When thinking about the fashion of the women’s suffrage movement, people’s minds often naturally conjure images of women trading their long skirts for bloomers and vehemently casting aside their restrictive corsets. By this logic, one might easily dismiss the owner of this 1896 wedding dress as ambivalent, or even opposed, to suffrage and the sweeping changes to fashion associated with it. After all, the dress shows no evidence of the women’s clothing reform that began in the 19th century. Conforming to mainstream high fashion of the time, it has a high, stiff collar and would have been worn with a corset. Furthermore, the bride who wore it, Sarah Peters Hickok, was a homemaker and socialite from Oneonta, NY.[1] Yet, despite these facts, this dress is not sufficient grounds upon which to determine Sarah’s political position because suffragist dress and thoughts on the subject varied widely during the 19th and 20th centuries.

 

IMG_2701

Bodice and skirt, ca. 1896, patterned silk, satin, lace, H: 18 (bodice), 45 (skirt) x W: 22 in. (bodice waist). Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Hannah Hampe, N0041.1955a-b. Photograph by the author.

It is true that women’s rights activists had already donned bloomers by the mid-19th century. However, they soon largely returned to more traditional dress after realizing that the radical and shocking bloomers were actually more of a distraction than an asset in their fight for equality.[2] While bloomers reemerged by the time this wedding dress was made in the late 19th century, they were primarily used as bicycling outfits.[3]

Appropriate dress was a strategic and hotly debated topic among suffragists, dividing even those at the forefront of the movement. Some activists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, equated the corsets and long skirts of contemporary female fashion with oppression, designed to keep women subservient. However, others followed the lead of Susan B. Anthony, who was stylish, aware of current fashion trends, and determined to maintain her femininity in dress.[4] Attempting to simultaneously challenge traditional ideas about both fashion and the right to vote was dangerous, with the former potentially jeopardizing the latter.

As in the U.S., suffragists in the U.K. also “married radical ideas with willfully conventional dress.”[5] Having observed the American bloomer debacle, British suffragist leader Lydia Becker took a conservative position on dress, advising women to “stick to your stays, ladies, and triumph over the other sex.”[6] Even Emmeline Pankhurst and the militant suffragists of the Women’s Political and Social Union, who were known for arson, window smashing, and picture slashing, exhibited elegance and refinement in their dress. Suffragists were advocating radical ideas and they had to choose their battles wisely: fashion or the ballot. Dressing in a conservative manner gave suffragists credibility and helped make the notion of women voting more palatable. It also prevented them from being seen as demanding too much change too quickly.[7]

So, was the owner of this wedding dress a suffragist? We may never know. However, what is certain is that the conservative and restrictive style of her dress does not preclude the possibility that she was. Indeed, suffragist Charlotte Hawkins Brown dressed very similar to Sarah Peters Hickok for her 1911 wedding. In short, one cannot judge a suffragist by her dress.

[1] “Delaware County News,” The Oneonta Star (Oneonta, NY), March 19, 1926, 7.

[2] Gayle V. Fischer, Pantaloons and Power: A Nineteenth-Century Dress Reform in the United States (Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2001), 104-107

[3] Ibid., 171-172.

[4] Jenny Cobb, “The Fashion of Suffrage: Women “Vote” with Their Clothes,” Bullock Museum, https://www.thestoryoftexas.com/discover/artifacts/suffrage-dress-shoes.

[5] Cally Blackman, “How the Suffragettes Used Fashion to Further the Cause,” The Guardian, Oct. 8, 2015, https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2015/oct/08/suffragette-style-movement-embraced-fashion-branding.

[6] Christine Bayles Kortsch, Dress Culture in Late Victorian Women’s Fiction: Literacy, Textiles, and Activism (New York: Routledge, 2016), 91-92.

[7] Ibid.

By Sarah Phillips

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Above: Front of 1910 Suffragette Madonna, 1910, paper stock, H: 14 x W: 9 cm, Cooperstown Graduate Program, Cooperstown, New York, Teaching Collection, T2015.045f. Photograph by Christian Stegall.

