Archives for category: Women
N0014.2012 image

Middy Blouse, linen, 25.5″ x 22″ x 17.75″. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, N0014.2012.

“If you build it, they will come.”[1] This famous quote from the movie Field of Dreams captures the essence of Cooperstown, New York’s sports atmosphere. People, inspired by the sport’s supposed birthplace, constructed the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Dreams Park to entice people to visit and pay homage to America’s favorite pastime. Today, Cooperstown welcomes thousands of visitors from around the world.

While the quote complements the town’s tourism attractions, the opposite occurs for Bundy and Cruttenden Company, a retail-turned-manufacturer that operated in Cooperstown from the mid-1800s to the late 1920s. Sports and fashion fueled the decision behind the company’s switch in enterprise. Instead of building and having customers arrive, the demands of women participating in sports caused Bundy and Cruttenden Company to change revenue ventures. They did not have to build anything for women to come, they had to adapt since people were already there looking for athletic clothing.

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, women and girls participated in gym classes and pursued athletic activities that required greater ranges of movement than archery or croquet. However, long skirts and structured corsets hindered them from fully engaging and enjoying other sports. They simply could not move. Thankfully, the middy blouse solved this problem.

Invented in 1908, the middy blouse was a women’s athletic shirt made of cotton or linen and tailored to have straight lines from shoulder to hip.[2] This loose fitting shirt allowed for women to freely move, thus increasing women’s opportunities to participate in athletic activities.

As a result, demand for middies skyrocketed. Women and girls wanted to be comfortable when playing sports or participating in gym class and rushed to the stores to acquire this new piece of fashion. The increase in demand caused the owners of Bundy and Cruttenden Company to make some changes.

When Bundy and Cruttenden Company opened in 1876, the department store sold several items including clothing, furniture, and bed linens. But, the rising demand for girls and women’s gym clothing inspired the company to take a risk and change its business strategies. In 1928, the Main Street retail store transformed into a manufacturing warehouse.[3] Employees of Bundy and Cruttenden were no longer salesmen of various goods, but creators of women’s athletic wear.

The owners and managers of Bundy and Cruttenden Company during the late 1800s and early 1900s saw an opportunity to increase revenues by changing its business pursuits. And due to this entrepreneurial decision, Bundy and Cruttenden Company was no longer a local retail store in Otsego County, but a local manufacturer filling the orders of customers throughout the country and helping women pursue more athletic ventures.

Post written by Beata Hlinka

[1] Field of Dreams, directed by Phil Alden Robinson (1989; Universal City, CA: Universal Studios, 1992), VHS.

[2] Patricia Campbell Warner, When the Girls Came out to Play: The Birth of American Sportswear (Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006), 218.

[3] “Local Company Files for Bankruptcy,” The Freeman’s Journal, March 12, 1930, accessed March 26, 2018, http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn83031249/1930-03-12/ed-1/seq-4/.

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Bassett Medical Bag

Doctor’s Bag, 1890-1910, leather, glass bottles, corks, metal, H: 5 x W: 8.75 x D: 2.125 in. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of The Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital, N0008.2002.

Measuring 5 inches high, 8 ¾ inches wide, and 2 inches thick (only slightly bigger than a women’s wallet) this unassuming leather satchel saved lives. Dr. Mary Imogene Bassett owned this medical bag, currently housed in the Doctor’s Office at The Farmers’ Museum [1]. Working in central New York from the 1890s until her death in 1922, this medical bag gave Dr. Bassett the freedom of a career, the freedom of medical choice, and the freedom of movement.

Dr. Bassett’s medical bag illustrates her independence within the male-dominated medical field. In 1887, Dr. Mary Imogene Bassett graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania [2]. Six years later, she partnered with her father to work at the family’s general practice in Cooperstown. When her father died in 1905, Dr. Bassett took the initiative and continued the practice alone – she saw a need in her rural surroundings and she filled it, despite the barriers she came across. Between 1890 and 1920, the national average percentage of Women Physicians only grew from 4.4% to 5.0% [3]. At a time when the few female doctors were limited to treating women patients, Dr. Bassett chose to work independently in a rural area where she could serve anyone.

