Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Two Years Ago Today—To Matilda Mokoto Holmes on Her Birth

Matilda--you were brand new!

Note—Granddaughter Matilda was born on Sunday, May 31, 2020 at 10:40 am.  That was just in time for me to make the exciting announcement in the virtual coffee hour following Tree of Life UU Congregation Coronavirus Zoom services.  How could I forget.  This will likely become an annual blog tradition

To Matilda Mokoto Holmes on Your Birth

May 31, 2020

I understand you can’t read this.  You have been very busy getting born, learning how to breathe and such.  Hopefully your mother will keep a copy of this to share with you on some appropriate birthday a few years from now.

On the day you were born the sky was crystal blue and everything was lush green bursting with young life to greet you like the young ducklings on the pond and bunnies in their burrows.  The Web of All Existence greeted you.

With your Mom and Dad.  You weren't really a cone head.

Your Mom and Dad were there, of course.  It couldn’t have happened without them.  And frankly you were a lot of work to get born.  It was even a little scary but your new life prevailed.  You were welcomed in the arms of love.

A whole tribe waits anxiously to greet you—two grandmas, aunts, uncles, cousins, and an odd old Papa.  And there is your second cousin Sienna who is just one year older than you and will be your playmate and guide for years of coming adventures.  And did I mention the dogs Piper and Ginger who will protect you from marauding pirates and Piper at least will curl up to sleep with you.

                            Some of your clan--Papa, your Mom, Aunt Heather, Grandma, and Aunt Carolynne.  There are lots more.

You will come home in couple of days or so with your Mom to Grandma Kathy and Papa’s little house.  It will be your first home.  You will have others, but that first one is very special.  Grandma will spoil and play with you.  Papa will take you on his walks—the stroller is ready to be your carriage into the world—and looks forward to singing strange lullabies to you and reading books with you when you are a little older.

The day you were born used to be Memorial Day before that holiday got moved.  And in a way that connects you to two great grandfathers, Papa Art Brady and Papa Willard Murfin who were soldiers in World War II which will be 100 years past when you are a young woman.  In fact, you are connected to ancestors on both sides of your family whose interesting lives made yours possible.  You are part of a great river of humanity.

Beyond your kin and home there are many friends waiting to greet you and support you on your life journey—your folks’ friends, your whole neighborhood, the Sisters Grandma Kathy works with, and the good people at Papa’s church.  It takes a village to raise a child and you have many villagers to guide you.

The day you were born everyone wore masks.

But I am sorry, not everything was pixie dust and unicorns on the day you were born.  The wide world was a freighting mess.  You were born in the middle of the great Coronavirus pandemic of 2020 which is why no one but your Mom and Dad could be with you in the hospital.  Even after you get home many of your clan will have to wait to see you and play pass the baby until it is safe.  People will wear masks on their faces.  They are scared for themselves—and for you.

Climate change—I am sure you will have heard of it when you can finally read this—is making over the world.  Where you live it will be hotter and wetter, snowier in the winter, apt to big and dangerous storms.  Everything will change from the way things once were.  Your parents and grandparents will have to do everything they can to keep that change from being catastrophic.

The country you live in is rent by bitter division.  Ominous forces are at work.  The free democracy of your parents and ancestors is threatened.  Fascism—I am sorry you will have to learn what that is—looms and some long for a civil war.  Many good people, however, are doing everything they can to prevent that and to leave you a free and safe country.  But it will be a struggle. 

The day you were born Papa was here to help make the world better for you.

Even sadder, on the day you were born cities across America were torn by demonstrations, protests, riots, looting, and violence.  All because Black people in this country are not safe from violent assault by police and because a long sad history of white oppression has been unmasked again.  Your world will not be safe until Black children are safe.

That is why Papa on the day you were born went to Woodstock to hold a sign that said Black Lives Matter and march around the Square with hundreds of others.  He pledges to spend the rest of his life fighting to give you a better world than the one in which you were born.

