anna brones

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Posts Tagged ‘suffragette

Amelia Bloomer

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“When you find a burden in belief or apparel, cast it off.”

Amelia Bloomer (1819-1894)

Born Amelia Jenks, Bloomer was a writer, editor, abolitionist, and active member of the women’s suffrage movement. Her progressive views helped to shift not only how American women viewed what they wore, but also themselves and their role in society.

After attending the Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention in 1848, Bloomer launched The Lily. The newspaper was entirely for women, and dedicated to covering the topics of the day. A publication by and for women was not only novel, but controversial. While it began as a temperance journal, it quickly evolved, and within its pages, Bloomer and her team not only advocated for women’s right to vote, but also to end slavery.

Bloomer later wrote, “The Lily was the first paper published devoted to the interests of woman and, so far as I know, the first one owned, edited and published by a woman. It was a novel thing for me to do in those days and I was little fitted for it, but the force of circumstances led me into it and strength was given me to carry it through. It was a needed instrumentality to spread abroad the truth of the new gospel to woman, and I could not withhold my hand to stay the work I had begun.”

But it was articles on fashion that would spike the interest in The Lily, as Bloomer advocated for dress reform. Long dresses of the day were heavy, impractical, and often, an impediment to health. As Lorraine Boissoneault writes for Smithsonian:

“… middle- and upper-class American women squeezed themselves into corsets and six to eight petticoats to fill out the shape of their skirts. The result weighed up to 15 pounds, placed enormous pressure on their hips, and made movement a struggle.

“Women complained of overheating and impaired breathing, sweeping along filthy streets and tripping over stairs, crushed organs from whalebone stays and laced corsets, and getting caught in factory machinery,” writes historian Annemarie Strassel.

Doctors worried the outfits might cause health problems for pregnant mothers, and the press regularly lampooned the style of the day, with cartoons showing assorted garbage getting caught in women’s sweeping skirts. But what could be done?”

Bloomer found an answer in a liberating new style of outfit: a short skirt with billowy pantaloons underneath. She published photos of herself wearing it, and advocated for the style change in the pages of The Lily.

This physical manifestation of women’s liberation of course caused an uproar, one that Bloomer hadn’t expected. “At the outset, I had no idea of fully adopting the style no thought of setting a fashion; no thought that my action would create an excitement throughout the civilized world, and give to the style my name and the credit due Mrs. [Elizabeth Smith] Miller. This was all the work of the press. I stood amazed at the furor I had unwittingly caused,” wrote Bloomer.

She hadn’t planned on starting a fashion revolution, but Bloomer became the outfit’s namesake, and in turn the face of the movement for dress reform. Women wrote to Bloomer asking about the dress, and if there were patterns available, and the interest was so great that The Lily‘s monthly circulation went from 500 to 4,000.

Imagine: a woman in pants! To the public of the day, the thought was not just unconventional, but unsightly. During the American Civil War, nurses were even banned from wearing them, but the freedom of movement that they allowed causes many nurses to ignore the ban and don them anyway.

Bloomer later went back to her full-length dress, and the suffragettes moved away from dress reform as one of their causes, but the connection between pants and women’s right’s remained—our wardrobes and our politics forever changed.

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

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Written by Anna Brones

October 17, 2019 at 10:57

Lucy Stone

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“I believe that the influence of woman will save the country before every other power.”

Lucy Stone (1818-1893)

The first Massachusetts woman to earn a college degree (from Oberlin College), Lucy Stone is famously known for being the first American woman to keep her last name when she married. It was 1855 and she was a woman ahead of her time; at her wedding ceremony, she read a “marriage protest,” a statement that she and her partner Henry Browne Blackwell had written together, denouncing the legal portions of a marriage in which a woman became subservient to and property of her husband.

But her actions were not just in the private sphere.

Stone was a fighter for both women’s rights and an abolitionist, believing that equality could not be won at the cost of inequality of another. In 1848, a year after her graduation from Oberlin, she began working as a paid lecturer for the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and quickly became known for her voice and strong views. She soon began speaking up for women’s rights too, and became one of the preeminent leaders of the movement. She organized the 1850 Worcester First National Woman’s Rights Convention and was the publisher of the women’s rights periodical Woman’s Journal.

“I believe that the influence of woman will save the country before every other power,” Stone said at a May 12, 1869 anniversary celebration of the Equal Rights Association, as quoted in the book History of Woman Suffrage. But while she stood for women’s rights, she was also an abolitionist and in support of the 15th amendment, which granted African American men the right to vote. Her views led to breaking with suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and others.

When members of the Equal Rights Association refused to consider an amendment to give women voting rights, Stanton and Anthony left to create the National Woman Suffrage Association. Stone and others formed the American Woman Suffrage Association. The schism in the women’s movement highlights the complex interplay between racism and sexism of that era, an interplay that still continues today.

Stone eventually saw the reunification of the two organizations in 1890, coming together as the National American Woman Suffrage Association. While she had seen the abolition of slavery in her lifetime, her death in 1893 came before the ratification of the 19th amendment , and she never saw women granted the right to vote. But her tireless efforts had laid the groundwork for a different future for her daughter, who also went on to work as a feminist and abolitionist. As Stone lay dying, she said, “I am glad I was born, and that at a time when the world needed the service I could give.”

This papercut and profile are a part of the Women’s Wisdom Project, a project focused on showcasing the wisdom of inspiring, insightful women by making 100 papercut portraits.

Written by Anna Brones

October 12, 2018 at 08:15

Jeannette Rankin

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“You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.”

– Jeannette Rankin

The first woman to ever be elected to the United States Congress? Jeannette Rankin.

Rankin was born in 1880 on a ranch outside of Missoula, Montana. After studying biology at the University of Montana, she traveled both on both the east and west coasts, eventually deciding to attend the New York School of Philanthropy for a degree in social work. She soon became an activist in the women’s suffrage movement, first in Washington State and then returning to her home state of Montana, where she was the first woman to speak before the all-male Montana legislature. She helped to secure the women’s right to vote in Montana in 1914.

Her status in women’s history was secured in 1916 when she became the first woman to be elected to the House of Representatives. She went on to be the only member of Congress to oppose entrance into both World War I and II.

How much has changed for women in politics since Rankin first ran? Even though Rankin was first elected a little over 100 years ago, you can draw plenty of similarities between her career struggles and that of women politicians today.

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Written by Anna Brones

September 11, 2018 at 12:31