Archives for posts with tag: gender
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.

[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.


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,

[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.


A page from Effa Manley’s scrapbook. Effa Manley Scrapbook, BA SCR 105 (National Baseball Hall of Fame).


Effa Manley in the dugout, from a newspaper article in her scrapbook. Effa Manley Scrapbook, BA SCR 105 (National Baseball Hall of Fame).

Effa Manley, the only woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, collected items and placed them into a scrapbook showcasing her incredible accomplishments. She, along with her husband Abe, managed the Newark Eagles, a Negro League baseball team, from 1935 to 1948. [1] In an occupation dominated by men, Effa excelled and commanded respect from her male counterparts. In addition to her professional achievements, she involved herself in a number of social justice causes, all related to advancing the rights of African-Americans. Her scrapbook documents these successes and her activist efforts. Though she did not specifically embrace women’s causes, her accomplishments were affected and made possible by the women’s suffrage movement and the atmosphere of opportunity and activism at the time.

Effa’s scrapbook primarily contains photographs and newspaper clippings, spanning from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s. One of the first items in her scrapbook is a newspaper clipping from August 1934 detailing the end of a successful boycott in which Effa participated. She, along with many others, boycotted businesses who wouldn’t hire black workers. [2] Effa also supported blacks in efforts more directly related to baseball: she offered free admission to Eagles games for African-American servicemen during World War II. The scrapbook includes a few certificates commending her work. [3]


One of the newspaper articles in the scrapbook discusses the successful boycott of businesses that did not hire African-Americans. Effa participated in the boycott and picketed these businesses. Effa Manley Scrapbook, BA SCR 105 (National Baseball Hall of Fame).


Cartoon in a newspaper article in the scrapbook. Effa Manley Scrapbook, BA SCR 105 (National Baseball Hall of Fame).

The scrapbook also documents racial issues and debates. Though African-Americans had won the right to vote over fifty years ago, many opportunities were closed to them and many institutions maintained separate programs and facilities, including baseball leagues. Effa’s scrapbook contains a number of articles both praising and criticizing the Negro Leagues. Additionally, a few racist cartoons appear, making fun of black baseball players. [4] Effa may have included these in her memories to record the sentiment of the time.

Of course, the scrapbook has content related to the Newark Eagles, like scores and photographs of players. Effa worked to gain compensation for players who went to the Major Leagues from the Negro Leagues after baseball’s integration in 1947. [5] Her efforts solidified the legitimacy of the Negro Leagues and are documented in the scrapbook. The scrapbook also contains a few articles about Effa herself and discuss her place as a woman in baseball. These pieces praise her work and comment on her pioneering presence in the realm of professional sports.

Born in 1900 in Philadelphia, Effa grew up hearing discussions of women’s suffrage. Though she was probably too young to fully participate in the protests and marches occurring in Philadelphia during this time, she would have been aware of it. In fact, after high school, she moved to New York City, where she lived when women’s suffrage legislation passed in 1917. [6] The success of the movement resulted in new opportunities for women and a confirmation that women could effect positive change. Effa Manley could not have accomplished as much as she did had it not been for the possibilities opened by the suffrage movement. Her work, documented through her scrapbook, was inspired by and made possible by the achievements of women before her.


Writing on a page of Effa’s scrapbook. It reads, “If a task you’ve once begun/Never quit until it’s done/Be the labor great or small/Do it well or not at all” Effa Manley Scrapbook, BA SCR 105 (National Baseball Hall of Fame).

Amanda Berman



[1] “Effa Manley,” National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, accessed March 20, 2017,

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Effa Manley scrapbook, National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

[5] Amy Essington, “Manley, Effa 1900-1981,” Black Past, accessed March 20, 2017,

[6] “Effa Manley,” National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, accessed March 20, 2017,

Easy Bake Oven Photo courtesy of

Easy-Bake Oven
Photo courtesy of

When I was a kid, I always wanted an Easy-Bake Oven. I was amazed that a small light bulb in a bright pink, plastic oven could create brownies, cookies, and many other delicious goodies. When I finally received the coveted Easy-Bake Oven for my eighth Christmas I wasted no time in making my culinary daydreams come true. Sure, the brownies were always runny in the middle and the cookies never baked completely through, but I did not care. It was always exciting to slide an aluminum pan full of batter into the electric oven and watch the magic happen. The Easy-Bake Oven is so popular because it is seen as a safe way for children to learn life skills through play. However, just because a toy is a smaller replica of its twin in the kitchen, does not mean that it is not dangerous.