Dr. Bassett’s medical bag could carry up to 36 different vials. With the majority of the bottles measuring around 2 inches tall, there was a limited amount of space. However, the numerous vials let Dr. Bassett to bring a variety of medicines to her patients, giving her the choices and resources needed to attend to a range of diseases.

The medical bag’s compact size also allowed Dr. Bassett to transport the necessary medicine to her patients in central New York. She could make house calls and bring the medical attention to her remote patients, despite the rural setting. Dr. Bassett’s medical bag characterizes her independence because she was free from the physical and institutional constraints of a hospital; it let her go where she was needed.

The legacy of Mary Imogene Bassett and her dedication endures today. Founded in 1922, The Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital picked up where Dr. Bassett left off, and continues caring for patients across rural central New York to this day.

 

Post Written by Elizabeth Kapp

[1] Doctor’s Bag, Fenimore Art Museum Collections, S Museum, N0008.2002, Documentation.

[2] “History,” Bassett Healthcare Network, accessed March 24, 2018. https://www.bassett.org/information/about-us/history/

[3] Mary Roth Walsh, “Doctors Wanted: No Women Need Apply:” Sexual Barriers in the Medical Profession, 1835–1975 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977) 185.

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

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.

New York State’s centennial for women’s suffrage marks a worthy occasion to examine the period’s material culture and its connections to today. In the 1910s, the fight for women’s suffrage took a different form. Previously, most suffragists wrote letters and pamphlets and did speaking tours to publicize their arguments for women’s suffrage. Public protests did not become widespread until the 1910s. This yellow armband embodies the shift. Suffragists organized public protests and wore accessories to reflect their support for the movement, actions still practiced by protestors today.

votes for women

Women’s Suffrage armband, Felt, 1910-1920, Fenimore Art Museum, N0147.1945(01). Photograph by Michael Barone.

This armband, composed of yellow felt and black text, was a common design for the period. Its message is blunt: “VOTES FOR WOMEN.” Such armbands indicated to parade onlookers the event’s purpose, but also signaled to other suffragists that the wearer sympathized with the cause. This specific armband was hand cut from a larger piece of felt. It was probably part of a batch crafted for a large group of suffragists. Web searches unearth other similarly styled armbands, further suggesting its large-scale production.

votes for women 2

Women’s Suffrage armband, Felt, 1910-1920, Fenimore Art Museum, N0147.1945(01). Photograph by Michael Barone.

The American suffrage movement oft represented itself with two colors: purple and yellow. British suffragists popularized purple, which American suffragists later adopted. Yellow, however, was a purely American suffrage color, anchoring this armband in the American movement. Yellow became associated with women’s suffrage in 1867, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony attempted to pass women’s suffrage in Kansas. Suffragists started to use Kansas’s state symbol, a sunflower, to represent the movement, which led to yellow’s link to women’s suffrage. [1]

Today, protestors still wear clothing and accessories that coordinate with other protestors to emphasize solidarity. For example, after the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012, demonstrators wore hoodies, because Martin and his clothing choice had been negatively portrayed in the media. [2] In January, many women wore pink “pussyhats” to marches protesting President Trump’s inauguration. [3] Wearing these items created a sense of unity between protestors throughout the country.

However, these examples differ from the armband in a key way. The hoodies and “pussyhats” for the most part did not explicitly state the protest’s purpose. An onlooker would require background knowledge. If they were not familiar with Donald Trump’s leaked comments, or Trayvon Martin’s murder and its portrayal in the media, they would not understand the clothing’s meaning. A pink knit cap with ears or a hoodie would not seem out of place when worn by one person, but when thousands of people wear them, the message carries weight.

This armband, unlike the hoodies or “pussyhats,” explicitly states its message. An onlooker would not need to know that yellow represented the women’s suffrage movement in the United States to understand its wearer’s intent for wearing it, because it includes text. Today, the rise of social media and television allows the meaning behind protestor clothing choices to quickly disseminate. Sartorial expressions continue to be a powerful way for demonstrators to broadcast their unity and purpose.

