Aileen Cramer, "My Father and I", March 24 - May 13, 2001


Aileen Cramer


March 24 – May 13, 2001

In March 1955, at the age of thirty-eight, I embarked on my first trip to Europe. I had inherited $1200 and I had a “calling card” with an international organization for which I had been working in New York City, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which had branches around the globe.

Shortly before I left the country my father, the artist/photographer, Konrad Cramer, suggested I take a camera along to document my travels. I had never been much of a picture-taker; in fact I did not own a camera. Somehow I ended up with an Arqus-35mm and about ten rolls of film, which I stuffed in the empty spaces of my luggage.

I was traveling on a very limited budget-averaging three dollars a day for room and meals – yes, in 1955 you could do that in Europe quite comfortably in most places. My father said I should send my exposed rolls of film home and he would develop them. I think he and my mother looked forward to following my adventures in Europe this way.

My documented itinerary starts with shots on the Holland/America Line on which I sailed. After a brief visit in Holland with friends I traveled on to Paris.  By then I decided the best way to get the feel of place and people was to spend at least a month in each city. I seldom ventured out of the cities until Austria where short trips on trains were very cheap and frequent. I worked organizing international conferences and attending schools throughout France, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, England, Austria, Italy, and Spain.

So it was when I returned a year and a half later Konrad presented me with three albums of photographs-obviously he chose the best of the lot.

Aileen Cramer, born in 1917 in NYC, spent her summers in Woodstock, NY from 1918 to 1922. She went to the Montessori School in Woodstock, where Konrad Cramer and other local artists taught her. In 1923 her father bought a large farmhouse, which became her winter and summer home. She graduated from the one room schoolhouse in Bearsville. Then wanderlust ruled her life and education, she became a “juvenile delinquent” in Washington DC and continued to spend her summers studying art in Woodstock with Henry McFee, Yasou Kuniyoshi, and Arnold Blanch.  At the same time she acted in theatre productions at the Maverick and Woodstock Playhouse. At 18 Aileen returned to NYC where she made a living assisting photographers and as a puppeteer. In 1949-50 she joined a group of starry-eyed actors and directors to form “The Loft Players” and was also involved with the Circle in the Square Theatre in NYC. Two years later she began working for The Committee for World Disarmament and World Development, a non-governmental organization and in 1955 left to travel to Europe where she continued to work with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.  Upon her return she worked for the peace movement and was the director of the English-speaking program for foreign students, trainees, and United Nations personnel. In the late 1960s she moved to Woodstock permanently and became involved with the town political and cultural activities, including the Woodstock Artists Association, the Maverick concerts, the Woodstock Guild, the Woodstock School of Art, the Woodstock Town Board, the Woodstock Land Conservancy, and the Woodstock Youth Theater.