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Fanny Eaton – 23 June 1835 – 4 March 1924
When we think of Black British models, we think of British-Jamaican stars such as Naomi Campbell, Jourdan Dunn and Leomie Anderson. However if we go back to the nineteenth century, we had the first Black British Jamaican model and artist’s muse by the name of Fanny Eaton.
Fanny Matilda Antwistle was born in St. Andrew, Jamaica. Her mother Matilda Foster was a free woman who had previously worked on British owned plantations.
Matilda and young Fanny left Jamaica around the 1840’s.
When Fanny became of age she cohabited with James Eaton who was a horse cab driver. They had ten children together between 1858 and 1879.
Also it would have been likely that James’s family would have frowned upon an interracial marriage (and it was also illegal.)
Unfortunately James died leaving Fanny to raise her surviving children.
Fanny started working as an artist’s model as a way to look after her children as she struggled to find work by other means.
Fanny was recorded in the Royal Academy as a model and paid 15 shillings at a time for every sitting.
Are there more stories of hidden Black British figures that we should be told about?
Many thanks to George Koutsoudopoulos for helping me with my research on Fanny Eaton from Tate Britain and to Emma Darbyshire from The Fitzwilliam Museum for providing me with the image.
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