By Erin Russell

[1] “Symbolic Suffrage Colors,” National Women’s History Museum. Accessed March 27, 2017. https://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/votesforwomen/tour_02-02l.html.

[2] Linton Weeks, “Tragedy Gives The Hoodie A Whole New Meaning,” National Public Radio, March 24, 2012. http://www.npr.org/2012/03/24/149245834/tragedy-gives-the-hoodie-a-whole-new-meaning.

[3] “’Pussyhat’ protestors headed to D.C. for post-inauguration rally,” Washington Post, January 17, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/local/pussyhat-protesters-headed-to-dc-for-post-inauguration-rally/2017/01/17/9fd3247c-dcf4-11e6-8902-610fe486791c_video.html.

The idiom, “slaving over a hot stove,” conjures an image of a woman finishing dinner before the man returns from work. In the 19th century, during the advent of catalog shopping and door-to-door salesmen, retail stores and appliance companies certainly advertised household items toward women to create the ideal housewife. However, as much as stoves represented housewifery and ideas of servitude, it expanded women’s roles in society, consequently providing an opportunity for the growth of the New Woman, who became involved in the suffrage movement.

Eclipse Stove

Eclipse Cast-Iron Stove, 19th century, Eclipse Stove Company, iron, H: 21″ x W: 20″ x D: 9″. Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Donation of Amelia D. Bielaski, Amelia D. Bielaski Estate Collection, N0162.1979. Photograph by Brielle Cameron. 

This miniature Eclipse cast-iron stove, perhaps a salesman’s model, offers a glimpse into how and why a simple stove design left such a lasting impact on women. This miniature includes a frying pan, coal bucket, teakettle, and kettle bucket, all in the hopes of selling a real one to a housewife. The sleek design and ornamentation contributed to its desirability as it conveyed wealth without the lofty price tag. [1]

With this new stove, a wife cooked more food in a shorter amount of time, much to the delight of her working husband. Appearing in catalogs, such as Sears Roebuck, stores marketed the stove toward housewives, giving them ownership over the domestic sphere with the time to complete other household tasks. [2] Efficient and economical, the cast-iron stove quickly replaced hearths in households. Unintended by the producers of the stove, those two characteristics made it possible for women to move away from domesticity and into expanded roles.

In the late 19th century, women began to break free of societal expectations and conventional roles. Often labeled as the New Woman by historians, these women received a higher education and realized they did not necessarily want the life of a wife and mother. Thus, the New Woman moved into settlement homes with others who shared the same values. [3] They entered the workforce either in factories, business or teaching professions. Their expanded role lead to an increased awareness of the pitfalls of American society against women. Correspondingly, the New Woman was often synonymous with the growing suffrage movement.

Though no longer confined to the home, cooking was still part of daily life. Herein lies the importance of the new cast-iron stoves and its influence on women maintaining their newfound freedom. As stated before, the cast-iron stove’s efficiency meant that people were not tied to the kitchen all day. Instead, the New Woman who chose to work, or wanted an expanded role in society, could return home to make their dinner. Cast-iron stoves sold at cheaper rates, making it easier to buy for people on a budget, and quickly became popular in the average home. [4]

With the advantage of increased flexibility, the New Woman took the opportunities to enter public society and fight for their rights, whether that be in the suffrage movement or challenging defined gender roles. They did not want to be confined or defined by domesticity. Who knew simple design changes to a regular household kitchen appliance could give the New Woman the freedom to sustain their ideas.

By: Alexa Wichowsky

Citations:

[1] Pauline K. Eversmann, The Winterthur Guide to Recognizing Styles. (Delaware: The Henry Francis Du Pont Winterthur Museum, Inc., 2001), 90.

[2] Eclipse Stove Co. Eclipse Stoves, Catalog Number 26: Illustrating Cast and Steel Ranges, Cast Cook, Heating Stoves for Coal and Wood and School Heating Apparatus., 5.

[3] Susan M. Cruea, Changing Ideals of Womanhood During the Nineteenth-Century Women Movement. (Ohio: General Studies Writing Faculty Publications, 2005), 199.

[4] Schwartz Cowan, More Work for the Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave. (New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1983.), 61.