Amelia Bloomer

Amelia Bloomer

Amelia Jenks was born in Homer, New York, on 27th May, 1818. She only received two years of formal schooling and at the age of 22 married the lawyer Dexter Bloomer. He was a Quaker with progressive views and encouraged Amelia to write for his newspaper, the Seneca Falls County Courier. Over the next few years she wrote articles in favour for prohibition and women's rights.

In 1848 Bloomer attended the Woman's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls but she did not sign the Declaration of Sentiments. Over the next few years she met Susan Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

With the encouragement of her feminist friends, Bloomer started her own bi-weekly newspaper, The Lily. Bloomer used the journal to promote the causes of woman's suffrage, temperance, marriage law reform and higher education for women.

The Lily was a great success and quickly built a circulation of over 4,000. In 1851 Bloomer began to publish articles concerning women's clothing. Female fashion at the time consisted of tightly laced corsets, layers of petticoats and floor-length dresses. Bloomer began to advocate the wearing of clothes that had first been worn by Fanny Wright and the women living in the socialist commune, New Harmony in the 1820s. This included loose bodices, ankle-length pantaloons and a dress cut to above the knee.

Bloomer and other campaigners for women's rights such as Susan Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton began wearing these clothes. Most feminists abandoned this type of clothing as they concluded that the ridicule it frequently elicited undermined attempts to convince people of the need for social reform. However, Bloomer, continued to wear these clothes until the late 1850s.

The Lily ceased publication after Bloomer moved to Council Buffs, Iowa in 1855. She continued to play an active role in the campaign for women's rights and as well as speaking at public meetings was president of the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association (1871-73).

Amelia Bloomer died at Council Buffs on 30th December, 1894.


Amelia Bloomer - An Early Suffragette

However those who wore the Bloomer were often harassed on the streets and to much ridicule. By 1859 Bloomer returned to conventional dress, declaring the invention of crinoline to be of a significant enough change that she could abandon the bloomer.

Earlier in 1850, President Millard Fillmore appointed Dexter Bloomer as postmaster of Seneca Falls. Dexter appointed his wife as deputy postmaster and Amelia ran the post office for Dexter. The couple never had children of their own but often cared for the children of relatives who often lived with them for lengthy periods of time. When the Whigs were no longer in office (Presidency), and Dexter Bloomer lost his position as postmaster the couple decided to move to Mount Vernon, Ohio where Dexter and a partner established a newspaper and made provisions for an office for The Lily. Amelia Bloomer was reluctant to leave New York and described the move as "the greatest sorrow ever laid upon her." After only 6 months in Ohio, Dexter sold his interest in the paper, The Home Visitor, and publication of The Lily became problematic. In the fall of 1854, Dexter Bloomer purchased a home in Council Bluffs, Iowa and the family moved to that frontier town, settling in Iowa in the spring of 1855. At first the small house was furnished with only crude borrowed furniture - with crates for extra seating, and only a mattress for sleeping. In July her own furnishings arrived and she again felt she could make a home. The town of Council Bluffs (originally called Kanesville) was often a stop on the path of Mormons as they moved westward. Dexter Bloomer became a land agent in the area during the 1855 - 1856 years. He was practicing law and encouraging others to invest in Iowa land. Amelia Bloomer encouraged women to invest as Iowa was one of the states that allowed women to own and manage their own land. Dexter Bloomer suffered severe financial losses when the 1857 panic came and the real estate business failed. At one time Amelia Bloomer had over $5000 worth of land in her name, but by 1870, the Iowa census shows no land in her name so one could assume she also suffered financially. Dexter became a receiver of public lands for a dozen or so years, and sold insurance. His endeavors did support the couple in modest style. He became a member of the Iowa board of education, and served as Council Bluff's mayor in 1869 and again in 1871. And he was "a founder and long-time member of the city's public library" (Noun, 1985, part II, page 580). The Bloomers added additions onto their modest two bedroom home and often rented rooms out. Their renters were often school teachers, and when J.D. Edmundson first came to town he stayed with them. Edmundson will be remembered as the philanthropist who endowed the Des Moines Art Center.

