These are the wives of some of Ypsilanti's businessmen. They could not vote and likely most of them did not work outside the home--they didn't need to, and only a few acceptable jobs for women were available to women in general. Several of them likely had servants at home. To fill their days they participated in church groups and church socials, likely the Ladies' Home Association charity organization, maybe a temperance group. And they played card games like whist.
There is some degree of pathos? in that this photo to all appearances looks like one taken to commemorate an important occasion--the founding of a local school for girls, say, or a delegation elected as representatives to travel to Lansing and campaign for a women's issue. Yet it was only a card club; for this seemingly trivial occasion you can see the women spent considerable pains dressing in their finest. Their lives were very circumscribed by today's standards. It must have been hard to have been an intelligent woman in that day and to be forced to find or invent dignity in participating in and dressing up elaborately for a card club.
The people in the front seat from left to right are Mrs. E. W. Matthews, Mrs. S. H. Tepper, and "Mrs. Henry." Other ladies pictured include Mrs. L. M. James, Hattie Benistub (sp?), Mrs. Carlos Childs, and Mrs. H. R. Scovill. Click on the last photo for a giant version.