Tag Archive | Women

Object: Washboard

I-0093a
Washboard
ca. 1920
Materials: Wood, Glass

This object is a washboard, which was used to wash clothes. Before there were a washing machines and dryers to clean and dry our clothes a washboard and a clothesline were everyday household items. But this was a step up from how clothes were washed before the washboard was introduced into Western Europe. They would have to soak and beat clothes with washing bats to clean them. Some Eastern European countries like Norway and Finland have had washboards made from wood with notches carved into them for centuries but it was not officially patented until 1797. The first washboards were made entirely of wood, but in the 19th Century steel and zinc ridges replaced the wooden ones, but they still had a wooden frame. Later into the 19th century and early 20th century glass washboards, like the one pictured above, were introduced but were not as commonly used as the ones made from metal.

Woman plunges and scrubs. Photo by the Rural Electrification Administration, via Wikimedia Commons.

The way to wash clothes with a washboard would be by setting up two tubs one with hot water and another with warm or room temperature water. Once the water is in the tubs you then add the dirty clothes to the tub with hot water in it. It is suggested that the clothes are allowed to sit in the water to loosen up any dirt or stains, but it is not a necessary step to the process. After putting the clothes in the water you will then set the washboard in the tub with the clothes. The soap is then applied; it can be applied in one of three ways. 1) By shaving some off of a bar of soap and adding it into the water. 2) By scrubbing a bar of soap against the washboard. 3) By scrubbing a bar of soap against the clothes themselves.  Any way you want to do it you will be adding soap to the clothes and the water. After the soap is applied, the clothes are then be scrubbed one-by-one against the washboard until they are clean. After a piece of clothing has been scrubbed it is then wrung out of any excess water and soap, then rinsed and repeated until the all of the soap is rinsed away. Some people had a machine that would wring the clothes out for them instead of having to do it by hand. After the clothes have been washed they are hung up on a wash line, which consists of a wire or a piece of twine tied between two objects, usually two posts are used, but in cities the line is more often strung between buildings. [Illa Bennett, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Boothroyd, Jennifer. From Washboards to Washing Machines: How Homes Have Changed. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications Co, 2014.

Hardyment, Christina. Home Comfort: A History of Domestic Arrangements in Association with the National Trust. Chicago, Ill: Academy Chicago in association with the National Trust, 1992.

Patrick, Bethanne Kelly, and John M. Thompson. An Uncommon History of Common Things. 2015.

Sambrook, Pamela. Laundry Bygones. Princes Risborough: Shire, 1983.

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Object: Comb

I-0647a
Comb, Ornamental
Mexican
Mexico
20th Century
Materials: Plastic

This comb was donated by a descendant of Dr. Aureliano Urratia, who was an exile from Mexico during the 1910 Mexican Revolution. Before the revolution, Mexico was led by Porfirio Diaz. Diaz and his government was essentially a dictatorship, running Mexico from 1876 to 1911. During his years in power, Diaz achieved a level of political stability and economic development that had yet to have been seen. This fast development caused many changes in Mexico, some of these changes would eventually lead to the revolution.

One of the avenues for economic development was commercial agriculture. Mexican and foreign entrepreneurs expanded their land holdings and focused their efforts on raising cash crops such as sugar, henequen, and cotton. However, this would lead to problems with smaller villages and peasants. These massive estates controlled all the farm lands in rural Mexico. Prior to the growth of commercial agriculture, some of the land had been rented out to the local villagers and peasants to use for food and grain production, but now the landlords devoted all their lands to cash crops which were more profitable than renting the land. Without access to land, rural villages and peasants struggled to get food to support themselves. The size of these estates and the amount of land taken was so great, that a quarter of the land in Mexico was held by only 834 people.