Several years after the Bloomers arrived in Council Bluffs, the couple adopted two Mormon children. The children were most likely part of a group of English and Welsh converts to the Mormon religion, which came through Council Bluffs sometime in 1856. The first child to be adopted was five-year-old Eddie Lewis. His mother had died, and his father was unable to care for his five children. The father (Lewis's biological father) continued on to live in Idaho. After a fire destroyed their home's roof, and a second story with additional bedrooms were built, the Bloomers adopted Eddie's fourteen-year-old sister, Mary. The other three siblings were taken in by other families in Council Bluffs. Amelia had warm feelings for Eddie even after he left as an adult, moved to Arizona, and rejoined the Mormons. Mary on the other hand brought Amelia's disapproval when she married a man of which Amelia disapproved. The two did not have further involvement after Mary's marriage but she is said to have eventually settled in Oregon with her husband Joseph Stright.


Cartoon of a woman wearing the Bloomer Costume, named after Amelia Bloomer.

Since 2002 The American Library Association has published a list of books for young readers, that have significant feminist themes. Read more about the Amelia Bloomer list at https://ameliabloomer.wordpress.com/

An earlier version of this article appeared in this blog in November 2016. This version includes a couple of minor additions and an added collaborative article by Sarah S. Uthoff.


She's a household name, though maybe not quite in the way she expected.

Amelia Bloomer's last name has taken on a meaning all its own. A contemporary of Susan B. Anthony and a women's rights leader in her own right, Bloomer made headlines by wearing her full-length pants that gathered at the ankles.

These contentious pants would later be commonly referred to 'bloomers.' While Bloomer didn't create the garment, she popularized it -- and stirred up a major debate on women's rights during the mid-to -late 19th century. Many viewed bloomers as unbecoming of women during that time period, and Bloomer made women's dress reform a keystone of her advocacy, writing about the pants in her newspaper The Lily, which focused on a number of women's issues.

So what's it got to do with bikes? The controversy around the "unseemly" attire intersected with the first American bicycle boom. As bikes spiked in popularity in the late 19th century, bloomers made it all that much easier for a women to hop on the saddle. The placement of the gears and pedals at the time made it difficult for a women to ride in a long dress or skirt. Bloomers changed the game.

So when you strap that velcro around your pant leg tomorrow, give thanks to Amelia and her push for dress reform. Interested in learning more about Bloomer? Click here. Follow the League blog every day this month for profiles of the extraordinary women who have helped advance bicycling in the United States.


Amelia Bloomer - History

- Bloomer had only a few years of formal education, and as a young woman worked as a schoolteacher and a governess.

- She turned to journalism when her husband, Dexter Bloomer, encouraged her to write for his newspaper, the Seneca Falls County Courier.

- She began her public career as a temperance campaigner. Because temperance was a female-driven movement, she was thus exposed to other feminist ideas including women’s suffrage and abolition.

- The American women’s suffrage movement grew quite directly from the abolitionist movement: in 1840, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott attended the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, they were denied seats on the floor because they were women. In response, they held the first Women’s Rights Convention in 1848 in Seneca Falls, NY. As a consequence, Black abolitionist activists like Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass are also closely linked with women’s suffrage. The 1840s and 1850s must have been a heady time for progressive thinkers in America!

THE LILY - A monthly journal, devoted to Temperance and Literature - Published by a Committee of Ladies.
- In 1849, Bloomer founded The Lily, the first newspaper published by women for women. (To my knowledge, the first feminist newspaper in England published by a woman was Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon’s English Women’s Journal, founded nearly a decade later in 1858. Please do correct if me I’m misinformed.) The Lily began as a mouthpiece for the temperance movement but soon grew to encompass the matter of women’s rights. Many of its articles about women’s rights and the necessity of legal reform were written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Amelia Bloomer in rational dress, ca. 1852-58. Image via NPS
- Amelia Bloomer didn’t invent the Bloomer costume. The radical “reform dress” came into Bloomer’s life in 1851 when a visiting friend, Elizabeth Smith Miller, wore loose, Turkish-style trousers with a short overskirt to Bloomer’s home in Seneca Falls, NY. Bloomer adored the idea and popularized it – and even published sewing instructions – in The Lily. Circulation swelled from about 500 copies a month to 4000. A few months later, the costume was widely known as the “Bloomer dress”. (No word on whether Elizabeth Smith Miller was relieved or resentful about the mis-naming of her design. Bloomers were so widely ridiculed – its wearers were frequently heckled on the street - that even Amelia Bloomer gave up wearing them in 1859.)

