May 27, 2010

Happy Birthday, Amelia Bloomer

Born on this day in 1818, Amelia Jenks Bloomer was postmaster of her town and ran the first American women's magazine.

Her town was Seneca Falls, New York, often coupled in people's mind with the women's suffrage movement (that is, the women's right-to-vote movement). Bloomer was a part of that important movement, and she worked side-by-side with famous suggragettes such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. She also worked in the temperance movement, which worked to outlaw alcoholic beverages.

Her magazine was called The Lily. It included
recipes and articles of general interest to women, but its focus was articles about temperance and about women's rights, including suffrage and

What Amelia Bloomer is perhaps most famous for is her habit of wearing comfortable, loose Turkish trousers.

This political cartoon makes fun
of bloomers.

Back then, American and European women almost never wore pants. Bloomer thought that clothing was important, saying, “The costume of women should be suited to her wants and necessities. It should conduce at once to her health, comfort, and usefulness...” Bloomer pointed out that looking good wasn't the only important consideration for clothing.

Because Bloomer wore loose pants and urged others to wear and accept them, the trousers became known as bloomers.
  • If you can find them, read You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer, by Shana Corey, and Bloomers!, by Rhoda Blumberg.
  • Imagine living at a time when women had to wear tight corsets and awkward hoop skirts (pictured here, left). Apparently, women's clothing weighed between 20 and 40 pounds—compare that to an outfit you might wear today! Compare it to a bag of books—how many books equal that much weight?
  • Here is a website about clothing reform during Bloomer's time.
  • How do you think the ways that modern girls and boys dress affect their behavior? Men and women?
Who has more freedom, fashion-wisegirls or boys?

Are you in favor of school uniforms? Why or why not?

How important is clothing and fashion? How important is it to you to dress like your friends, or to dress differently from others? Why?

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