Tag Archives: Suffragettes

Women in 1900: A letter from the future: 1853

The New Woman

Letter Written in 1900.

Mr. Editor: How the following letter came into my possession, I leave you and your readers to conjecture. It may have come through a “medium” from the Spirit of Prophecy, but this I only throw out as a suggestion. Meanwhile, rest assured, Mr. Editor, that should I be favored with any more communications from the same source, they shall be transmitted to you without fail.

Your friend and correspondent,

Annie Elton.

Washington City, Jan. 1, 1900.

My Dear Friend: Writing to you, as I now do at the commencement of the twentieth century I am naturally led to speak of the wonderful changes which have taken place within the last half of the century just past. I remember very well when men were considered the lords of creation, when all the offices of honor and profit were in their hands. Women were at that time held in subjection by their haughty oppressors, and women’s rights were almost unknown. Now, thank Heaven! All this is reversed. Instead of lords we have ladies of creation.

Our navies do not now consist of men of war—they are all women of war. Now, happily, a woman occupies our presidential chair, while our halls of Congress are filled with a body of intelligent females, from all parts of the country. Formerly we had professional men—now we have professional women.

But, without further preface, let me give you a little sketch of Washington, which I am at present visiting. Everybody is praising the administration of Hon. Mrs. Betsey Jones, who has just assumed the reins of government. She has filled her Cabinet with some of the most distinguished stateswomen in the country. Where, for instance, could she have found a better Secretary of War than Gen. Abigail Chase, of Massachusetts, who covered herself with glory in our late war with the Sandwich Islands?

I went to the President’s levee, a few evenings since. Among the crowd who were present, I noticed Hon. Mrs. Jenkins, the distinguished Senator from the new State of Patagonia. The Russian Minister, Mrs. Orloff, had on a splendid fur cape, which attracted the attention of all the ladies present. I was sorry not to have seen the Secretary of State—but she sent word that her baby was sick, and she couldn’t come.

I called to see the Attorney General the other day, and found her husband setting the table for tea, and taking care of the children. He said his wife was so much occupied with the cares of office, that she had but little leisure for her family.

This morning arrived the steamer America, Capt. Betty Martin, commander—bringing the latest news from Europe. It seems that the Queen of Austria has just issued a womandate, ordering all the men in her dominions to have off their whiskers. In consequence of this very reasonable edict, an insurrection took place among the men, which, however, was soon quelled by the efforts of Gen. Polly Kosciusko.

I heard last Sunday an eloquent sermon, from the Rev. Sally Sprague, minister of the first Church in this city. I understand that it is to be published.

I see by the papers, that a man out west attempted to lecture on men’s rights recently, in which he foolishly insisted that men had a right to vote. I was glad to hear that he was pelted from the stage by a volley of stones from the females (dear creatures) whose rights he had assailed. Poor man! He quite forgot that, in the words of the poetess—

“Times aint now as they used to was been,

Things aint now as they used to was then.

Paulina Pry.

The Fremont [OH] Weekly Journal 5 February 1853: p. 1

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  It is, Mrs Daffodil is given to understand, International Women’s Day. The article above is what passed for wit about women’s rights in the newspapers of 1853. It took 67 years after this article for women to receive the right to vote in the United States. In Switzerland, it took until 1971. There was one ingenious critic who said that the right to vote was unnecessary; that women around the world already wielded unlimited political power and that American women ought to seize that power:

Much as we may admire the conservatism that governs, or that should govern, the influence of women in the White House, we may wonder if the higher politics of America, what may be called the diplomatic politics, is not neglecting a potent weapon. It is not a little strange that women should be least powerful in republics and democracies and most powerful in monarchies. When one of the great Indian princesses was recently in America some of our prominent society women sought to interest her in the feminist movement and to stimulate the ambition of Indian women to a share in the government of the Indian provinces. The Maharanee was much amused. She said that the women of India might live in seclusion, but it was actually they who governed the country. Their husbands sat upon the thrones and filled the offices, but only to carry out the advice that came from behind the purdah curtains. The women of India, said the princess, were much more influential in politics than their sisters in America, no matter how many votes they might have.