Ted Aub's life-sized bronze sculpture, "When Anthony Met Stanton". Bloomer, at centre, is introducing Susan B. Anthony (left) to Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Both Bloomer and Stanton are wearing rational dress. Image via National Park Service.
Bloomer's home in Seneca Falls, NY (where she lived after marriage, now known as Amelia Bloomer House) may have been a stop on the Underground Railroad!

I've a lot more reading ahead of me but I can't help picturing a scene in which Harriet Tubman (a childhood hero of mine) and Amelia Bloomer meet.


Amelia Bloomer

While Amelia Jenks Bloomer became one of Iowa’s first advocates for women’s suffrage, her lasting fame drew from a new fashion style for women that freed them temporarily from the long and restrictive skirts. Bloomer was born in 1818 in New York to a family of modest means and attended school for only a few years. As a teenager, she moved to Seneca Falls, NY, to serve as a governess. In 1840, she married Dexter Bloomer when he was still a law student and, with his support, began to write articles for the Seneca Falls County Courier. She attended the Seneca Falls Convention, often cited as the start of the women’s suffrage movement. While not at first a suffrage advocate, she became an active in promoting temperance. In May of 1851 Amelia Bloomer introduced Susan B. Anthony to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the two giants of the 19th C. suffrage movement.

Because Bloomer believed that public speaking was not appropriate for women, she took up writing to support her reform causes. Bloomer began editing The Lily, claimed to be the first newspaper devoted to women’s issues ever owned and edited by a woman. The Lily advocated for temperance and women’s rights. It gained national attention, however, when it promoted a liberating style of dress for women that eliminated the long, cumbersome skirt in favor of a tunic to the knees over a pair of very baggy trousers. The costume was sometimes described as “Turkish trousers.” In that day, any hint of the outline of a woman’s legs was strictly forbidden. While she did not invent the new style, it became known as “bloomers” as a result of her promotion and propelled Amelia to national fame. When she overcame her reluctance to speak in pubic on behalf of suffrage or temperance, she sometimes wore the costume she had made popular but ceased doing so because she came to feel that it distracted the audience from her messages.

The Bloomers moved to Ohio and then, in 1855, to Council Bluffs, Iowa. The year before, Bloomer sold The Lily because publication on the Iowa frontier would be difficult, but she continued to submit articles for it and to advocate for women’s suffrage.

The drive to grant votes to women became a significant political issue in Iowa in 1868 as it related to expanding the vote to black men. Traveling across the state from Council Bluffs, Bloomer helped to organize the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association at its first meeting in Mt. Pleasant and served as its president from 1871-1875. During her presidency, the organization struggled to distance itself from the scandal created by New York feminist and suffrage advocate Victoria Woodhull who promoted “free love”. Woodhull and a few other leading suffrages claimed that marriage kept women in economic dependence on their husbands and in an inferior status. Conservatives within the organization denounced anything that challenged traditional marriage traditions and claimed that votes for women would give them the ability to protect their family and children and to instill higher morality in the political process.

Bloomer died in 1894. Bloomer was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1975.


Amelia Bloomer

Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Civil Rights &bull Communications &bull Education &bull Women.

Location. 42° 54.667′ N, 76° 47.751′ W. Marker is in Seneca Falls, New York, in Seneca County. Marker is at the intersection of Cayuga Street (U.S. 20) and Trinity Lane, on the right when traveling north on Cayuga Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Seneca Falls NY 13148, United States of America. Touch for directions.

Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. First Presbyterian Church of Seneca Falls (within shouting distance of this marker) Suffrage Park (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line) Van Cleef Lake (about 500 feet away) Veterans Memorial (about 700 feet away) The Albert Cook Memorial (about 700 feet away) The Flats (approx. 0.2 miles away) In Memory of Norman J. Gould (approx. 0.2 miles away) When Anthony Met Stanton (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Seneca Falls.