This irreverent postcard is best understood as part of a wave of postcard popularity. This powerful piece of propaganda discouraged women’s suffrage by using mockery and saying that women voting would result in men losing their masculinity.

It is not surprising that this postcard is creased, considering that it is from 1910. But it is likely that it was already somewhat damaged at the time it was first sent. The anti-suffrage image is effective as propaganda precisely because it is a postcard, a semi-public object that is handled by multiple people.

Today, we use postcards as souvenirs. Twenty-first century people generally buy them only when they are traveling. In the first quarter of the twentieth century, though, people sent and collected every imaginable kind of postcard. While some wealthier people had extensive collections, this visual medium was also cheap and accessible to the working class [1]. The “golden age” of postcards was from the year of the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, up until 1918 as World War I came to an end [2]. A fine example is this this self-referential postcard (held at Newberry Library) that depicts a woman looking at her postcard collection.

The “Suffragette Madonna” postcard arose during that wave of popularity. It mocked the struggle for women’s voting rights in the early 1900s by showing a man in the style of the ideal female: the Virgin Mary. In the early twentieth century, many considered it inappropriate for women to act in the public ways, including voting. At the same time, as this postcard shows, it was silly and emasculating for a man to be associated with childcare. The caption on the postcard says “Crop of 1910.” The postcard designer was saying that the man in the image was just one of a much larger “crop” of feminine men who thought women should be able to vote.

A New York postcard maker called the Dunston Weiler Lithograph Company made a series of 12 postcards that included a nearly identical Suffragette Madonna postcard, as well as other ones:

Above: Suffragette Series No. 1: Suffragette Madonna, and No. 2: Suffragette Copette, 1909, Dunston-Weiler Lithograph Company, New York, paper stock, H: 14 x W: 9 cm, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa, Catherine H. Palczewski Postcard Archive.

 

The series by Dunston Weiler included mocking images of a feminine Uncle Sam and a police officer (“Suffrage Coppette”) [3]. And so, even to someone who didn’t understand or appreciate the subtle religious jab at Catholic symbolism, the Suffragette Madonna postcard successfully functioned simply as a humorous image. To many, the postcard of a man performing domestic duties was just as ludicrous as a police officer wielding a rolling pin.

As scholar of communication studies Catherine Palczewski writes, the imagery on this postcard visually expressed an idea that wasn’t in the verbal arguments around women’s suffrage during the early twentieth century [4]. The fact that this postcard exists in 2017 – unlike ephemeral spoken conversation – ensures that we don’t forget this controversial debate.

[1] John Fraser, “Propaganda on the Picture Postcard,” Oxford Art Journal, Vol. 3, no. 2. (October 1980), 39.
[2] Catherine H. Palczewski, “The Male Madonna and the Feminine Uncle Sam: Visual Argument, Icons, and Ideographs in 1909 Anti-Woman Suffrage Postcards,” Quarterly Journal of Speech Vol. 91, no. 4 (November 2005), 365, whole article 365-394].
[3] Palczewski, 370.
[4] Palczewski, 387.

 

Rosa Gallagher

safety bike

Bicycle, Safety, 1898-1905, iron, metal, wood, rubber, L: 72 x H: 44.5 x D: 30 in. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of the Rochester Historical Society, F0939.1946.

Anyone who has seen an old-fashioned bicycle, with one giant wheel and one tiny one, and wondered how anyone could balance on it, can see why bike riders in the late nineteenth century preferred the newly-developed safety bicycle, with its equally-sized wheels. This change in bicycle design had far-reaching consequences for gender roles and political activism. Before the safety bicycle, cycling was a masculine activity; the design of older bicycles made it difficult for women to ride due to their long skirts. Women were also expected to spend their time in the home, not in public. Once the safety bicycle was invented, women in skirts could balance on a bicycle easily.[1] Women began to ride in droves in the 1890s, many reveling in their new-found freedom. Women were able to travel farther on their own and broaden their horizons.

