Born 1926 in Teaneck, New Jersey, Mary Jane Russell began her modeling career in 1948, and was signed with Ford Models for the duration. She spent 13 years working for the Ford Agency, appeared on dozens of magazine covers and was a favorite of photographers Irving Penn and Louise Dahl-Wolfe.
Mary Jane Russell in the 1950s
Mary Jane was somewhat diminutive compared to other models, standing just 5’6”, but her long neck and classical features complemented the elegance of the era. Mary Jane’s lovely features were at times upstaged by her beautiful hands; she was often shown with them prominently displayed, or wearing gloves.
After retiring from modeling in 1961, Mary Jane and her husband, her highschool sweeheart, Edward T. Russell, who became president of the advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach lived in Pound Ridge, New York for 37 years. The Russells then relocated to Bluffton, South Carolina, where Mary Jane involved herself in local Democratic politics.
In 2003, Mary Jane died in a Charleston hospital of pulmonary fibrosis which had been diagnosed only a few weeks previously, aged 77. Husband Edward died in 2007.
Take a look at these gorgeous photos to see a young Mary Jane Russell as a fashion model in the 1950s.
Mary Jane Russell in sailor hat made of natural Tuscan straw with a coral velvet band, photo by Clifford Coffin, 1950
Mary Jane Russell in black linen shorts and jacket by Joset Walker at Lord & Taylor, Kodachrome by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Harper’s Bazaar, April 1950
Mary Jane Russell in draped evening gown of Goldstein and Levy rayon crêpe by Theodora, Harper’s Bazaar, November 1950
Mary Jane Russell in dress by Joset Walker, leopard jacket by Maximilian, photo by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Harper’s Bazaar, March 1950
Mary Jane Russell wearing an elegant Rémond Holland silk taffeta dinner dress and jewelry by Van Cleef & Arpels, photo by Clifford Coffin, Vogue, 1950