The power of the typical woman is amazing. Amelia Bloomer was one of the lesser known characters in the women’s suffrage movement, yet her contributions are still very much with us today.
Despite having only a few years of formal education, Amelia began her own biweekly publication. The paper was designed for women and called The Lily
. At its peak, the paper reached 4,000 readers. This seems hardly significant to us today, but what made Ms. Bloomer’s paper so meaningful was that is was started in 1849, and was the first periodical ever started specifically for women. In fact, it is considered the model many papers and magazines we read today.The Lily
was a platform for Amelia’s views and those of her friend, Elizabeth Cody Stanton. Stanton is well known for her role in promoting the rights of women in the United States and was one of the organizers for the first national convention on women’s rights. These views and updates on women’s right to vote and own their own property were found in The Lily
as well recipes, home items and articles on women being allowed to have higher education.
While these are very noble causes, it is the small things in life that makes the most difference. Amelia Bloomer was shown a new style of dress by her friend Ms. Stanton and loved it. In fact, she took to wearing the new clothing every day despite being ridiculed and mocked on the street. What was this crazy attire?
It was pants.
Of course, women wearing pants in the 1850s was completely unheard of, and Amelia’s version of pants was nothing like what we wear today. Her “bloomers” were large poufs of material gathered around the ankle – almost like the large skirts women of the age wore, cut in two. The large, poufy pants were worn under a short dress that came to the knees. To us, the look is certainly different, but 150 years ago, it was a huge advancement in comfortable clothing for women.
The Confines of a Skirt
Before bloomers were made popular through The Lily
, the only option women had for their clothing were long heavy dresses and skirts. The skirts had multiple layers of petticoats underneath that made them hot and very confining. It was hard to do much of anything quickly while wearing such heavy skirts, and when the heavy skirt was replaced by lightweight pants-style bloomers, suddenly women could move more easily and were free to do much more.
Changing the World One Skirt at a Time
Greatly impressed by the split skirt, Amelia began wearing the style and talked about it a great deal in her paper. As with anything new and controversial, she faced many people who openly mocked her ideas, and she was told often that women don’t belong in pants. However, in her classy way, Amelia responded through The Lily
:“The costume of women should be suited to her wants and necessities. It should conduce at once to her health, comfort, and usefulness; and, while it should not fail also to conduce to her personal adornment, it should make that end of secondary importance.”
Amelia Bloomer didn’t know it at the time, but her bloomers (now a slang term for underpants) were just the beginning of a true fashion revolution.