Much the same is true in England, where women have no votes, but where they have a political power that our women have hardly dreamed of. It does not matter very much who is the wife of an American President or cabinet officer, provided always that she is a lady and is willing to be inconspicuous. But the English statesman is well-nigh a lost soul without his wife. She is expected to be minutely familiar with domestic, imperial, and international politics and to take a practical view of advancing the various causes with which her husband is identified. A ball by the wife of the prime minister may easily have wider reaching results than a meeting of the cabinet. Here it is that the most delicate webs of diplomacy are spun, and spun very largely by women, who have unsurpassed opportunities for exercising the clairvoyance of their sex. Some of the most remarkable political revelations that have ever been made are to be found in the published diaries of women….

The fault, if fault there be. is not with the American government, but with the American woman. If the American woman were capable of exercising a political influence she would exercise it. and nothing could prevent her.

Vanity Fair 1 July 1916

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

The New Year Girl’s Resolutions: 1897

Mrs Daffodil wishes all of her readers a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year. Here are some resolutions for the New Year Girl, 1897:

the-new-year-girl-pledges

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

The Rational Dress Show: 1883

"The Bicycle Suit" 12 January 1895 Photo-engraving of ink drawing Punch, p. 23 Courtesy Athenæum Club Library London Bicycle, sewing machine -- it's all technology Scanned image and text by George P. Landow

12 January 1895
Photo-engraving of ink drawing
Punch, p. 23
Courtesy Athenæum Club Library
London
Bicycle, sewing machine — it’s all technology
Scanned image and text by George P. Landow

 

THE RATIONAL DRESS SHOW.

(By Our Fair Correspondent.)

In the Hall of the Prince is a Show—stuffs and chintzes—

(O Maidens of England, pray list to my song!)

For all there displayed is a warning that Ladies,

In matters of dressing, are terribly wrong!

I thought my new bonnet, with roses upon it,

And tasteful costume, was complete, I confess.

But now I ‘m reminded my eyes have been blinded

To all the requirements of Rational Dress!

We look at the models—they puzzle our noddles—

Regarding them all with alarm and surprise!

Each artful costumer revives Mrs. Bloomer,

And often produces an army of guys.

The costume elastic, the dresses gymnastic,

The wonderful suits for the tricycle-ess—

Though skirts be divided, I’m clearly decided,

It isn’t my notion of Rational Dress!

See gowns hygienic, and frocks calisthenio.

And dresses quite worthy a modern burlesque;

With garments for walking, and tennis, and talking,

All terribly manful and too trouseresque!

And habits for riding, for skating, or sliding,

With “rational” features they claim to possess.

The thought I can’t banish, they’re somewhat too mannish,

And not quite the thing for a Rational Dress!

Note robes there for rinking, and gowns for tea-drinking,

For yachting, for climbing, for cricketing too.

The dresses for boating, the new petticoating,

The tunics in brown and the trousers in blue.

The fabrics for frockings, the shoes and the stockings,

And corsets that ne’er will the figure compress.

But in the whole placeful there’s little that’s graceful

And girlish enough for a Rational Dress!

‘Tis hardy and boyish, not girlful and coyish—

We think, as we stroll round the gaily-dight room—

A masculine coldness, a brusqueness, a boldness,

Appears to pervade all this novel costume!

In ribbons and laces, and feminine graces,

And soft flowing robes, there’s a charm more or less–

I don’t think I’ll venture on dual garmenture,

I fancy my own is the Rational Dress! 

Punch Vol. 84, June 1883

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: “Rational Dress” (and much hangs on what one thinks of as “rational”) was an easy target for critics with its lack of corsetry, its mannish bloomers, and its association with both the stoop-shouldered Aesthetic Movement and the more rabid Suffragettes.

The “Rational Dress Exhibition” of 1883 was held at Prince’s Hall, Piccadilly, arousing much curiosity from the public and hostility from the press. It emphasised health and “hygiene” and sensible clothing for sport. All well and good, but what the press (and Punch) most deplored was trousers for women. For example, this London correspondent:

I deeply regret to announce that the question of “rational dress” for ladies is again inflicted upon a suffering public by the misguided ladies who want, and apparently must have, a separate visible covering for each leg. Lady Harberton, whose maiden name I believe was Legg, is at the head of this deplorable movement, and has actually lectured upon it at St. James’ Hall before a large audience. The Rational Dress Society is represented at an exhibition of hygienic dress and sanitary domestic appliances and decoration, where the divided skirt is seen in all its horror, together with dresses for boating, tricycling, lawn tennis and other pastimes which in every other country but this are considered unfeminine. In the exhibition there is a gallery for ladies only, the mysteries of which no male eye may explore. Doubtless the ridiculous and futile agitation will fizzle out, owing to the natural disinclination of the majority of women to make guys of themselves and the equal disinclination of the men to have anything to do with women who wear visible trousers. New York Herald 3 June 1883: p. 15

A visitor to the exhibition described this suit, which, in view of its description as garb for mountain-climbing, seems the height of irrationality.

