Category Archives: Pre 1900

Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Philosophy of Dress

Feminist philosopher Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1860-1935), suffragist, novelist, and economist, spent a lot of her life thinking about clothes.  She considered herself a dress reformer, but was not interested in the extremes of bloomers or pants.  Instead, she followed her … Continue reading

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Independence Day of the Future, 1894

If you are ever tempted to think that women’s voting rights, or women wearing pants, weren’t controversial, I urge you to look through the covers of the satirical magazine Puck at the Library of Congress. In this late nineteenth century … Continue reading

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Frances Willard Rides a Bike, 1894

As a retired academic and woman of a certain age, Google is not my first choice for historical research. When I was looking for images of older women on bicycles recently, I turned to my preferred archival and library sites … Continue reading

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Dr. Mary Walker, A Pioneer in Pants

Next time you worry that it might take a long time to reach your goals, consider the case of Dr. Mary Walker (1832-1919)–physician, feminist, and dress reformer. She worked her entire life to gain equal pay and suffrage, along with … Continue reading

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Puck’s Greeting to the New Year, 1898

The satirical magazine Puck was not always nice to the new woman of the late nineteenth century.  In this drawing, however, she is presented as a breath of fresh air, bringing flowers and a taste of Spring. It is the … Continue reading

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Older Women in Pants–the Research Agenda

This British postcard from around 1910 makes fun of older women, current fashions, and women’s suffrage all at the same time.  But how accurate was it?  Were there older women in harem pants, or other kinds of bifurcated garments, appearing … Continue reading

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“We Are Getting There Fast,” 1895

When women took up bicycles in a big way in the 1890s, it resulted in a kind of moral panic in the media about the potential effects of women wearing bloomers (or what we would today call knickerbockers.)  Women took … Continue reading

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Annie Peck in Knickerbockers

When did older women give up their skirts? The oldest photo I have in my collection is from the 1940s. However, fashion historian Lizzie Bramlett recently wrote about an older woman who made history by hiking in knickerbockers in the … Continue reading

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Three Sisters, 1882

Since this detailed photo includes the names of the subjects, just a little internet searching revealed that the three women were sisters. Rhoda Farnham Scammon, (1809-1896). Sarah Bracket Foss, (1899-1894) and Phebe Whittemore Woodruff (1807-1885) were born in Maine. Sarah … Continue reading

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Older Women in Pants—the Prequel

Included in the awe-inspiring book Dressed for the Photographer is this photo of feminist activist, Marietta Stow in her 1880s version of reform dress. Stow was a philanthropist and social reformer of long standing who ran for California governor in … Continue reading

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