The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted American women the right to vote, a right known as women’s suffrage, and was ratified on August 18, 1920, ending almost a century of protest.
The legendary crusade for women's suffrage began in 1848 at a historic meeting in Seneca Falls, New York. Following the convention, the demand for the vote became a centerpiece of the women’s rights movement. Activists began raising public awareness and lobbied the government to grant voting rights to women. The lengthy battle culminated in 1920 when the country ratified the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, the Experience Cortland staff will be releasing a blog series celebrating the achievements of Cortland County women throughout history. From an Army general to a women's rights advocate, to a charity executive and Television's first Better Crocker, "Iconic Cortland County Women: Celebrating the Centennial of the 19th Amendment" will showcase the area's rich women's history.
Amelia Jenks Bloomer was an early suffragist, editor and social activist who left huge legacy not only in Cortland County, but the United States.
Bloomer was born in 1818 in Homer, New York as Amelia Jenks. In 1840, she married David Bloomer and moved to Seneca Falls, New York where she became involved in temperance work, women's rights and dress reform. This would inevitably bring Bloomer to the Seneca Falls Woman's rights convention in 1848. The next year she began writing for the first newspaper dedicated to women, The Lily.
Bloomer’s background in advocating for women’s rights and temperance allowed her to have a great impact on dress reform. She believed women should be able to wear trousers because of the hazards long length dresses posed to women. She also thought the long length of the dresses were just impractical. Bloomer advocated so strongly that women should be able to wear trousers, that her name “Bloomer” became known as the women's version of trousers. Although she received a lot of backlash from both men and women for her fashion choice, she proudly wore bloomers for several years.
Because of Bloomer’s dedication to dress reform, she left a legacy of a name that people still use today!
TIMELINE OF FASHION LIBERATION
(Library of Congress: Topics in Chronicling America)
|1851||Women may look more graceful in "old mode" dragging skirts, but they feel more graceful in bloomers.|
|1852||Bloomers are seen as a fashion and political failure.|
|1853||Amelia Bloomer addresses temperance movement in bloomers.|
|1887||Lighter, looser, healthier bloomers subject to hooting and jeering crowds.|
|1893||Amelia Bloomer criticized for trying to force a change in fashion.|
|1893||Dress reform makes slow progress, but men and women still regard bloomers as "ugly and unfashionable."|
|1894||Amelia Bloomer passes away at the age of 76.|
|1895||The bicycle craze makes bloomers fashionable and popular.|
Check back next week for the first blog of the series. I will be highlighting Homer native, Ann E. Dunwoody, a SUNY Cortland graduate who went on to be a United States Army general.
Amelia Bloomer. (n.d.). In Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved May 15, 2020, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:AmeliaBloomer-sig.png.
Illustration 10. Amelia Bloomer in the "short dress." Retrieved May 15, 2020, from https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/wori/shs4.htm
National Park Service. (n.d.). Amelia Bloomer – Publisher and advocate for Woman’s Rights. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved May 15, 2020 from http://socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/biography/bloomer-amelia/.
N. Currier. (1851) The Bloomer Costume, 1851. [New York: N. Currier] [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/90711963/.
Norwood, A.R. (2017). Amelia Bloomer. Retrieved May 15, 2020, from https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/amelia-bloomer.
The Lily, March 1852. Newspaper. Retrieved May 15, 2020, from https://www.nyhistory.org/sites/default/files/newfiles/cwh-curriculum/Module%202/Life%20Stories/Amelia%20Jenks%20Bloomer%20Life%20Story.pdf.
Research Guides: Amelia Bloomer: Topics in Chronicling America: Introduction. (n.d.). Retrieved May 15, 2020, from https://guides.loc.gov/chronicling-america-amelia-bloomer.
Interested in Cortland County history? Check out the websites of our local museums to unearth some some delightful historic treasures!