Regarding Amelia Bloomer. The Offices of "The Lily" still stand on Fall Street, but there is no marker

(as yet) to draw attention. You may notice it if you walk up Fall Street towards the National Park building. It's on the south side of the street, and at least one piece of extant printing machinery is placed in the window.

Also see . . .
1. Amelia Bloomer - National Parks Service. (Submitted on May 15, 2013, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.)
2. Amelia Bloomer - Wikipedia. (Submitted on May 15, 2013, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.)


Contributions to the First Wave

In 1848, Bloomer attended the Seneca Falls convention as an audience member, as she was not an advocate for women’s rights at the time. Her work was focused on temperance laws, and she soon became an active member of the Ladies’ Temperance Society, which was started within the same year of the convention. Bloomer decided to write articles in support of the temperance movement because women were told to keep quiet on the matter, so this was an effective strategy to express her strong beliefs about the issue without speaking publicly. The articles that Bloomer wrote caught the interest of many, which led her to create her own journal for women, named The Lily (Bloomer, 1895).

The Lily’s first issue was released in January of 1849 and became a key symbol for First-wave feminism, representing the gentle and pure nature of women (Bloomer, 1895). The journal allowed for women’s voices to be heard amongst men’s overpowering opinions (Butcher, 2018). Women had the opportunity to unite and become a strong community, regardless of their class or race (National Women’s Hall of Fame, 2019). The Lily was published once a month and had a total of around three hundred prints for its first issue. It started as a newspaper solely dedicated to the temperance movement and eventually evolved to include women’s rights issues, such as suffrage and the freedom of married women. Of the followers that The Lily had gained, Susan B. Anthony was one of the women who became interested in the thoughts that Bloomer had to share. Another significant figure that contributed to the success of the journal was Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who offered to write for the journal. Stanton started writing about temperance, The Lily’s focus, but also included columns about women’s rights over time. Stanton’s writing convinced Bloomer to finally support the cause within the first year of The Lily’s release. Bloomer soon realized that the ideas the temperance movement promoted would only be successful if women were also granted the right to vote, giving them a voice in the laws that can make it become reality. The Lily was a prime example of the power women held if they could freely express their thoughts towards great change for the society (Bloomer, 1895).

In addition to the awareness for healthy change that Bloomer raised by publishing The Lily, she also publicly showed her support for the reform dress, known as “bloomers.” The attire was commonly represented by a shorter skirt layered on top of pantaloons. This costume was first worn in public by Elizabeth Smith Miller, who was Stanton’s cousin. Stanton soon adopted the attire into her own wardrobe, often wearing it out in public. Bloomer released a controversial article about the new costume and expressed her full support for the idea of trousers on women. She felt that it suited her day-to-day needs and was unlike the normal uncomfortable attire. Bloomer’s article was then featured in many other newspapers and caused a spark in hope for dress reform. Women from all over the nation sent letters to Bloomer asking about the new dress because they had been wanting to be relieved from the burden of the inconvenient skirts that they wore at the time. Newspapers began making headlines that addressed this costume as “bloomers” once the article from The Lily caught the nation’s attention. Bloomer stated that the credit belonged to Miller since she started the trend, but the name “bloomers” became commonly associated with the costume. Bloomer wore the reform dress for a few years but decided to wear the traditional long skirt for the remaining years of her life because she felt that the bloomers gained more attention than the issues that mattered more, such as temperance and women’s rights (Bloomer, 1895).

“Our only hope for the future of our country lies in the elevation of woman physically, mentally, socially and politically, and in the triumph of the principles which lie at the foundation of the so-called ‘Woman’s Rights’ reform.”

Amelia Jenks Bloomer (Bloomer, 1895, p. 158)


Amelia Bloomer: A Rebel in Pants

“Careful, or he’ll see your bloomers!” I don’t know why this is a phrase I’ve heard from time to time. I always assumed bloomers were another term for underpants, and it turns out I’m not the only to have thought that.

Bloomers have an interesting history in clothing one that sheds a nearly double-meaning on the cautious phrase.

Bloomers got their name from a gal named Amelia Bloomer.