 

However, this did not mean that bicycling was not still a gendered activity, as this particular model from The Farmer’s Museum’s collection reveals. Although men’s and women’s safety bicycles had similar designs, there was a clear difference between them. This safety bike was made by Radio Sporting Goods in Rochester, NY, between 1898 and 1905, at the height of the bicycle’s popularity. It was most likely owned by a man because it has a diamond frame. Most bikes for women lacked a bar at the top, as this one does. A bicycle with a “step-through” frame allowed women in skirts to ride more easily.[2]

 

ladies_safety_bicycles1889

A Ladies Safety Bicycle (Photo Courtesy Wikipedia Commons)

Although it would have been difficult to ride this safety bicycle in a skirt, it was possible for a women wearing bloomers to ride it. Some bicycle manufacturers marketed bicycles with diamond frames to women who wore bloomers.[3] Because of the bicycle craze in the 1890s, bloomers became popular among women.[4] Some men worried that women who wanted to wear pants would want other prerogatives that had traditionally been reserved for men.[5] Even those women who rode bicycles in skirts were seen as “new women,” who rejected traditional gender roles. Riding a bicycle gave women more control over their own lives. Cycling was also a political statement, particularly if a woman was riding a bicycle with a diamond frame.

 

Those who supported and opposed women’s suffrage linked safety bicycles to women’s participation in the public sphere.[6] Because they enabled women to travel more freely and on their own, suffragettes wrote that bicycles led to female empowerment. The popular book, Bicycling for Ladies, by M.E. Ward, stated that “riding the wheel, our own powers are revealed to us… you are continually being called upon to judge and to determine points that before have not needed your consideration, and consequently you become more alert, active, quick-sighted and keenly alive as well to the rights of others as to what is due yourself.”[7] The increased independence that bicycles afforded to women made it possible for them to leave the private sphere and demand increased rights and opportunities in the public sphere.

By Emma Glaser

[1] Ellen Gruber Garvey, “Reframing the Bicycle: Advertising-Supported Magazines and Scorching Women,” American Quarterly 47, no. 1 (March 1996): 67-69.

[2] Steven E. Alford and Suzanne Ferriss, An Alternative History of Bicycles and Motorcycles: Two-Wheeled Transportation and Material Culture (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), 51-52.

[3] Garvey, “Reframing the Bicycle,” 69.

[4] Antonia Petrash, More than Petticoats: Remarkable New York Women (Guilford: TwoDot, 2001), 60.

[5] Patricia Marks, Bicycles, Bangs, and Bloomers: The New Woman in the Popular Press (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1990), 191, 193.

[6] Erin Russell, “That’s No Ordinary Bicycle!: A Safety Bicycle and Women’s Suffrage” (Cooperstown Graduate Program, SUNY Oneonta, 2017), 6.

[7] M.E. Ward, Bicycling for Ladies (New York: Brentano’s, 1896), 12-13.

“All men are created equal.” Despite the pronoun chosen, the meaning of the Declaration of Independence’s most recognizable sentence is clear: this is a nation founded on the principles of equality. Despite this, only within the last century have women achieved suffrage. Women achieved suffrage though the efforts of individuals who dissolved prejudices and dismantled stereotypes by entering male-dominated fields. One such prejudice held in the nineteenth century was that women were unfit to hold careers similar to those of men.

Material Culture Methods Bleva

Legal Certificate, Lockwood (Belva Ann), 1879, Ink on Paper, H: 14 x W: 17 in., Fenimore Art Museum Research Library, Cooperstown, New York, The Ormes-Winner Collection, FM-60.71, Coll. 213.

A document in the Fenimore Art Museum Library’s collection, reveals the story of a woman who entered such a career in 1879. Her life blossomed into a career that pushed the issue of woman’s equality and suffrage into the national spotlight. By writing the name of a woman, Belva A. Lockwood, on a space traditionally held for men, the document is a physical representation of the first step an individual took towards achieving woman’s suffrage in the United States.

