Part of the American History & Genealogy Project

Amelia Bloomer 1818 ~ 1894


Amelia Bloomer

The ridicule of the press has often dimmed a worthy name and such seems to have been the case with Mrs. Amelia Bloomer, who was born May 27, 1818. An insignificant myth of American history lies in the supposition that Mrs. Bloomer originated the garment to which her name was attached in ridicule, but which has become one of the commonest words in the English language. Mrs. Bloomer was not the originator of the style, but adopted it after seeing it worn by others and introduced it to the public through her paper. But, be that as it may, Mrs. Bloomer's life and work is no subject for the cartoonist; she should be ranked among the foremost workers for the betterment of her sex in America. The facts of her life substantiate this. It was in 1840 that she first appeared in public life as an advocate for temperance reform. The study of that question soon led tier to understand the political, legal, and financial necessities and disabilities of women, and having seen the depth of the reform needed she was not slow to espouse the cause of freedom in its highest, broadest, most just sense.

At that early day no woman's voice had yet been heard from the platform pleading the rights or wrongs of her sex, so Mrs. Bloomer employed her pen to say the thoughts she could not utter. She wrote for the press over various signatures, her contributions appearing in the Water Bucket, Temperance Star, Free Soil Union and other papers. On the first of January, 1849, a few months after the inauguration of the first Women's Rights Convention, she began the publication of the Lily, a folio sheet devoted to temperance and the interests of women. That journal was a novelty in the newspaper world, being the first enterprise of the kind ever owned, edited and controlled by a woman and published in the interests of woman. It was received with marked favor by the press and continued a successful career of six years in Mrs. Bloomer's hands. In the third year of the publication of her journal Mrs. Bloomer's attention was called to the neat, convenient and comfortable, if not esthetic costume afterwards called by her name. The press handed the matter about and commented more or less on this new departure to fashion's sway until the whole country was excited over it, and Mrs. Bloomer was overwhelmed with letters of inquiry. Many women adopted the style for a time, yet under the rod of tyrant fashion and the ridicule of the press they soon laid it aside. Mrs. Bloomer herself finally abandoned it after wearing it six or eight years, but the grotesque caricature remained forever attached to her name.

In 1852 Mrs. Bloomer made her debut on the platform as a lecturer, and in the winter of that year, in company with Susan B. Anthony, she visited and lectured in all the principal cities and towns of her native state, from New York to Buffalo. At the outset her subject was temperance, but temperance strongly spiced with the wrongs and rights of women. In 1849 Mr. Bloomer was appointed post-master of Seneca Falls, and on receipt of the office he at once appointed Mrs. Bloomer his deputy. Upholding her theory of woman's brain equality with man's she soon made herself thoroughly acquainted with the details of the office, and discharged such duties throughout the four years of the Taylor and Fillmore administration. In the winter of 1853 she was chairman of the committee appointed to go before the legislature of New York with petitions for a prohibitory liquor law, and she continued her work throughout the state, lecturing on both temperance and woman's rights and attending to the duties of her house and office until the winter of 1853-1854, when she moved to Mt. Vernon, Ohio. Here she continued the publication of the Lily and was also associate editor of the Western Home Visitor a large literary weekly paper published in that place. In the columns of The Visitor, as in all her writings, some phase of the woman question was always made her subject. At the same time that she was carrying on her literary work she visited and lectured in all the principal towns and cities of the North and West, going often where no lecturer on women's enfranchise-ment had preceded her. In January, 1854, she was one of the committee to memorialize the legislature of Ohio on a prohibitory liquor law. The rules were suspended and the committee received with mock respect and favor, but the same evening the legislature almost in a body attended a lecture given by her on women's right of suffrage. In the spring of 1855 Mr. and Mrs. Bloomer removed to Council Bluffs, Iowa, making it their permanent home. Mrs. Bloomer intended henceforth to rest from her public labors, but this was not permitted to her. Calls for lectures were frequent, and to these she responded as far as possible, but was obliged to refuse to go long distances on account of there being at that day no public conveyance except the old stage coach. In the winter of 1856, Mrs. Bloomer, by invitation, addressed the legislature of Nebraska on the subject of woman's right to the ballot. The Territorial House of Representatives shortly afterwards passed a bill giving women the right to vote, and in the council it passed to a second reading, but was finally lost for want of time, the limited session drawing to a close and the last hour expiring before the bill could come up for final action. Mrs. Bloomer took part in organizing the Iowa State Suffrage Association, and was at one time its president Poor health eventually compelled her to retire from active work in the cause. She died on the thirtieth of December, 1894.

Women of America

Source: The Part Taken by Women in American History, By Mrs. John A. Logan, Published by The Perry-Nalle Publishing Company, Wilmington, Delaware, 1912.


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