Born in 1818 in New York, Amelia Bloomer was a suffragette and involved in the temperance movement. She married an editor and co-owner of the Seneca Falls County Courier. In Seneca Falls, Amelia became more involved in activism and wrote about the dangers of alcohol in her husband’s paper.

Seneca Falls was the home to the first Women’s Right’s Convention in 1848 and Amelia not only attended but was inspired to start her own newspaper called The Lily. The newspaper started with a focus on temperance. Soon Elizabeth Cady Stanton joined as a contributing writer. Together they started champion women’s right to vote (suffrage).

Meanwhile, in New England, Elizabeth Smith Miller adapted a radical way of dress. Women at the time we’re most known to wear constricting corsets and multiple layers of petticoats under their dresses. Miller wore knee-length dress with Turkish-inspired loose pants that gathered at the ankles. Elizabeth Miller was Elizabeth Stanton’s cousin and when Stanton saw the look, she adopted it, and showed it to Amelia.

(Left) Women’s typical fashion in 1849 (Right) Bloomer Costume

“As soon as it became known that I was wearing the new dress,” Amelia said, “letters came pouring in upon me by the hundreds from women all over the country making inquiries about the dress and asking for patterns—showing how ready and anxious women were to throw off the burden of long, heavy skirts.”

Amelia published a pattern of the pants and shorter dress in The Lily and it was a hit!

Because pants-with-short-dress was not catch to say even then, it was dubbed as the “Bloomer costume” when the fashion trend was covered in The New York Tribune. Amelia didn’t want to take credit for the design, however the public did.

One of the many women who took on the Bloomer Costume was Susan B. Anthony. The two met on their shared interest in temperance and women’s suffrage. It would be Amelia who would introduce Susan to Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Susan and Elizabeth became the best of friends. Elizabeth was the writer behind many of Susan’s speeches. The two of them were a powerhouse of BFF’s.

“When Anthony Met Stanton” life-sized bronze figures sculpted by Ted Aub in Seneca Falls, NY. Amelia is in the center wearing the Bloomer Costume.

The Bloomer Costume took a lot of heat from men and women. Susan herself stopped wearing the outfit as she saw more people paying attention to what she was wearing versus what she was saying. She decided the Bloomer Costume was bringing unwanted attention and detracting from the women’s rights issues.

Gal’s rocking the look faced ridicule in the papers and harassment on the street. In 1859 Amelia herself stopped wearing the outfit.

Amelia continued to work on women’s suffrage for the rest of her life. She never stopped writing, even after closing down her paper.

Today women wearing pants is no big deal, but it once used as an act of rebellion.


The Not-So-Straightforward Story of Women and Trousers

Not-so-fun fact: Until January 31st of 2013, it was illegal for women in France to wear trousers. It made headlines at the time when a 200 year-old law requiring women to ask police for special permission to “dress as men” or else risk being taken into custody, was finally revoked. The law had been kept in place since 1799, despite repeated attempts to repeal it, in part because officials said the unenforced rule was not a priority, and part of French “legal archaeology.” In a nutshell, lawmakers simply forgot the law still existed on the books. While comically absurd, this is a poignant reminder of the many liberties we take for granted today in Western society. While modern freedoms offer women a variety of sartorial choices, we forget that something so simple as the right to wear trousers was one of the most debated subjects of the women’s rights movement. Let’s step into the trousers of the women who have paved the way for us…

While Western women were subjected to a trouser ban for much of history, many societies in Eastern cultures did not share the same sentiment. Researchers estimate that Central Asian women have worn trousers for thousands of years, and women in pantaloons were widely documented by Western visitors to the Ottoman Empire. So why is it then that these two societies shared vastly different views regarding women in trousers?

There’s an assumption that women’s desire to wear pants came from their desire to appear less feminine in their quest for gender equality. In truth, western women’s taste for trousers didn’t originally stem from a desire to imitate men, but rather, from Ottoman Muslim women who had been wearing trousers for centuries.