On the surface, the document is a straightforward legal certificate from the nineteenth century. Along the top is printed “Supreme Court of the United States.” Below the heading are images of the Judicial branch: blinded Justice carrying her scales, an angelic figure pointing to the Constitution, and a bald eagle standing atop a collection of legal texts. These documents with their seal from the Supreme Court were released to numerous male attorneys annually. What makes these documents unique are the handwritten names of the recipients, in this case, Belva A. Lockwood. With this document, she was given the title, “Attorney and Counselor of the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Becoming a female Attorney of the Supreme Court was a groundbreaking achievement in the nineteenth century. Consequently, Lockwood encountered numerous setbacks. The Claims Court Bar denied her admission in 1874 due to her gender. In explaining his decision, Chief Justice Charles Drake, who presided over the admissions process, wrote: “Mistress Lockwood, you are a woman…a married woman!” [1] This charge was a continuation of coverture, that upon marriage, the legal existence of a woman was incorporated into that of her husband’s.

Despite the resistance she encountered, Lockwood was the first woman to present oral arguments before the Supreme Court,Kaiser v. Stickney in 1880. [2] Lockwood was also the first woman to run a full presidential campaign. She ran her campaign believing that it would help woman gain both the right to vote and be accepted into another male-dominated arena: politics. Her campaign garnered national attention to the issue of suffrage. [3]

Lockwood reflected, “of great men…law has been the stepping stone to greatness.” She believed that after penetrating the legal profession, women could attain further achievements. [4] Once her name was written on a space traditionally reserved for men, she launched herself, and womankind, into other male-dominated fields. Ultimately, her career led her to politics where she put suffrage into the spotlight.

By James Connally

[1] Certificate to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court issued to Belva Lockwood, 3 March 1879, Belva Ann Lockwood Papers. & Jill Norgren, Belva Lockwood: The Woman Who Would Be President (New York: New York University Press, 2007), 68.

[2] Jill Norgren, “Belva Lockwood: Blazing the Trail for Women in Law, Part 2,” Prologue Magazine, Spring 2005, https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/spring/belva-lockwood-2.html.

[3] Norgren, “Belva Lockwood: Blazing the Trail for Women in Law.”

[4] Belva A. Lockwood, “My Efforts to Become a Lawyer,” in Belva A. Lockwood, ed. Julia Hull Winner (Niagara Falls: Fose Printing, Inc, 1969), 116.

When you think of the women’s suffrage movement what are some images that typically come to mind? Women marching down the street holding signs and wearing sashes or over exaggerated political cartoons depicting both pro- and anti-suffrage sentiments are usually what people think of. However, there was another method used to spread the message of supporting women’s rights; art. Art in the form of fashion design and music were methods that were utilized during the women’s suffrage movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Bloomer Waltz

The Bloomer Waltz, 1851, William Dressler, paper, L: 13 x W: 9.75 in. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Harry Shaw Newman Gallery, N0001.1945.

Bloomers were employed as a symbol for women’s rights in the 1850s when Amelia Bloomer wrote an article about the clothes after seeing her friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton wear them. [1] While bloomers were not meant to be a sign of protest or nonconformity, they soon became a symbol of the women’s rights movement. However, there were many negative views on bloomers as some people believed they were unflattering for women to wear and due to their similarity to trousers, women who wore bloomers were seen as threats to men and their role in society. [2] Many forms of media portrayed bloomers in a negative light, but one advocate of the movement was music. While there was still music being written that was critical of bloomers, there were also those composers who wrote music that supported the fashion statement.

 

Music was used for dances known as bloomer balls, which were dances women were supposed to attend wearing bloomers. In the sheet music “The Bloomer Waltz” by William Dressler the piece was meant to be used during a dance that was supportive of the bloomer outfit, as opposed to some dances that were put on in order to critique and diminish women who wore bloomers. Dressler’s support can be seen in both the music itself by the way it was written, and also in the cover art of the piece. Musically, Dressler’s piece was written as a waltz that was meant to be performed during an event so people could dance while it was being played. Many musical techniques such as key, time signature, and dynamics are used throughout the piece to give it a lively feel. The cover art also portrays a woman wearing bloomers looking off into the distance. As opposed to looking caricatured and unattractive, the woman looks realistic showing that the piece was not making fun of bloomers or those women who chose to wear them.