You are such a big girl already!

The ancient Chinese had a curse—“May you live in interesting times.”  You were born on a day in the middle of interesting times.  Bless you as you make your way through them.

With all the love in the world,



Monday, May 30, 2022

Decoration Day or Memorial Day It’s all About the Fallen

                                  A Decoration Day card honored the Union dead exclusively.

Note—This is a semi-regular Memorial Day history post.  It’s good to be reminded.

Today is, of course, Memorial Day in the United States.  The Uniform Holiday Act, passed in 1968, set 1971 as the year the Federal government would begin observing the holiday on the last Monday of May giving Americans a three day holiday weekend to start the summer season, to be balanced by a three day Labor Day weekend in September

Veteran’s groups were nearly unanimous in opposition to the move fearing that it would dilute the observance as families planed fun activities instead of solemnly commemorating the war dead.  Several states refused at first to change their observances in conformity with the Federal law creating two Memorial Day holidays.   That proved unworkable and eventually all fell in line

Of course, the veterans groups were rightAttendance at their parades and cemetery services dropped off in favor of barbeque parties or a day at the beach.  Every year attempts are made to restore the traditional date, May 30. 

The origins of that celebration go back to the end of the Civil War.   Almost as soon as the firing stopped communities were gathering to honor their dead, which in the sentimental 19th Century naturally meant trekking out to local cemeteries to festoon the graves with flowers.  Some credit the first organized commemoration to Confederate widows

Former slaves mass to salute the Stars and Stripes at the dedication of the cemetery they built for the Union soldiers who died in a Confederate prisoner of war camp on May 1, 1865.

Others claim that former slaves in Charleston, South Carolina originated it when they reburied Union soldiers who died in a Confederate prisoner of war camp there and dedicated the cemetery they created as a Union graveyard.  A local paper said that up to 10,000 people, mostly former slaves, were present for a dedication of the graveyard on May 1, 1865 marking the occasion with singing and prayers

Local observances sprang up in towns and cities both North and South.  Waterloo, New York lays claim to the first Decoration Day, as it became known with an observance on May 5, 1865.  It was surely not the first, and just one of many.  But the friendship of the local leader of the celebration, General John Murray with General John A. Logan, the Commander-in-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R) planted the idea of creating a national observance.  On May 5, 1868 Logan issued G.A.R. General Order No. 11 instructing local posts to participate: 

General John Logan, Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic is heroically remembered in this hill top Grant Park monument in Chicago.

    The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from dishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.

It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith…

To this day, Logan’s order is often read at Memorial Day observances conducted by the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and other veterans organizations.

Decoration Day was soon observed across the North, and at Union cemeteries in the South.  For many years it was confined to the Yankee dead and was thus boycotted by Southern states, most of which designated their own separate memorial days for the Confederate Dead.  It was not until after the Spanish American War in 1898 in which Southerners served in arms under the Stars and Stripes once again, that the notion began to spread of honoring all the war dead—although this was fought tooth and nail by the GAR.  The South began to share the May 30th date but tended to call their observances Memorial Days to differentiate them from the GAR’s Decoration Days. 

After World War I it became common to include the dead of that war—and later all wars—in the commemorations and the use of the term Memorial Day became more common even in the North.  But it was not Until 1967 the Congress officially changed the name. 

Moina Belle Michael started the tradition of selling poppies to support war refugees even before the entrance of the United States into World War I.  Later adopted by veterans groups not only from the US but the United Kingdom, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries.

In 1915 Georgian Moina Belle Michael, inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields by John McCrae conceived of the idea of making and selling paper flowers for the support of maimed soldiers.  When the U.S. entered the war in 1917 she began selling her poppies on Decoration Day to honor the dead of all wars.  She later donated proceeds to French and Belgian war orphans.  The poppy tradition spread to other Allied countries.  After the relief organization she had been donating to disbanded after the War, Michel approached the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who adopted Memorial Day poppy sales in 1922.  Two years later they inaugurated their annual Buddy Poppy sales.  Soon no respectable American would be seen on the streets on Memorial Day without a Poppy. 