Turkish woman in traditional dress by Sara Catterall

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu is one of history’s rare examples of women who had the privilege of travelling abroad during the age of Enlightenment. In 1716, she traveled to Constantinople with her British ambassador husband, and found herself enamoured with the Turkish style of dress. As one of the first Europeans to document daily life in the Ottoman Empire, during her trip, she observed that women appeared to be freer than Western women as a whole. They could walk unaccompanied at night, obtain a divorce, and even wear trousers in the streets.

Unlike Western society, women’s trousers were not a matter of fashion but practicality. In ancient Turkish culture, men and women’s clothing was almost identical in appearance. Both genders were accustomed to horseback riding for long distances and “unisex” Turkish clothing showed a societal preference for practicality and comfort over gender norms.

Typical Turkish trousers were called şalvar, described as long and baggy, falling past and gathering tightly at the ankles. They more closely resembled the modern trouser long before European men had adopted anything similar (they were still stuck in their short breeches and calf-enhancing hosiery until the late 18th century).

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu

Lady Mary returned from her trip with trunks of clothing worn by the Muslim women she encountered, sharing them with members of her social circle, even posing for public portraits modelling the garments.

She wrote about her experiences and observations, creating intrigue amongst the fashionable elite. Her letters and firsthand accounts invoked honest conversations about freedom of dress, property rights, and other social, economic, legal, and marital freedoms that women were denied in Europe. As more women began to travel and discovering foreign cultures, it seemed Western society, which held a strong Eurocentric bias, was falling behind the East regarding women’s rights issues.

So in a surprising historical twist, it was fact Muslim women who we can thank for greatly influencing many upper-class educated western women in matters of style and social reform.

Despite full-length skirts being the norm for Western women, the “Dress Reform Movement” picked up traction in Europe and the Americas during the Victorian era. In this period, women were openly advocating for their rights to wear trousers. One popular concept that emerged was the “rational dress” argument, which asserted that trousers should be allowed because of their practical and comfortable features. After all, trousers permitted a woman to move around more easily and protected her legs from the cold.

Rational dress enthusiasts were also staunch proponents of the radical women’s rights movement. They viewed society’s rejection of trousers as another symbol of women’s oppression. Amelia Jenks Bloomer, the first woman to own, operate and edit a newspaper for women, is a notable example. She controversially adopted a version of women’s trousers as worn by women in the Middle East and Central Asia, topped by a short dress or skirt and vest, while promoting it in her magazine.

As more women emulated the style, including prominent American women’s rights leaders like Elizabeth Stanton, it was soon dubbed as the The Bloomer Costume or “Bloomers“.

But for the majority of Victorian society, which valued modesty and femininity, the women’s trouser held no place. For Christian particularly, skirts and dresses were the only appropriate lower garments for women and anything else fell into the dominion of men. Additionally, the adoption of Turkish culture was viewed by many to be heathen and un-Christian. The fact the bloomers allowed women to take part in more activities such as horseback riding and other forms of exercise also attracted backlash from the medical community, which argued that wearing trousers was a danger to women’s fertility. Bloomer-wearing women were thus depicted as impious, morally-depraved infertile heathens!

Fashionable hoop skirts in the 19th century via Getty Images

The criticism, harassment and humiliation endured by women in bloomers eventually proved too much. Even Amelia Bloomer herself had dropped the fashion by 1859, in favour of the newly-invented crinoline, which she considered as a “sufficient reform”. The new hoop skirts were much lighter and “easier” to manage and women quickly forgot the Turkish dress alternative. Activists feared that the attention on women’s trousers detracted from other more pressing issues in the women’s movement debates. Once again, they began dressing more “lady-like” to secure crucial ballots such as the women’s right to vote.

French women who served wine on the battlefield

This is not to say that women never wore trousers again in the 19th century. During the American Civil War as well as European wars, some women donned trousers while acting as field nurses. And let’s not forget the women warriors who served wine on the battlefield and the gender fluid “secret soldiers” of the American Civil War. Some of the more daring and ambitious women also realised they could get paid more for work or gain access to certain professions if they disguised themselves as men.

The gender fluid “secret soldiers” of the American Civil War

By the early 20th century, the attitude surrounding women in trousers began to expand, along with the scope of women’s activities, such as women’s tennis and bike riding becoming the norm. Once again, women altered their clothing to achieve their desires, but still, wearing trousers was only acceptable for athletic purposes and they did not have the right to wear trousers in public. In 1938 American teacher Helen Hulick was jailed for five days after denying three judge requests to show up to court wearing pants.