While bloomers were a short lived fashion, as was the music written for bloomer balls, the impact both made was impactful. Both men and women were able to use forms of art to make a statement and challenge the norms society had for women.

-Allison Costantino

[1] Antonia Petrash, More than Petticoats: Remarkable New York Women (Guilford, CT: The Globe Pequot Press, 2002), 51.

[2] Gayle V. Fischer, Pantaloons and Power: A Nineteenth-Century Dress Reform in the United States (Kent, OH: Kent University Press, 2001), 91

 

Susan B. Anthony Plaque

Susan B. Anthony, plaster, Diameter: 6 ¼ in. (medallion only). Fenimore Art Museum Research Library, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Horace Moses, Fenimore Art Museum Research Library Collection, N0031.1976.

Pick up any quarter and look at it. The back may be different depending on the year it was minted, but the front always depicts George Washington with a staunch look and stiff upper lip.  This portrayal of the staunch and stiff bust is represented not only on coins and for men but is also shown for women and artwork. A fine example of this can be seen on a white plaster plaque depicting Susan B. Anthony’s profile. [1] This white plaque is set within a square frame, a yellow-brown velvet mat with a glass covering and is preserved by the Fenimore Art Museum Research Library, in Cooperstown, New York. [2] Having Susan B. Anthony depicted in this fashion, like George Washington on a quarter, represents how prestigious her image was to the public and federal government history.

The first indication of this representation is the color that was used for the plaque. Even though plaster can easily be painted over, this piece was left in its clean white state. In a bust artwork like this one, usually, marble is used. However, the plaster may have been used instead because it is well suited to capturing detail like human features. [3] Art historian Charmaine A. Nelson, writes how the use of pink marble or added tints made human sculptures look like realistic Euro-American skin, which could spark sensual and even sexual reactions from male viewers. White, however, created a harsh contrast compared to pink marble because it “guarded against the threat of flesh.” [4] By having the plaster kept white, this took away the sexual features of Susan B. Anthony’s femininity and replaced it with a more serious tone. This harsh cold color helps the nation “manifest political and cultural cohesion,” an important element to neoclassicism and the suffrage movement. [5] By removing the sexual connotations of the pink color scheme, this plaque forces us to focus on the issues of suffrage and not the fact that Susan B. Anthony was a woman in a political realm. [6]

This plaque is similar to a Susan B. Anthony dollar coin that was minted in 1979. By having this coin minted, it represented how Susan B. Anthony’s contribution to women’s suffrage was highly valued by federal institutions like the Department of the Treasury. [7] Even though this coin was discontinued after two years, the plaque described before shows how not everyone in the public disliked the representation. In fact, with its protective glass casing and fancy velvet decor, this plaque represents how some people had great reverence for Susan B. Anthony being a role model for leadership. [8]

Because of Susan B. Anthony’s work in the suffrage movement, she was proven to be a leader to the public and the federal government. This representation can be seen in the plaque because of the color that was used and the bust illustration that was fashioned.  Susan B. Anthony’s representation here shows how girls can that run the world.

By: Brielle Cameron

[1] Susan B. Anthony was a famous suffragist during the late 19th century to the early 20th century.

[2] Susan B. Anthony, plaster, Diameter: 6 ¼ in. (medallion only). Fenimore Art Museum Research Library, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Horace Moses, Fenimore Art Museum Research Library Collection, N0031.1976.

[3] Sally M. Promey, “Chalkware, Plaster, Plaster of Paris,” Yale Center for the Study of Material & Visual Cultures of Religion, http://mavcor.yale.edu/conversations/reflections-on-medium/chalkware-plaster-plaster-paris#End2 (accessed March 26, 2017).

