Amelia Jenks Bloomer didn’t invent bloomers – if they’d been named for their creator, they’d be called millers.
But Bloomer (born this date in 1818) published a biweekly newspaper and through it, she made famous an outfit designed by Libby Miller, cousin of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Bloomer’s newspaper – The Lily – began as a way for her to campaign for temperance, her chief interest, but it quickly expanded to include women’s suffrage issues and since she lived where she lived, when she lived, she soon became part of the suffragette inner circle.
After she met and married Dexter Bloomer in 1840, he encouraged her to write for his newspaper, the Seneca Falls (NY) County Courier. Eventually she began to publish her own small newsletter twice a week.
Seneca Falls, of course, was the epicenter of women’s issues of all kinds. It was there she encountered Stanton. One day when Stanton came to visit, she was wearing a costume designed by Miller. It consisted of loose trousers gathered at the ankle and topped by a short dress and vest and was strongly reminiscent of the native costume of Middle Eastern and Asian women.
Bloomer loved it and adopted it just as enthusiastically as Stanton. She had already advocated for less restrictive clothing for women:
The costume of women should be suited to her wants and necessities. It should conduce at once to her health, comfort, and usefulness; and, while it should not fail also to conduce to her personal adornment, it should make that end of secondary importance.
The public animosity and ridicule that wearers of ‘the bloomer suit’ were subjected to, however, was extreme and Bloomer herself gave up wearing the outfit by 1851.
But bloomers reappeared a generation later, when women adopted the ‘freedom machine’ – i.e., the bicycle.
Susan B. Anthony once said in an interview, “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
With the bicycle craze came the rational dress movement and with that, bloomers were back to stay.
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This is also the birth date of Tony Hillerman, who not only wrote great mystery stories, but made the Southwest live and breathe for the rest of us. Born in 1925, he grew up during the Depression, served in WWII and came home with a Silver Star and Purple Heart. He worked as a journalist for years, then went back to school at the age of 40, got a degree from the University of New Mexico and started teaching. His first book – The Blessing Way – was published when he was 45, but soon after he was writing full time, mostly about Navajo policemen Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. When he died, he was the 22d richest man in New Mexico, but he always said what pleased him most was being named a Special Friend of the Dineh.