Katharine Hepburn slaying in slacks

It was trend-setting style icons like Coco Chanel and Katharine Hepburn that helped bring trousers or slacks into the mainstream western clothing market during the 1930s.

“…if people accuse you of aping men, take no notice. Our new slacks are irreproachably masculine in their tailoring, but women have made them entirely their own by the colours in which they order them, and the accessories they add.” She suggested that the fashionable, modern woman should wear slacks “practically the whole time” – unless she was the guest of “an Edwardian relic with reactionary views.”

In the 1940s, World War II further encouraged women to bring trousers into their everyday wardrobe as they played a vital role in the war effort. Taking a step back in the 1950s however, post-war values advocated that women leave the workforce and take up child-rearing once again, shifting women’s trends back to dresses and skirts. During the second wave of feminism in the 1960s and ‘70s, women’s trousers finally gained acceptability in the workplace and several state laws in America declared it unlawful for employers to deny workers the right to wear pants based on their sex. We saw the rise of the pantsuit or “trouser suit” in the 80s and 90s, when American women holding political office could finally gain the right to wear trousers in their local and government Senate. Today, us ladies don’t give much thought to slipping into a pair of vintage jeans, leggings, or trendy corduroys before leaving the house. It’s easy to forget women’s long and turbulent struggle to advocate for something so basic as the right to wear trousers. At least now that you’ve read up on this not-so-straightforward story, you can call yourself a real smarty-pants!


Tag: #ameliabloomer

Amelia Bloomer was a woman who spoke her mind on controversial topics, such as women’s rights, without fear of what her peers thought of her. She was an activist, owner of a newspaper, and a talented public speaker.

Amelia Bloomer was born in 1818 in Homer New York. She led a relatively normal childhood and became a teacher at the age of 17. Quickly, she left her job and married David Bloomer, who was an attorney and an editor of a local newspaper in Seneca Falls, New York. Her husband was very supportive of her and encouraged her to write down her ideas and opinions as an outlet. Amelia took her husband’s advice and began to publicize her writings in the newspaper that her husband was the editor for.

Throughout the years, Amelia increasingly became more of an activist and in 1849 she attended the infamous Seneca Falls Womens Rights Convention, which inspired her to create The Lily in 1850, which was a newspaper written specially for women. The Lily was printed biweekly and mainly discussed the temperance movement, but the newspaper eventually promoted women’s rights as well after Amelia met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a well known women’s rights activist at the time. Stanton, befriending Amelia, also wrote numerous articles for The Lily.

Her husband, David, eventually became the postmaster for Seneca Falls and, being the loving and supporting husband that he was, he made Amelia his assistant. Amelia used this position to promote women’s rights in her town.

Amelia also began speaking out about diversity in women’s fashion. At the time, women always wore tight corsets under layers and layers of clothing all year round. Naturally, especially in the hot summer months, it was uncomfortable for women to wear this much clothing and made it difficult for women to do simple day to day tasks, such as cooking and cleaning. Amelia argued that the corsets women were subjected to wear, along with the abundance of layers that a woman’s outfit entailed at the time, was not safe for a woman’s health and could cause numerous medical problems and even physical deformities! So, as a solution, Amelia promoted pantaloons (later named Bloomers after her last name) that were basically baggy underpants that went past the knees. These bloomers were controversial, but popular because of the comfort level that it gave women, and was a symbol that represented the women’s rights movement at the time.

In her later years, Amelia moved with Daniel out west to Iowa. Along the way, Amelia gave many speeches about temperance and the women’s rights movement, stopping in numerous populated cities. From 1871-1873, Amelia was the president of the Iowa Suffrage Association and she continued to fight for women’s rights until the day she died in 1894.

Here is a drawing of “The Bloomer Costume” aka the bloomers which Amelia Bloomer promoted to the public.

Want to read a cool, short book about Amelia Bloomer’s life? I found this cute, illustrated book that you can get cheap off of Amazon here.


Watch the video: Amelia Bloomer