These days the tradition of decorating soldier’s graves is kept alive by Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and veteran’s organizations who place small flags on the graves of veterans, not only at National Cemeteries, but in local graveyards as well.  Many cities and towns still hold parades, General Logan’s Order is read, prayers are uttered, politicians orate, high school bands play patriotic music, and sometimes straggling lines of elderly veterans fire volleys from rifles salute of the flag. 

A pre-Coronavius pandemic Color Guard at a Crystal Lake, Illinois Memorial Day parade about to enter Union Cemetery for the annual ceremony at the city's Civil War monument.  The full parade and ceremony is back on this year and we will be taking two year old granddaughter Matilda just as I used to bring her mother and her sisters.

That’s the way it will be in my town, Crystal Lake, Illinois.


Sunday, May 29, 2022

Stubborn Rhode Island Last Holdout Against the Constitution


A Federalist cartoon show Rhode Island, the last of the thirteen pillars of the new union, teetering on the edge of a fall.

Always contrarian Rhode Island stamped its tiny foot and threatened to hold its breath until it turned blue.  No, they would absolutely not ratify the tyrannical document known as the Constitution of the United States. 

Sure, the moneyed interests in big states were for it—Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania.  And not-quite-so-big Massachusetts and Connecticut had voted for ratificationbut that was all the more reason to be suspicious.  The big bullies were likely to swamp the sovereignty of the pipsqueak.  And Massachusetts had been literally threatening the existence of the former Colony since Baptist Roger Williams and his followers escaped the clutches of Puritans and set up a refuge of religious toleration.  Connecticut on the other side was now even more firmly in the hands of the highly orthodox Black Legion of Congregational ministers deeply suspicious of loose religious practices next door which included a thriving Jewish congregation, Quakers, and even—horror of horrors—Catholics.

Rhode Island, heavily dependent economically on its ports and merchants, had been such a hot bed of opposition to heavy handed British taxation and trade restriction policies that a mob of locals had done the faux Indians at the Boston Tea Party one better and burned the grounded revenue schooner Gaspee to the water line back in 1772.  And it became the first colony, a mouse roaring at a lion, to sever its ties to the motherland, declaring its independence on May 4, 1776, two months before the Continental Congress got around to it.  Its delegates at the Congress, Stephen Hopkins and William Ellery naturally cast Rhode Island’s single vote for Independence.

The Black 1st Rhode Island Regiment of Militia helped Continental General John Sullivan and the French recapture Newport during the American Revolution.

During the war the British easily occupied Newport, which became a major Royal Navy Base.  Yet the tiny colony still managed to provide one of the most important and reliable Regiments of the Line for George Washingtons often beleaguered Continental Army.  When the French entered the war as allies, American troops under General John Sullivan, including the all Black 1st Rhode Island Regiment of state militia in their smart and distinctive all white uniforms, in somewhat uneasy cooperation with French forces under Admiral the Comte d’Estaing dislodged the British.

Ruined Newport became the principal base of operations for the French and General Washington took up residence there planning to go on the offensive when their combined forces could be brought to bear in unison.  It was from there that the General launched his long march to Yorktown to trap Lord Cornwallis’s army on a peninsula bottled up by the French fleet.  You probably recall how that worked out.

But having played a critical role in the Revolution, Rhode Island’s post war economy was more devastated than most of the other colonies.  Its merchant traders had trouble re-establishing old trade routes as the British cut off lucrative trade with the sugar and spice islands of the Caribbean.  Instead they used their ships to turn increasingly to the Slave Trade and within a few years Rhode Island dominated between 60 to as much as 90% of that trade, tying its economy to the slave holding South.

Post-Revolutionary Rhode Island merchants turned to the slave trade when they were cut off from their traditional trade with Britain and the Caribbean spice islands.  They soon dominated traffic from Africa and made the state state an economic and political ally of the South.