Another dress, the like of which is said to have been worn by a Mrs. King, of Brighton, when climbing the Alps, is a daring affair indeed. Rather loose knee breeches of black satin (not Knickerbockers) are surmounted by a black satin kilted flounce about a foot long, which is the only visible semblance of the time-honored female skirt; the bodice is a sort of bob-tail coat affair, and there is a waistcoat and neck-tie of cherry satin, long black silk stockings and low-cut shoes with red rosettes. The Times [Philadelphia, PA] 10 June 1883: p. 8

Mrs Daffodil has previously written of dress reform here and here. She is thankful that she is free from the need of any dress reform whatsoever. Her clothing is functional, well-suited to its purposes, and hygienic, thanks to the well-trained laundresses at the Hall.  Perhaps the dress-reformers so interested in hygienic dress merely need to find a laundry able to cope with the soil from a ladies’ rugby scrum or an Alpine ascension.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,”where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes.

Saturday Snippets 6 July 2013: Dead men’s teeth, fishing with crinoline, a Suffragette spanked, Princess Charlotte in a temper

Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg Gotha, from the collection of the Royal Pavilion at Brighton.

Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg Gotha, from the collection of the Royal Pavilion at Brighton.

Dead Men’s Teeth. — Dead Englishmen’s teeth, collected on the battle-fields in the Crimea, are now in great demand by the London and Paris dentists  The price current of human ivory has greatly fluctuated recently, owing to the quantities of deceased soldiers’ masticators put into the market. It is stated the idea first entered the heads of some Londoners to send voyaging clerks to the seat of war in search of teeth. The harvest was a good one, apparently, and promises to yield a remarkable price, as connoisseurs vaunt the superiority of Englishmen’s and Higlander’s teeth over all others. The Medical World: A Journal of Universal Medical Intelligence, Volume 2 20 May 1857: p. 131 

Large fortunes sometimes have queer beginnings. The Gardiner (Me.) News says that one of the wealthiest firms in that state began business on $5,000, which a sister of the partners got in a breach of promise suit for damages against a rich man. Evansville [IN] Courier and Press  30 October 1889: p. 2  

The editor of the Plum Creek Gazette furnishes a practical illustration of woman’s rights. The foreman of the shop is a girl, the printer a girl, and the devil a girl, and such doubt exists as to the sex of the editor that a committee of citizens threaten to make an examination. Omaha [NE] Daily Bee 17 May 1886: p. 5 

A Princess of Spirit

The Princess Charlotte, daughter of George the Fourth, was a young woman of great spirit and originality. One day, one of her teachers chanced to enter the room when the princess was reviling one of her attendant ladies, in great wrath, and after giving her a lecture on hasty speech, he presented her with a book on the subject. A few days later he found her still more furious, and using language even more violent. “I am sorry to find your royal highness in such a passion,” said he; “your royal highness has not read the book I gave you.”

“I did, my lord!” cried she tempestuously; “I both read it and profited by it. Otherwise I should have scratched her eyes out!” – Argonaut

Youth’s Companion, Vol. 64, 1891: p. 485 

[Here is admirable post with many illustrations, about  Princess Charlotte of Wales, only daughter of George IV, her wedding gown and wardrobe. And a fascinating post on a royal reward for one of the ladies who tried hard to keep the “spirited” Princess in check, from the Two Nerdy History Girls.]

A DEVIL, LOOSE FROM HELL

A Human Being Who Flirted at His Dead Child’s Funeral.

New York Dispatch, 27th

A statement alleged to have been made on her death-bed by Mrs. V. Woodward was to-day read to Justice Bartlett, in the Brooklyn Supreme Court. In it she declared that her husband, George S. Woodward, carried his amours so far that while going to the cemetery to bury his dead child, he tore off the apple blossoms that the mother had put on the coffin and tossed them to flirtatious young women whom they met on the way. The dying declaration was read to convince Justice Bartlett that Mr. Woodward, who is a theatrical man, is not entitled to the custody of his little girl Lillian, aged 3. A number of affidavits were read, in which Woodward is accused by various persons of such crimes as larceny, embezzlement, bigamy, seduction, criminal malpractice, conspiracy, cruelty and extortion .The case was not concluded. Charlotte [NC] Observer 30 June 1893: p. 3

 WHAT HE SAID.

