Archives for posts with tag: suffrage

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.

 

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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

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).

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

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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]

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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).

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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.

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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

 

Endnotes

[1] “Effa Manley,” National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, accessed March 20, 2017, http://baseballhall.org/hof/manley-effa.

[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, http://www.blackpast.org/aah/manley-effa-1900-1981.

[6] “Effa Manley,” National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, accessed March 20, 2017, http://baseballhall.org/hof/manley-effa.

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.

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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.

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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.

Many classrooms today are filled with tablets, computers, and other gadgets that provide a variety of ways for students to learn. As you travel back in time, these opportunities not only dwindle for technology but opportunities to learn based on gender diminish as well. For women in the early 19th century, society limited their education primarily to learning domestic skills such as cooking, cleaning, and caring for children. There were only a few cases where women received a formal education, most of which still involved learning a domestic skill. A popular example of this can be seen through a young girl’s sampler. This sampler not only shows the progressive nature of the school at that time, but it indicates how much women’s education changed to produce more knowledgeable citizens who could vote by passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

 

You might be wandering what is a sampler? A sampler is a piece of cloth that is usually embroidered with patterns, pictures, or letters. The sampler was often used to practice domestic skills and show off one’s sewing abilities. This sampler created by Ann Truman, a student at the Weston School in Chester County, Pennsylvania, shows elite skills sponsored by a Quaker school at that time. Although Truman’s work was domestic at is core, the details surrounding the sampler indicate she was afforded a quality education that many girls could not receive at that time.

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Student Weaving Sampler, 1805, Ann Truman, linen and threads, H: 10.125 x W: 10.125 in. The Farmer’s Museum, Cooperstown, New York, F0393.1953

The sampler states her name, the school she attended, and the year it was made. In between the weave it says, “Ann Truman Weston School 1805”. These words are stitched in dark blue thread. The correctly spelled words show a command of writing and the English language. The necessary letters are capitalized, the “A” and “T” in her name, and there is a noticeable difference between the uppercase and lowercase letters. This immediately shows that she could write well and read, something that many Americans could not do in 1805. The school, still active today as the Westtown School, is proud of its origins and broad curriculum. The institution’s statement of purpose explains this: “Students in the early years-boys and girls had plenty of training in practical subjects: reading, penmanship… and a strong exposure to mathematics and the natural sciences. Girls were also instructed in sewing [1].

 

Although Ann Truman’s education was very progressive for her time, much needed to be changed in order to produce more eligible voters. It was not until around 1850 that most states passed mandatory attendance laws for schools. According to historian Lynne Anderson, it was at this point that sampler became less common as girls education began to focus on less domestic issues [2]. Soon more public coeducational schools came about which provided women with equal opportunities as men. This showed that education was the great equalizer and building blocks needed to make America a truly democratic country.

 

By: Christian Stegall ‘18

 

[1] The Westtown School, History, http://www.westtown.edu/page.cfm?p=524.

[2] Lynne Anderson, Samplers International: A World of Needlework (Eugene, OR: The Sampler Consortium, 2011), 9.