When the Articles of Confederation failed to provide enough centralized government to retire war debt and facilitate trade, Rhode Island suspicious of the undertaking, never even sent delegates to what became the Constitutional Convention.

In the years following the adoption of the Constitution by the convention in 1787 there was a vigorous national debate aimed at encouraging the former colonies to ratify the Constitution and officially join the new Federal Union.  The eloquent and elegant arguments of James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay were countered by dire warnings of tyranny and the re-imposition of monarchy by wily political leaders like Edmund Randolph, George Mason, and New York Governor George Clinton who styled themselves Anti-Federalists.  Rhode Island was firmly in the Anti-Federalist camp.

To assuage those fears, ten new Amendments to the Constitution, collectively known as the Bill of Rights were added to the original document.  Rhode Island, however, was still suspicious.

Rhode Island voters—property owning white men—rejected ratification in a popular referendum on March 27, 1778 by the lopsided margin of 237 to 2,708 after neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut had affirmed it.

One by one all of the other 12 former colonies fell into line isolating and surrounding the littlest state, which seemed determined to hold on to its own independence.

The current Rhode Island state flag was adopted in 1897 but employed the anchor motif used in the Colonial era Great Seal and other banners since.  The anchor clearly represented the state's maritime and mercantile interests.  A Colonial blue banner with the word "Hope" was a deliberate thumb in the eye to neighboring Massachusetts which drove religious Dissenters like Roger Williams and Ann Hutchinson to seek refuge and establish a tradition of religious toleration.  The thirteen surrounding stars, of course, represented the original Colonies.  I wonder which one represents reluctant Rhode Island itself.

It is said that no state was forced to ratify the Constitution, but that might be a stretch in the case of Rhode Island.  With her ports becoming havens for smugglers, gunboats began cruising menacingly offshore.  Annual muster days of Massachusetts militia were marked by drills that hinted that a march against its neighbor might be in the offing.

George Washington had already been elected first President of the United States under the Constitution and had taken the oath of office in New York City where Congress was also meeting.  A new national government had become a reality.

Old Kings County Court House–now a public library in Kingston—where the ratification was defeated by a special Convention in March 1790. 

On May 29, 1790 after the Constitution was again defeated at a special convention in March and a bruising debate in the legislature members finally ratified the Constitution by the narrowest of margins—34 for to 32 against.

Rhode Island became the last of the Original 13 to join the union.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Woodstock Civil War Vets Erect a Monument to Johnny Yank on the Square


Members of the Grand Army of the Republic and its Lady's Auxiliary gathered to dedicate the Civil War monument in Woodstock Square in 1909.  The four cannon tubes that guarded the monument were removed and melted during World War I scrap iron drives but their stone bases remain. 

Note—We will be revisiting Decoration Day/Memorial Day posts this weekend beginning with this on from 2018

In 1909 the aging veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) and its Ladies’ Auxiliary gathered on the Square in Woodstock, Illinois on what was then known as Decoration Day.  Something made this gathering different from others held annually since General John A. Logan, the first Commander-in-Chief of the GAR issued General Order No. 11 in 1868 calling for an annual observance in honor of the Civil War dead.

It had been the local custom for residents to gather armloads of flowers from their gardens and marchoften by the hundreds—to the Chicago & Northwestern station to load a special train to Chicago with the blooms and then to gather on the Square for a simple ceremony.  The flowers were then used to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers and veterans.

That year, after a long fundraising campaign the veterans and the community gathered to dedicate a handsome new monument in the center of the Square—a high, polished column surmounted by the statue of a private soldier.  The four sides of the base were decorated with symbols of the armed services—an anchor, crossed rifles, sabers, and cannon representing the Navy, Infantry, cavalry, and artillery branches of the Army.

It was a solemn occasion as well as a joyful one.