He put his arm around her waist,

And closer drew her head

Unto his own with tender clasp,

And looking downward said:

“You haven’t got the right man, dear;

He’s not quite onto it.

You should have had my tailor, for

Those bloomers do not fit.”

The Clothier and Furnisher, Volume 24, 1897

The militant branch of the Suffragettes has been making the most desperate efforts to hush up the outrageous assault recently made by a gang of medical students at one of the Liverpool Colleges on Miss Christabel Pankhurst, one of the youngest, pluckiest and handsomest of the Suffragettes.

Miss Pankhurst had been attending a meeting and was lured away from her companions after the speeches were over by a band of students, who numbered about ten. Having got her in their power in a small room they locked the door and having submitted her to various, not serious, but humiliating indignities they each deliberately spanked her in turn and then let her go.

Miss Pankhurst was for sending for the police, but her friends dissuaded her as they said it would harm, rather than advance the cause. So the medical students have escaped all punishment and the Suffragettes never even mention Liverpool. Winston-Salem [NC] Journal 26 February 1908: p. 2 

THE yachting craze has been succeeded by the equine mania, which is one of the results of the recent horse show. The girls are wearing belt buckles engraved with horses’ heads, crossed whips, and jockey caps, while the tops of umbrellas consist of ivory, gold, or silver hoofs. Card-cases and portfolios, silver-mounted brushes and dash-board clocks are ornamented with the insignia of the stable, and are lavishly displayed as Christmas presents. Silver and gold brooches, sleeve-links and stick-pins, consist of tiny jockey caps, horses’ heads, whips, etc.; leather belts with harness straps are very stylish—in fact, anything that savors of horsey tradition is quite the thing with the swell women of today. Godey’s Lady’s Book [Philadelphia, PA] January 1896  

Shad Caught in a Crinoline Trap.

A few weeks ago a lady of Rocky Hill, Ct., while passing a brook which runs into the Connecticut, saw two find shad sunning themselves in the stream. The shad looked tempting; the lady coveted them, but had no fishing tackle with her. She finally bethought her of her hoops, took them off, and having tied the upper end, set the contrivance in the brook and drove the unsuspecting shad into the net, when they safely drawn to land, the most cruelly deceived victims of crinoline. Richland County Observer [Mansfield, OH] 9 July 1861:  p. 1

WAITING FOR FRIENDS

A well sinker got up early to his work one morning, and found that the shaft he had been making had “folded in.” Desirous of knowing how much he would be missed, he hung his jacket and waistcoat upon the windlass (as if he had gone down to his digging) and hid himself behind a hedge. Presently, quite a crowd of people gathered around the place–among them his wife–and they all “concluded up” that he was buried alive. The question arose, should they go to the trouble of digging him out, or should they leave him where he was, and save the expense of burial in the proper form? The wife said that, as he had left his jacket and waistcoat behind, it did not much matter. So they abandoned him, as they supposed, to his fate. In the evening he slipped away from the place, a sadder, and a wiser man. In three months he returned home, dressed precisely as he was when he went away, and without a word, took his old place by the fireside. “Why, Jabes,” exclaimed his wife, “where did you come from?” “Wal,” he replied, “I found that none o’ you critters would dig me out, so I set to work myself; and if it hadn’t bin that I got astray in the dark, and dug myself six miles away, I should ha’ bin here afore.” Moral: When you want anything done, don’t die waiting for friends, but go at it yourself!  The Christian Recorder [Philadelphia, PA] 17 April 1869

  Less to Carry and less to Count.—A chimney-sweeper’s boy went into a baker’s shop in the Strand for a two-penny loaf, and conceiving it to be diminutive in size, he remarked to the baker, that he did not believe that it was weight. Never mind that, replied the man of dough; you will have less to carry.— True, rejoined the lad, and throwing three-halfpence on the counter, left the shop. The baker called after him, that he had not paid money enough. Never mind that, hallooed young sooty, you will have less to count.

A Thousand Notable Things, Edward Somerset, 2nd Marquise of Worcester