Women’s History Month: Maud Baldwin

In celebration of Women’s History month, each Monday I’m sharing about a woman in history who left her mark on the world around her.

This week’s spotlight is on Maud Baldwin – a photographer who lived in the Klamath Falls, Oregon, area. As someone who enjoys snapping photos from time to time, I was intrigued with her work.

Maud Baldwin was born in Linkville (remained Klamath Falls) in August, 1878. She was the second of five children (her elder brother died as an infant, but her three younger brothers all survived) born to George T. and Josephine Baldwin. Her father was a businessman and politician, but Maud was the one who became a well-known name due to her photography and intriguing life.

Her father owned the Tin Shoppe, which he expanded in 1881 into a hardware business. He also served as deputy sheriff, county treasurer, superintendent of Klamath County schools, and county judge over the years. In 1893, he was instrumental in changing the name of Linkville to Klamath Falls. He also established the first electric power plant in Klamath Falls in 1895 and served as part of the state senate from 1917 until his death in 1920.

Maud was said to be her father’s favorite, and he indulged her every whim. At age 16, she attended Oregon State Normal School, but she didn’t complete the curriculum. Her interest shifted to photography in 1896.

In 1906, she attended the California College of Photography in Palo Alto, California, and became part of the wave of women photographers who captured the images of the turn of the twentieth century.

In 1907, her father opened  the Baldwin Hotel in Klamath Falls near the Link River. Maud had a photography studio on the fourth flour where she displayed Native American baskets, hats, and artifacts. According to historical reports, she had a big personality and a booming voice.  Like her father, she was civic minded and participated in a number of organizations. She reportedly had a way of showing such respect for all people that she was easily welcomed and befriended.

She took thousands of photographs of buildings, Crater Lake, scenery, street scenes, boats, schools, wildlife, automobiles, local events, and people.

Her photographs were innovative, clever, even a bit ahead of her time. This one is telling of what Maud saw when she looked through the camera lens.

Maud’s mother was recovering from a stroke with Maud as her caregiver when George died from a persistent liver condition. His death hit Maud hard. She took over managing the hotel and her father’s other enterprises while caring for her mother.

When she was in her 40s, romance finally caught her by surprise. Gene Campbell, chef at the local  Little Grit Café, caught Maud’s eye. According to stories from those who once knew her, Campbell informed her that he planned to move to Alaska and prospect for gold. Legend claims, he invited Baldwin, but she declined due to her duties at home.

On May 22, 1926, the local paper, The Evening Herald, headlines read: “Despondent Local Woman Drowns Self in River.”

Baldwin’s body was found “in a house frock” floating by the Link River Bridge earlier that day. She left a note that she was “going insane” and that she could be found in the lake. Some speculated that Baldwin was heartbroken at the loss of her love. Others claimed exposure to photographic chemicals affected her mind and emotions. Or, the voice of reason might say she was depressed about the loss of her father and overwhelmed with the demands of managing her father’s business affairs and caring for her mother.

Despite the tragic end of her life, Maud Baldwin’s photographs are significant visual documentation of early twentieth-century the Klamath Falls area and its residents.

Check out some of her amazing photos shared through the Klamath County Museum here.

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