New Bedford silhouette artist Josephine Teixeira (1911-2008) was born in the village of Camacha on the island of Madeira. Formally trained at Swain School of Design, Josephine became well known for making traditional hand-cut silhouettes from paper and felt of her customers and co-workers at Liberty Market, Wamsutta Mills, and Saltmarsh’s.
Silhouette artist Josephine Teixeira (1911-2008) was born on November 24, 1911 in the village of Camacha on the island of Madeira to parents Antonio and Genevieve (Neves) Baptiste. One of five sons and two daughters, Josephine immigrated to the United States in 1919 with her mother Genevieve, four brothers and a sister, joining her father and an older brother, who had arrived a year earlier.
The Teixeira family lived in New Bedford on the corner of Hollyhock and Field Streets. A very skilled carpenter in Madeira, Antonio built a three-tenement house next door at 108 Field Street so that all could be accommodated. Josephine was the only one who gained an education in her family. She attended the John B. DeValles School in New Bedford and did well academically. Josephine reached 6th grade but had to give up school to help the family and briefly worked at the Kilburn Mill. She later would attend the Swain School of Design.
As the only family member who could read and write well, Josephine was chosen to manage the family grocery store, Liberty Super Market, on the corner of Sidney and Dartmouth Streets in New Bedford, and she became the market’s bookkeeper and daytime cashier.
Josephine married Joseph Teixeira on February 11, 1935, at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Rivet Street in New Bedford. The couple would have two sons, William and Lawrence. While at home raising her young children, Josephine mastered the traditional art of hand-cutting silhouettes. She attended the Swain School of Design for formal training. She returned to work at the Wamsutta Mills and then Saltmarsh’s department store. She became well known for making silhouettes, paper and felt cut-outs, of her customers and co-workers at Liberty Market, Wamsutta Mills, and Saltmarsh’s. She also made silhouettes of friends and family and sold some of her work at church fairs. Her work was shown in art shows throughout New Bedford. She made a business card to promote her silhouettes.
After her husband Joseph passed in 1974, Josephine lived with embroiderer Bibiana Xavier, a close friend and co-worker from Wamsutta Mills. Eventually, Josephine was admitted into Sacred Heart Home in New Bedford, as she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and struggling to do things on her own. Cynthia Linhares, Josephine’s longtime close friend who visited her both at home on Hollyhock Street and at Sacred Heart Home, remembers, “It was amazing to watch her cutting the silhouettes as she had one eye that was almost completely closed. She would cut the silhouettes with a small pair of scissors. She would keep turning the black construction paper as her fingers quickly created the beautiful masterpiece. She also made silhouettes out of colored felt. Her favorite silhouettes at this time were angels. She would occasionally give me one of her silhouettes.”
Josephine’s brother Joseph Baptiste was a talented woodcarver whose work in wood and clay is on display at the Museum of Madeiran Heritage in New Bedford.
On December 18, 2008, Josephine passed away at the Sacred Heart Home, but her silhouettes live on at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives.
Charlees Shelby, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Class of 2022 (Elisabeth Arruda, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Faculty Sponsor) with Ann O’Leary, Emily Bourne Research Fellow
Biography of Josephine and Joseph Teixeira by William Teixeira, Box: 1, Folder: 1. Josephine Teixeira silhouettes and papers, MC-060. UMass Dartmouth Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives.
Business card: Silhouettes by Josephine B. Teixeira, Box: 1, Folder: 8. Josephine Teixeira silhouettes and papers, MC-060. UMass Dartmouth Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives.
“Josephine (Baptiste) Teixeira.” Currentobituary.com, 20 Dec. 2008, https://www.currentobituary.com/member/obit/57840.
Josephine Teixeira silhouettes and papers, MC-060. Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives, Claire T. Carney Library Archives and Special Collections, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
Linhares, Cynthia. “Information about Josephine Teixeira.” Received by Ann O’Leary, 20 Sept. 2022.
Scrapbook, Saltmarsh’s Store Family, Box: 1, Folder: 2. Josephine Teixeira silhouettes and papers, MC-060. UMass Dartmouth Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives.
Teixeira, Josephine. Interview by William Teixeira. Museum of Madeiran Heritage, New Bedford, MA., 1999. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbo3doJy3EA.