The April 7, 1952 issue of LIFE featured one of the magazine’s most iconic covers—a photograph of a young Marilyn Monroe at a moment when the young star was becoming, as the magazine announced, “the talk of Hollywood.” This was a time before televisions were commonplace, and the Internet was obviously nonexistent, which meant this cover would have landed in America’s mailboxes like the proverbial bombshell.
For additional context on life in the early 1950s, consider another story in that same issue of LIFE, one which was much squarer and also gauged to the issue’s publication date in early April. The story was about the O’Neil family of Boston. They had ten daughters, and they made their own matching clothes for Easter.
“Operation Easter took over the whole house of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel O’Neil,” LIFE wrote. “There, amid the urgent clatter of an electric sewing machine and the psst of wet fingers on hot irons, the entire family was engaged in the monument task of turning out almost identical Easter outfits.”
Wearing new clothes on Easter is a centuries-old tradition meant to symbolically honor the resurrection of Jesus. For the O’Neils, honoring that tradition required collaboration among the family members, who ranged from ages 3 to 19. “Mrs. O’Neil sewed, the biggest girls ironed, the middle-sized girls attached buttons and the smallest girls attached basting thread and retrieved dropped thimbles,” LIFE wrote.
The O’Neils had this is common with Marilyn: they were in show business too, in their way. “The Ten O’Neil sisters,” as they were known, regularly appeared in Easter parades in matching outfits and gave musical performances. The1952 burst of outfit-making documented by LIFE photographer Nina Leen was “in preparation for a weekend migration to New York where the O’Neils were scheduled to appear on an Easter television program.”
The O’Neil sisters continued their public appearances well into adulthood. Their website includes a photo from the Boston Herald in 1983 of them marching arm-and-arm in Boston’s Easter parade. The website also includes a page which at the top has the Marilyn cover and their family portrait in matching outfits side-by-side, showing there is more than one way to make a memorable picture.