Archives for posts with tag: feminism

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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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.

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.

Like people today, people in the early 20th century used political cartoons and humor to make a point. However, unlike current political activists, those in the 20th century did not have access to the Internet to spread their message. Instead, the postcard was a simple, affordable, and easily accessible way for anti-suffragists to express their concerns about what suffrage could mean for the United States.[1] “I Love My Husband, But – Oh You Vote,” was one such postcard. The image and the caption tell the viewer that it is voting rights that turns women from loving wives and mothers into promiscuous and absent figures.

Postcard

“I Love My Husband, But – Oh You Vote” Postcard, 1911, paper, L: 5 1/2 x W: 3 1/2 in. Cooperstown Graduate Program, Cooperstown, New York, Purchase, Teaching Collection, T15.45d. Photograph by Sarah Phillips.

The woman pictured is holding a ballot and wearing a red dress with the hem lifted. The contemporary viewer would have seen the vibrant red color and the raised dress showing her feet and ankles as an indicator of sexual promiscuity. The provocative red dress and the exposed petticoats belong to woman who is acting immorally. The addition of the ballot shows the viewer that voting is the reason the woman is changing from an upstanding and loving wife into something negative.

Additionally, a woman in a red dress appears many times throughout this series of postcards. Other postcards show: men watching children while a woman in a red dress leaves, a woman in a red dress kissing a man, and a man wondering where is wife is while a woman in a red dress is out giving speeches.[2] The repetition reinforces the viewer’s understanding of the fear displayed by this postcard. This fear of a sexually promiscuous woman replacing the “angel in the house,” incited anti-suffragists to use these postcards to explain their concerns over voting equality in an attempt to stop suffrage.[3]

The caption further reinforces the message sent by the image. “I Love My Husband, But – Oh You Vote,” tells the viewer that a woman cannot both love her husband and vote. The “But” in the caption implies that the actions depicted in the two phrases cannot coexist. It is the very act of voting that removes the woman from the house and her duties as a wife and mother. If she truly loved her husband, she would trust him to vote in her stead while she stayed home and cared for the house and children.

The concern that women’s voting rights would lead to absent mothers and promiscuous wives is seen in the caption and image of the anti-suffrage postcard “I Love My Husband, But – Oh You Vote.” The postcard, easily spread and affordable, provided a simple way for anti-suffragists to spread their fear of suffrage and try to influence the fight for voting rights.

 

By Amanda Belli

 

[1] 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 91, no. 4 (2005): 384.

[2] Catherine H. Palczewski, Palczewski Suffrage Postcard Archive, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, IA, https://sites.uni.edu/palczews/NEW%20postcard%20webpage/Dunston%20Weiler.html.

[3] Palczewski, “The Male Madonna and the Feminine Uncle Sam,” 374.

Women have a long and significant history in the production and distribution of alcohol. Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets as far back as 4000 BC suggest that women invented beer by fermenting barley. In third century Egypt, an Alexandrian chemist, Maria Hebraea, invented an alembic still (two vessels connected by a tube) that is used as the model for Appalachian moonshine stills to this day.[1] In 1818 America, Catherine Spears Frye Carpenter was credited with the first recipe for sour mash. Throughout time and place, from Peru to the Netherlands, from Scotland to the United States, women have played a crucial role in producing alcohol.[2]

still

Still, 1890s, metal. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, F152.86A

This object is a still – specifically, a pot still, a design descended from Maria Hebraea’s alembic model. Pot stills in particular tend to be used to distill rich, flavorful alcohols such Scotch whiskey, rum, and cognac. In the 1890s, when this object was in use, there were a number of entrepreneurial women across the country who distilled and sold alcohol. However, during this time period, whiskey was most heavily associated with sex workers, since they sold it legally and collected generous commissions for their brothels.[3] In fact, in the 1850s, sex workers made more than two million dollars a year off of liquor, two thirds of what they made from prostitution.

This association of alcohol with sex work stoked the flames of one of the most significant movements of the Progressive Era: the temperance movement. Temperance was a cause célèbre for many late nineteenth and early twentieth century reformers because they saw it in large part as a fight against the domestic violence perpetrated on women and girls by drunk husbands and fathers. The temperance movement was focused on morality and avoiding temptation, so brothels and the alcohol they sold represented exactly the type of sinful values they fought against.

Eventually, temperance reformers were successful: Prohibition laws were

gertrude-lythgoe

Gertrude “Cleo” Lythgoe

enacted in 1920 and stayed in place until 1933. In response, a huge network of bootleggers emerged all over the country, in which women played a significant role. One woman in particular, Gertrude “Cleo” Lythgoe, was a legendary rum runner. She evaded prosecution by running a wholesale liquor business out of the Bahamas, and thrived in a male-dominated industry on guts, nerve, and wit.[4] Throughout the Progressive Era, women fought for both sides of the war over alcohol in America.

Today, the distilling industry is still male dominated, but women are beginning to own and run more and more distilleries themselves. Samantha Katz, who founded the organization Ladies of American Distilleries, says, “It’s important for women to see that opportunities don’t just exist in marketing and branding; women can own, run, and operate distilleries.”[5] Women like Samantha Katz continue the storied legacy of women in alcohol production that began all the way in Mesopotamia six thousand years ago.

Miranda Pettengill, class of ‘16

[1] Fred Minnick, Whiskey Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013), 1-10.

[2] Lyndsey Gilpin, “Women Making Whiskey: An 800-Year History,” The Atlantic, May 14, 2015, accessed December 2, 2015, http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/05/women-making-whiskey-an-800-year-history/393260/.

[3] Gilpin, “Women Making Whiskey.”

[4] Ibid.

[5] Tyler Wetherall, “Female Distillers Prove Women Know Their Alcohol – And Always Have,” The Guardian, April 20, 2015, accessed December 2, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/apr/20/women-distillery-industry-alcohol.