This late nineteenth century/early twentieth century cast-iron toy stove is a great example. It was produced by the Empire Stove Company (later renamed the Tappan Stove Company) as an exact replica of its full-sized version that was sold to housewives

Stove, metal. Farmers' Museum, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Amelia D. Bielaski, New York State Historical Association, N0162.1979. Photo by Sammy Smithson

Stove, metal. New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, Gift of Amelia D. Bielaski, New York State Historical Association, N0162.1979. Photo by Sammy Smithson

across the country. [3] This stove came with six burners, a stovepipe, grate, and a compartment for burning coal or wood. The hope was that young girls could practice their cooking skills on this toy stove before graduating to the one their mothers used. There is one snag, however. The Empire toy stove is not modified in any way other than size; it is as fully functional as a full-sized stove and potentially just as harmful. Working toy stoves like this were produced well into the 1960’s; some could be heated up to almost 600 degrees Fahrenheit! [4]

Easy-Bake Oven Injury Photo courtesy of

Easy-Bake Oven Injury
Photo courtesy of

It may seem hard to believe that parents would give their children such dangerous toys, but the concept of childhood was still relatively new. In medieval society individuals would be expected to assume adult responsibilities, duties, and clothing as early as age seven. [1] More recently, society has taken major strides to ensure that children are playing with the safest toys in the safest way possible. The Consumer Product Safety Commission was established in 1972 and now toys, strollers, and even stuffed animals can be recalled if they do not follow the strict regulations of safety that the CPSC has set forth. [2] In fact, the Easy-Bake Oven was recalled in 2007, 2013, and 2014 for incidents involving burns, electrical fires, and partial finger amputation. [5] However, new and improved versions continue to be sold at many toy store and can even still be seen under the Christmas tree. This begs the question, at what risk are we willing to bring children into the kitchen through play?

Sammy Smithson

[1] Ohio History Connection. “Tappan Stove Company.” Accessed October 20, 2015.

[2] Urban Ghosts. “Retro Fails: 10 Dangerous Toys Alarmingly Given to Children.” Accessed October 20, 2015.

[3] John Clarke. “Histories of Childhood.” In Childhood Studies: An Introduction, edited by Dominic Wyse, 3-12.Wiley-Blackwell, 2004.

[4] Consumer Product Safety Commission. “About CPSC.” Accessed October 28, 2015.

[5] Ibid.

Gendered toys ensure that children learn gender roles very early

Gendered toys ensure that children learn social expectations very early.

For children, play is an essential part of learning.[1] When children play with friends, they learn how to socialize and share. When they play sports, they learn hand-eye coordination and teamwork. When they play with blocks, they hone their fine motor skills and exercise their creativity. The same principle can be applied to toys that teach gender roles. Toys geared toward girls tend to be associated with physical attractiveness, nurturing, and domestic skill, while toys for boys are more often violent and competitive.[2] Gendered toys often reflect society’s most basic gender expectations and, through imitation and playacting, teach children how to be men and women.


Toy Dustpan, 1890s, tin. New York State Historical Association, Cooperstown, New York, N170.56.

An example of an instructional gendered toy is this small 1890s dustpan from the collections of the New York State Historical Association. This brightly colored toy, an imitation of a household object used to clean the floor, shows girls their role in society by teaching them to prioritize domesticity and household work. The object is covered in aesthetically appealing flowers and butterflies, and in the center is a colorful representation of two young girls happily feeding birds outside by a fountain. One of them is knitting while standing next to a baby carriage, and a picnic basket sits on a bench behind them. This series of domestic markers (clothing production, childcare, food preparation) on a toy used to play at cleaning house reinforces the prioritization of household tasks for young girls. The 1890s marked the beginning of the Progressive Era, in which many white, middle-class women began to seek employment outside the home.[3] However, images of female liberation, such as a woman going to work or fighting for suffrage, would have been at least somewhat subversive. A large company would not have been likely to produce an object with such imagery for fear of alienating the public and losing profits.

Beyond the domestic education of young girls, this toy represents the commodification of femininity. This object was purchased in order to train young girls to strive for feminine domesticity, the kind represented in magazines and on the dustpan itself. Since the advent of advertising, unrealistic images have made this feminine ideal unreachable and have ensured that women will keep spending money in their quest to achieve it. The purchase of this object, replete with a vision of feminine perfection for young girls, ensured that children would learn society’s expectations early.

In this toy dustpan, the forces of capitalism and expectations for women are swept together. This object, with its representation of young girls engaging in domestic activities, signals the beginning of gendered socialization for a young girl in the 1890s.

Miranda Pettengill, CGP ‘16

[1] Roberta Michnik Golinkoff, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, and Dorothy G. Singer, “Why Play=Learning: A Challenge for Parents and Educators,” in Play=Learning: How Play Motivates and Enhances Children’s Cognitive and Social-Emotional Growth, ed. Dorothy G. Singer et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 7.

[2] “What the Research Says: Gender-Typed Toys,” National Association for the Education of Young Children, accessed Oct 5, 2015,

[3] “Reforming Their World: Women in the Progressive Era,” The National Women’s History Museum, accessed November 5, 2015,