The monument with the Old McHenry County Courthouse  in the background around 2010.

Pointedly, the monument was meant to honor the Union dead only even though some local boys from families with Southern roots fought and died for the Confederacy and other Rebel veterans could be found in local cemeteries.  The old Boys in Blue and their ladies were not ready to forgive and forget.

From then on, even after the last of the gray beards passed and after new veterans from the Spanish American War and Philippine Insurrection, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and all the endless almost nameless untidy little wars afterwards, Woodstock gathered on and around the Square for what became known as Memorial Day.

30 years ago or so members of what was then the Congregational Unitarian Church began a tradition on the Sunday before Memorial Day of marching the two blocks to the Square from the old church at in silence behind a flag donated to the church in memory of Thomas Lounsbury, an 18 year old church member who died on the USS Arizona on December 7, 1949 and was the first Woodstock casualty of World War II.

Members and friends of the Congregational Unitarian Church gathered yearly on the Sunday before Memorial Day to honor the fallen of all wars, military and civilian alike.  As one of the few events held that Sunday, it usually got press notice with pictures.  Many folks were surprised that the Church noted for its anti war activism would honor the war dead or even carry the U.S. Flag.

Gathering around the Monument the Rev. Dan Larsen or one of the interim ministers after his retirement would lead a prayer and a moment of silence.  Then participants laid flowers on the Monument and returned in silence to the church for the rest of the worship service. It was simple, even stark, and always very moving.

For the last twelve years members of what is now known as the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation have gathered to on Memorial Day Sunday in our new McHenry home

But I miss the walk to the Square, the bright sunshine, the wind whipping the flag, the simple sacrifice of laying flowers on a wrought iron fence surrounding an old Monument.

Heavy equipment had to be brought in to remove the sentinel soldier from the column for repair and restoration.

As for the Monument itself, after years of fundraising, it was repaired and restored in 2015, removing the soldier statue half to granite sentinel, replacing its damaged rifle, reseating it with new reinforcement on the column.  A new anchor emblem was sculpted from Vermont granite matching the original on the base, and other repairs were made.  An addition around the base was newly inscribed with the names of known Woodstock area Civil War Dead. 

Friday, May 27, 2022

Fashion and Feminism—Amelia and Those Shocking Bloomers


Amelia Bloomer should be remembered as one of the founding sisterhoods of the women’s movement as an attendee of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention, a lifelong suffrage and temperance reformer, a pioneering female journalist, and the first American woman to own and publish a newspaper.  But she is not.  Instead she is remembered for a fashion fad or, if you prefer, a radical attempt to reform womens clothing that she neither invented nor was the first to wear.

Amelia Jenks was born on May 27, 1818 Homer, New York on the southern end of the Finger Lakes District.  Her family were respectable people of limited income but who encouraged all of their children to get some education.  Amelia, a very bright child, got a rudimentary education in local schools.  At the age of 17 she was among the first generation of young women who for whatever reason did not immediately marry but became schoolteachers.

After a year, she relocated to Waterloo, New York, seat of Seneca County where she lived with her newly married older sister before taking a job as a live-in governess to the Oren Chamberlain family.

In 1840 Amelia married attorney Dexter Bloomer and moved to a large, comfortable home in nearby Seneca Falls.  There her life, you should pardon the pun, began to blossom.  Not only was she now a member of the comfortable and respectable middle class with a fine husband and growing family, that husband was unusually supportive of her expanding her universe.  Dexter recognized her keen natural intelligence and encouraged her to read widely and acquire in that way the education she had missed.  He also made pains to include her in conversations about the politics and current affairs in which he was interested.

In addition to his law practice Bloomer published the local newspaper, the Seneca Falls County Courier.  He encouraged Amelia to become a contributor to its columns and as time went by and as he was increasingly engaged in his law practice, she informally assumed some editorial duties.

Amelia Bloomer as a young woman in Seneca Falls, New York.