Partido Liberal Mexicano promotional button from 1911. Image via Wikimedia Commons

The takeover of vast amounts of peasant and village land was not the only reason for the revolution, but it was a major one. As Diaz’s reign continued, many started to become frustrated with the regime. Early in the 1900s, the Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM) was formed which called for a four year presidential term, minimum wage, eight hour workday, and an end to child labor.

The call for a four-year presidential term limit shows the frustration that was being felt by many. In the 1910 election, Francisco Madero would choose to run against Diaz. Diaz would go on to arrest Madero, and this would spark the revolution. In the early days, Madero would escape the reach of Diaz by hiding in many towns in the southern United States, including San Antonio. But despite not being in the country, many rose up and lead forces in his name, or in the name of revolution.

Many of those who rebelled against the government were poorer agricultural workers. This can be seen in the makeup of revolutionary leader Pascual Orozco’s men, who were primarily ranchers, peasant farmers, shepherds, or muleteers. This shows the resentment that the poorer agricultural workers had for the commercial farming program.

Álvaro Obregón, former President of Mexico (1920 – 1924). Image via Wikimedia Commons.

This revolution would take years and much bloodshed to reach its conclusion. In 1920 Alvaro Obregon would become president after ten years of conflict. With the signing of the Constitution of 1917, laws were put into place that addressed the issues that groups like the PLM were most concerned about. The constitution gave peasants the right to their land, a minimum wage, right to education, and more. The Revolution of 1910 in Mexico was very important in making the country we know today. [Ryan Farrell, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Calvert, Peter. The Mexican Revolution, 1910-1914: The Diplomacy of Anglo-American conflict. Vol. 3. Cambridge; London: Cambridge U.P. 1968.

Easterling, Stuart. The Mexican Revolution: A Short History 1910-1920. Chicago: Haymarket Books. 2012.

Gonzales, Michael J. The Mexican Revolution, 1910-1940. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. 2002.

 Knight, Alan. The Mexican Revolution. Vol. 54-55. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press. 1986.

Object: Quilt

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2014.5.1
Quilt
African- American
United States
1950-1959
Materials: Cloth/Thread/Cotton

This object is a quilt, made in the 1950s, in the African- American tradition of quilt-making.   An appraiser from Antiques Roadshow was able to identify it based on the style, construction, and materials used.  It appears to be hand-quilted and pieced, assembled in the strip construction technique, in which strips of scrap fabric were sewn together to create a pattern.

Kente cloth weaver in Ghana. Image by aripeskoe2, via WikiMedia Commons

Kente cloth weaver in Ghana. Image by r aripeskoe2, via WikiMedia Commons

African textile traditions have not been well-documented in comparison to other types of folk art, however, it is thought that their origins can be traced back to four civilizations of Central and West Africa.  In Africa, most textiles were made by men.  It wasn’t until African slaves were brought to the United States that women took over the tradition, with work being divided based on Western gender roles.

By the time African-American quilting had become a tradition, it had been combined with traditions from the Caribbean, Central American, and southern United States.  However, some distinct characteristics survived, and can still be identified in quilts today.  Bold colors, strips of fabric, and symbolism are all dominant features in African-American quilting.

Large shapes and bright colors were used in African tribes to distinguish people from far distances.  The ability to identify different warring tribes or hunting parties was crucial to survival.  This use of bold colors and oversized shapes has endured in African- American textiles.

Combined with that is a distinct tradition of asymmetrical patterns and improvised designs.  There are many reasons for this.  The ability to change or alternate the pattern allowed quilters to get the most use of scrap fabrics, as opposed to a repeating pattern, that required specific colors in set quantities.

More importantly, breaks in patterns held  great symbolism for African cultures.  A break in pattern could symbolize rebirth in the power of the wearer or creator of the quilt.  Pattern breaks were also believed to keep away evil.  It was believed that evil traveled in a straight line, and by breaking the pattern, evil spirits would become confused and be slowed down.  Improvising the patterning also ensured that the pattern could not be copied, and gave the creator and owner and strong sense of ownership and creativity.

