Amelia Jenks Bloomer was a noted Women’s Rights advocate, but that isn’t the only aspect of her life worthy of note.
She was born in 1818 in Homer, New York, to Ananias Jenks and Lucy (Webb) Jenks. She grew up in a family of modest means, attended a local school (Homer Academy on the Village Green). for a few years, became a devoted Episcopalian, and lived a somewhat unremarkable childhood. In her later teens she taught school for a short time. At seventeen, she decided to move in with her recently-wed sister, Elvira, in Waterloo, New York. A year later she took a position as live-in-governess for the Oren Chamberlain family in Seneca Fall, NY.
Photo source: www.pinterest.com/507710557976609614
At thirty, she attended the first women’s right convention held in Seneca Falls in 1848, although she did not participate. A few months later founded her own temperance newspaper, The Lily, for women by women because, some sources say, her husband’s paper didn’t address women’s issues adequately. She is considered the first woman to own, operate, and edit a publication for women. Photo source: www.pinterest.com/507710557976609614
Amelia Bloomer, herself, is described as a small, slight, dark-haired woman with good features and a pleasant expression. Timid and retiring by nature, she was a sternly serious person, seemingly lacking in any sense of humor.
Okay. By now you know she was a Women’s Rights advocate, and the first woman to found and operate a women’s publication. So far, so good.
The manner in which a name becomes attached to an idea or physical product it often not clear cut and can be misleading. Amelia Bloomer is no different. She did not invent the idea of women wearing pants or split skirts. That goes way back, and I’m not going there.
I found several versions of how Amelia got involved in the issue of bloomers, but Wikipedia had the clearest explanation I could find which was corroborated by other sources.
“In 1851, New England temperance activist Elizabeth Smith Miller adopted what she considered a more rational costume: loose trousers gathered at the ankles, like women’s trousers worn in the Middle East and Central Asia, topped by a short dress or skirt and vest.
Miller displayed her new clothing to Elizabeth Cady Stanton (women’s rights activist), her cousin, who found it sensible and becoming, and adopted it immediately. In this garb Stanton visited Bloomer, who began to wear the costume and promote it enthusiastically in her magazine. Articles on the clothing trend were picked up in The New York Tribune. More women wore the fashion which was promptly dubbed The Bloomer Costume or “Bloomers”.”
The split skirt bicycle or horseback riding outfit Amelia in her Bloomer Outfit News clipping of Elizabeth Cady Stanton wearing
Photo source: genealogylady.net/bifurcated-skirt/ Hulton Archive/Getty Images the controversial bloomer costume
Photos source: http://www.victoriana.com/bloomer-costume/ Photo Source: https://studylib.net/doc/5765980/amelia-bloomer
Even though many women liked the idea and wore the outfit, over the next few years the design concept took so much criticism in the press and harassment on the streets, that the suffragettes and Women’s Rights advocates, including Bloomer, stopped wearing it. The following is a link to a cartoon typical of those published (probably by men) making fun of the style: http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/women-smoking-and-wearing-bloomers-draw-stares-from-passers-news-photo/3164973
Amelia Bloomer didn’t come up with the idea, but her designs and promotion of the outfit in her magazine brought it to the attention of American women and the press, and I, for one, believe we owe her a debt of gratitude and recognition for popularizing the concept that women deserved to be more comfortable in their clothing.
THANKS FOR THE PANTS
By 1850 women’s fashions were relatively conservative compared to the overdone fashions seen in the Victorian era. Simple day dresses and bosom-flattening corsets were the order of the day. Amelia Bloomer wore such fashions.
This is what a woman went through to just get dressed in the morning. Don’t forget, not everyone had maids and servants, and many women had the same kinds of responsibilities as women do today such as washing clothes, caring for children, cooking dinner, and cleaning house. Doing all that in full skirts and corset couldn’t have been comfortable even in an everyday working dress.
Source of photos: photo source: sovereignhilledblog.com/gold-rush-undies-womens
It is not hard to intuit, however, where the idea came from (besides other cultures). Take another look at the first layers: pantalettes and chemise. Women in the 1850s, at some time or other, must have walked around the room in the first layer of undies and felt the difference. Here's all you have to do. Using fabric for outer garments for the chemise and pantalettes, belt the waist of the chemise (but not so tightly), fluff out the skirt and add a petticoat or two, and take in the ankles of the pantalettes (so they can’t push up on the leg) and -- Ta Da! You have the Bloomer outfit.
▼ Photo source:www.pinterest.com/383250405170995611
Design by Suzy Menkes Design by Kirsten Sinclair - Photo source:
Photo source: www.vogue.fr/suzy-menkes/psychedelia https://www.glamour.com/gallery/biggest-fashion-trends-2019
Amelia Jenks Bloomer is recognized as an eminent figure in the US suffrage movement, a forward thinker and advocate of change – both political and sartorial – some decades before Women’s Rights movement gained its drive. She encouraged women to think for themselves, but her name will always be remembered in relation to introducing the American public to the idea of women’s trousers. □