of light portable cameras that could be loaded with film. The new amateur photographer was interested in recording family, social life and sporting and leisure events in snapshots. The introduction of simple box cameras and flexible celluloid film, specialist photography shops and developing laboratories meant a sizeable market developed.
  • While this photograph illustrates the role of imagination and invented conversations that are an important feature of children’s games, it also reveals the ways in which play may reinforce social views. The girl’s tea party seen here is an imitation of domestic adult life in which the girl plays the role of the mother at a time when women were expected to limit themselves to the domestic roles of mother, housewife and hostess.
  • The young girl in the image appears to be from a well-off family as her toys - the doll and tea set - are of a good quality and not homemade as poorer children’s would have been. The doll could be imported and have a porcelain face, hands and feet and a cloth body. The girl’s dress and the tablecloth on the circular cane table are well made and intricate, also suggesting that her family was affluent.
  • Domestic photographs such as this one provide an invaluable document of the lives of people in the past. They may provide evidence of behaviour and attitudes as well as evidence of materials used in domestic settings. The depiction of a child’s game reveals something of social attitudes, and the furnishings and clothing show fashions and tastes of the time. The setting itself also provides evidence of how the space around the home was used.
  • While the photograph can be seen as illustrating the comfort and peace of domestic life, the truth was more mixed. This photograph was taken in 1915, with the First World War raging in Europe and Australian troops dying at Gallipoli. Some of the male relatives of the little girl would probably have enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) and been serving overseas, and Australia was suffering shortages in a wide range of domestic goods.

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Description: Content provider
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Name: Education Services Australia
  • Organization: Education Services Australia
  • Description: Data manager
  • Copyright Holder
  • Name: State Library of Queensland
  • Organization: State Library of Queensland
  • Address: QLD, AUSTRALIA
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
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Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd and State Library of Queensland, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements