REFORMS AND MOBS.
There was one bright woman among the many in our Seneca Falls literary circle to whom I would give more than a passing notice—Mrs. Amelia Bloomer, who represented three novel phases of woman’s life. She was assistant postmistress; an editor of a reform paper advocating temperance and woman’s rights; and an advocate of the new costume which bore her name!
In 1849 her husband was appointed postmaster, and she became his deputy, was duly sworn in, and, during the administration of Taylor and Fillmore, served in that capacity. When she assumed her duties the improvement in the appearance and conduct of the office was generally acknowledged. A neat little room adjoining the public office became a kind of ladies’ exchange, where those coming from different parts of the town could meet to talk over the news of the day and read the papers and magazines that came to Mrs. Bloomer as editor of the Lily. Those who enjoyed the brief reign of a woman in the post office can readily testify to the void felt by the ladies of the village when Mrs. Bloomer’s term expired and a man once more reigned in her stead. However, she still edited the Lily, and her office remained a fashionable center for several years. Although she wore the bloomer dress, its originator was Elizabeth Smith Miller, the only daughter of Gerrit Smith. In the winter of 1852 Mrs. Miller came to visit me in Seneca Falls, dressed somewhat in the Turkish style—short skirt, full trousers of fine black broadcloth; a Spanish cloak, of the same material, reaching to the knee; beaver hat and feathers and dark furs; altogether a most becoming costume and exceedingly convenient for walking in all kinds of weather. To see my cousin, with a lamp in one hand and a baby in the other, walk upstairs with ease and grace, while, with flowing robes, I pulled myself up with difficulty, lamp and baby out of the question, readily convinced me that there was sore need of reform in woman’s dress, and I promptly donned a similar attire. What incredible freedom I enjoyed for two years! Like a captive set free from his ball and chain, I was always ready for a brisk walk through sleet and snow and rain, to climb a mountain, jump over a fence, work in the garden, and, in fact, for any necessary locomotion.
Bloomer is now a recognized word in the English language. Mrs. Bloomer, having the Lily in which to discuss the merits of the new dress, the press generally took up the question, and much valuable information was elicited on the physiological results of woman’s fashionable attire; the crippling effect of tight waists and long skirts, the heavy weight on the hips, and high heels, all combined to throw the spine out of plumb and lay the foundation for all manner of nervous diseases. But, while all agreed that some change was absolutely necessary for the health of women, the press stoutly ridiculed those who were ready to make the experiment.