Amelia also found a close, supportive circle of friends.  It was an unusually sophisticated group, going beyond the swapping of recipients, embroidery parties, quilting bees, prayer meetings, and gossip sessions that were the expected purview of “hen parities.”  The women, mostly Quakers and Universalists, were widely read and included active reformers interested in abolition of slavery, temperance, and, increasingly, the rights of women.  The group included Elizabeth Caddy Stanton, an attractive young mother about Amelia’s age who had even ventured to far off London to attend an anti-slavery convention only to be debarred from participating on account of her sex.  On her return Stanton and her close friend, Quaker Mary Ann McClintock began to focus discussions in the group more closely on women’s issues.

In the summer of 1848 Stanton and McClintock, leaders of the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society, decided to hold a hastily called convention to discuss women’s rights and take advantage of a visit by the well know Quaker lay minister and reformer Lucrecia Mott to the area. 

Although Bloomer, whose own activism had to this point been concentrated in Temperance work, was not one of the core organizers, she made sure that Stanton’s call to convention was published in the Courier and by exchange in most of the newspapers in Upstate New York.  When the Convention convened on July 19 Bloomer does not seem to have been in attendance.  Perhaps she was among those who could not squeeze into the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, which was mobbed by an unexpectedly large crowd of both women and men.  But Bloomer did manage to find a seat in the balcony on the second day and thus got to hear the debate about the Declaration of Sentiments.  All but a final demand added personally by Stanton—one calling for the extension of suffrage to women—passed unanimously, but that clause stirred vigorous debate.  Even Lucrecia Mott opposed it.  Stanton argued passionately for, and it was eloquently defended by Fredrick Douglass.  She also heard Mott’s stirring speech that night.  She was both impressed by it all and more determined to make the cause of women her own.

Bloomer came into full ownership of the early newspaper for women The Lilly making her the first woman to publish a newspaper in the United States.

Shortly after the convention the Seneca Falls Ladies Temperance Society was founded and launched a newspaper for “private circulation to members.”  From the beginning, Bloomer assumed editorial direction of The Lily.  At first, aside from Temperance appeals, the paper copied other publications for the ladies and included recipes, homemaking tips, and advise for domestic tranquility.  But Bloomer was soon turning more of its pages over to women’s issues.  She invited Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to contribute.

By 1850, perhaps because some members of the Temperance Society were uncomfortable by the new direction, the Society dropped its sponsorship.  Bloomer assumed ownership and total editorial control.  She became, almost accidently, the first woman to publish a newspaper in the United States.  And it was successful.  Circulation climbed to more than 4,000 copies, many of them being sent by mail all over New York State and into New England.  Its influence grew.

Bloomer later described why she shifted the focus of The Lily to women’s rights,

It was a needed instrument to spread abroad the truth of a new gospel to woman, and I could not withhold my hand to stay the work I had begun. I saw not the end from the beginning and dreamed where to my propositions to society would lead me.

The fortune of the newspaper and Bloomer’s fame took an unexpected turn in 1851.  Temperance activist Libby Miller that year adopted the fashion first suggested in the health fad magazine the Water-Cure Journal in 1849.  Miller considered it a more rational costume for women who were encumbered by yards of cloth skirts and layers of petticoats.   The loose trousers, similar to those worn in the Middle East and Central Asia were gathered at the ankles and topped by a short dress or skirt and vest were first called Turkish Dress.   Miller’s campaign to have the outfit adopted widely received a boost when the famed English actress and abolitionist Fanny Kemble began to wear it publicly.

Stanton was an early adopter of the fashion and wore it on a visit to Bloomer that year accompanied by Miller, probably with copy in hand for The Lilly.  Bloomer’s first reaction was unadulterated joy at the liberation of the new style.  She quickly adopted it as her own and began to vigorously advocate it in her publication.