[4] Charmaine A. Nelson, “White Marble, Black Bodies and the Fear of the Invisible Negro: Signifying Blackness in Mid-Nineteenth-Century Neoclassical Sculpture,” RACAR: Revue D’art Canadienne/Canadian Art Review 27, no. 1/2 (2000), http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.depaul.edu/ stable/42631206 (accessed March 26, 2017), 89.

[5] Ibid., 88-89.

[6] Rosa Gallagher, “Profiles in Plaster: Susan B. Anthony in U.S. Women’s Suffrage,” Cooperstown Graduate Program, (Cooperstown, New York: Cooperstown Graduate Program, 2017), 3.

[7] Ibid., 4.

[8] Michael J. Lewis, “Of Kitsch and Coins,” Commentary 108, no. 3 (October 1999), 32. ezproxy.depaul.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=2336350&site=ehost-live&scope=site (accessed March 26, 2017).

Toys can often tell more about a culture and its values than they initially let on. We control what we market, and more specifically who we market to. In stores, it is not difficult to separate the toys meant for boys from those meant for girls. There distinct and subtle indicators that alert the customer to items that are gender specific. The Easy-Bake Oven is a popular toy that has appeared in different forms throughout the years.[1] Due to imagery associated with its advertising, as well as a gender specific color scheme, this item is obviously intended for girls rather than boys. Closer examination of the Easy-Bake Oven gives insight into modern gender equality issues that the Women’s Rights Movement have been combating for years. Although women gained the right to vote in New York in 1917, they continue to battle misguided beliefs and traditional gender stereotypes in their pursuit of true equality. The belief that an oven, and by extension domestic life, is best suited for women is a sign that we have not made as many strides in our search for equality as we might think.

Easy-Bake Oven 2009

(Fig.1) Easy-Bake Oven, 2009, plastic, 14″ x 7″ x 8″. (Cooperstown Graduate Program), Cooperstown, New York, T2013.078.1a.

This 2009 example of an Easy-Bake Oven (Fig.1) features many similar design choices to a previous model from 1963 (Fig.2). While the shape of the oven has changed, there are certain visual traits that have remained in both the object itself and its packaging. One of the most notable features are the colors used in both models of the Easy-Bake Oven. Viewers can immediately note that the colors are lighter in shade. Turquoise blues appear on the body of both ovens, and pink features on the box of the 2009 model. These colors, especially pink, would indicate that these items are intended for girls only. Pink is considered a feminine color, and would therefore classify the Easy-Bake Oven as a “girl toy”.[2]  In addition, the visual materials of the 2009 Easy-Bake Oven, such as the box (Fig.3), exclusively depict girls playing with the toy. If it was not clear before, this would undoubtedly confirm who was playing with an Easy-Bake Oven.

Easy-Bake Oven 1963

(Fig.2) Easy-Bake Oven, circa 1963, plastic, 21″ x 16″ x 8.25″. (Cooperstown Graduate Program), Cooperstown, New York, T2013.079.1.

 

Easy-Bake Oven Box 2009.jpg

(Fig.3) Easy-Bake Oven, 2009, cardboard, 16″ x 8″ x 9″. (Cooperstown Graduate Program), Cooperstown, New York, T2013.078.3.

While we like to think that we have made advances in our search for universal equality between 1963 and 2009, we continue to tell girls they belong at home by tailoring toys that perpetuate and condition them to this stereotype. The prominence of toys geared towards young girls that promote domestic life indicate that we still believe those should be the spheres they inhabit. We continue to force our children into outdated gender roles, and enforce these beliefs with the toys we market and purchase for them. They lack of change in our mentality towards the Easy-Bake Oven and what it represents illustrates the work still required regarding gender equality.

By: Michael Barone

[1] “Easy-Bake Oven,” The Strong National Museum of Play: National Toy Hall of Fame, http://www.toyhalloffame.org/toys/easy-bake-oven.

[2] Erica S. Weisgram, Megan Fulcher, Lisa M. Dinella, “Pink gives girls permission: Exploring the roles of explicit gender labels and gender-typed colors on preschool children’s toy preferences,” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 35(2014): 402.