Her articles were picked up by other publications, including Horace Greeley’s sympathetic New York Tribune.  From the Tribune the subject of “pantaloons for ladies” for ladies went the 19th Century equivalent of viral.  Unfortunately most of the press was not as supportive as Greeley.  They mocked the fashion and all who wore them, singling out Bloomer for scorn.  Soon they were calling the outfit itself Bloomers.  Reaction ranged from bemusement, to savage satire in editorial cartoons, to the expected thundering of preachers denouncing the “debauchery of our daughters.”

Amelia Bloomer posed for this daguerreotype in the outfit that was beginning to be named for her in 1851.

Bloomer was a bit mortified by the attention but refused, at least at first, to back down. 

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.

Despite the scorn and criticism, Bloomers did take off, at least among independent minded women, including the first generation of female college students.  A Bloomer Ball for elegant ladies was organized in New York City.  And the fashion was readily adopted by female travelers and in the west where commodious skirts were an impairment and inconvenience. 

Who was the typical Bloomer wearer?  I picture spunky young Louisa May Alcott, a grown up Tomboy who wanted to carve out an independent career as a professional writer.

Bloomers were ridiculed in cartoons on both side of the Atlantic.  Most of them, like this one from England in 1851, suggested that wearing the garment would result in role reversal and the emasculation of men. 

By the end of the 1850’s the fad, never widely adopted by respectable middle class women was dying out.  Even Bloomer herself was having second thoughts.  She believed that the widespread introduction of crinoline, which made those layers of petticoats lighter in weight and less uncomfortable in oppressive summer heat, made Bloomers obsolete.

The Civil War revived some interest as some nurses adopted the costume—although not those under the command of notoriously prudish Dorothy Dix.  Later in the century they were adapted as undergarments to replace petticoats and in a simplified form as athletic wear for college girls.  There was a revival of interest during the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago where suffragist Lucy Stone extolled them in a speech at the Women’s Pavilion and a fashion show displayed up-dated versions.

Bloomers made something of a comeback after suffragist Lucy Stone extolled  them at the World's Colombian Exposition in Chicago and got another boost from the bicycle craze around the turn of the 20th Century. 

Still, it took Hollywood icons like Gloria Swanson, Gene Harlow, Greta Garbo, and Katherine Hepburn being photographed in slacks to begin to make pants acceptable on women.  They really took off during home front and uniformed service during World War II and became everyday fashion wear standard for by most women by the ’60’s and ‘70’s.

Despite widespread use and acceptance Hillary Clinton found out that her pants suits could still be used against her as a symbol of an aggressive, assertive, unfeminine, and dumpy woman.

But arguably none of that might have come about without Amelia Bloomer’s earnest advocacy.

As for Bloomer herself, in 1853 she closed The Lily and moved with her husband and family to Ohio and then to Council Bluff, Iowa two years later.  She continued to contribute articles to the now growing feminist press, including Stanton’s and Susan B. Anthony’s The Revolution which bowed in 1868 and acknowledged Bloomer’s inspiration and example.  Bloomer would open and edit small publications in Iowa as well.

Bloomer in Council Bluff, Iowa--no longer wearing Bloomers but still a leading suffragist.

She dedicated herself to the struggle for women’s rights and suffrage and led campaigns in Nebraska and Iowa and served as president of the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association from 1871 until 1873.

Bloomer died on December 30, 1894 in Council Bluffs.  Although honored at the time as a women’s rights pioneer, her contributions, except for her association with the Bloomer, have nearly been forgotten.  Bloomer House in Seneca Falls was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and in 2002 the American Library Association has produced Amelia Bloomer List annually in recognition of books with significant feminist content for young readers.

When Anthony Met Stanton, is a life sized bronze statue in Seneca Falls, depicting Amelia Bloomer (center) introducing Susan B. Anthony to Elizabeth Cady Stanton in May 1851. 

Perhaps most interestingly she is commemorated together with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman in the calendar of saints of the Episcopal Church on July 20.  This, by the way, would come as a shock to Stanton, a notorious Free Thinker.