Pictorial Quilt by Harriet Powers. Image by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, via WikiMedia Commons.

Pictorial Quilt by Harriet Powers. Image by Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, via WikiMedia Commons.

Once in the United States, African quilts took on even more meaning.  Many women would create story quilts, in which they would applique pictures onto their quilts.  By doing this, they could record their family history- like a photo album- or tell a story in pictures. One of the most famous women to create story quilts was a freed slave named Harriet Powers.  In 1896, she created an intricately-crafted quilt which she entitled “Bible Quilt”, depicting several Biblical stories.  In 1898, she crafted the “Pictorial Quilt”, illustrating three rows of Bible stories, historical events, and significant weather anomalies.  The “Pictorial Quilt” now hangs at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, and the “Bible Quilt” is housed at the Smithsonian Institution.

Few examples of African- American quilting tradition have survived through the years.  They were considered necessities rather than luxuries, and most were worn out.  However, men and women of African descent have kept the essence of the traditions alive, and are illustrated in pieces such as this quilt from the 1950s.  What was once  simply a functional piece of bedding, we know know is artistry to be preserved and celebrated. [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources:

Hicks, Kyra E.  Black Threads: An African American Quilting Sourcebook.  Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2003.

Lyons, Mary E.  Stitching Stars: The Story Quilts of Harriet Powers.  New York: Scribner’s Sons; Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada; New York: Maxwell Macmillan International, 1993.

Wahlman, Maude.  Signs and Symbols: African Images in African American Quilts.  Atlanta, GA: Tinwood, 2001.

Wilson, Sule Greg.  African American Quilting: The Warmth of Tradition.  New York: Rosen Pub. Group, 1999.

Object: Card game

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FIC2013.160
Trivia Card Game
American
Galveston, TX
1907/1908
Material: paper

This object is a trivia card game called “Texas Heroes: An Instructive Game,” created by Sally Trueheart Williams in 1908. The cards have three to five questions listed with a picture of the answer above. The people on the cards are those widely known by Texans, such as James Bowie, Sam Houston, David Crockett and many others. There are also historic places included that also have an important role in the history of Texas such as San Antonio, Nacogdoches, and Austin.  A pamphlet is included with testimonials from Texas educators promoting the game as a useful educational tool.

Sally Trueheart Williams

Sally Trueheart Williams. Image via the Rosenberg Library Museum of Galveston.

Sally T. Williams (1871-1951) daughter of Henry M. Trueheart and Annie Vanmeter Cunningham, was an active member of the Galveston, Texas community. She had a passion for history, education, and charity. She was member of the Equal Suffrage Club, the Wednesday Club, First Presbyterian Church, American Red Cross, Daughters of the Confederacy, Daughters of the American Revolution, and Colonial Dames.

In 1900, a hurricane devastated much of Texas, in Galveston over 3,000 buildings were destroyed and around 6,000 people were killed. In the wake of the storm the American Red Cross, founded by Clara Barton, played a large role in the relief efforts. Women’s clubs and associations in the area also volunteered, thus women had more visible public roles in the community. The efforts of these women’s civics clubs evolved to a suffrage movement. As a member of the Equal Suffrage Club, Sally T. Williams stood for the right of women to vote and argued that municipal maintenance can be compared to public ‘housekeeping.’ The argument was an attempt to convince other women that participating in women’s suffrage was not violating the traditional roles of women in the home.

Women’s clubs in the late 1800s to early 1900s gave way to the Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs (TFWC) which encouraged progressive movements and activism. The TFWC has accomplished and influenced numerous developments in Texas such as children’s health laws, traffic and highway safety, food purity standards, and historical preservation, to name a few. In its infancy, the TFWC consisted of mainly wealthy women and teachers, though today the membership is much more diverse. Many of the projects and activities of the federation have become the responsibility of the government in modern times, however the TFWC is still active and takes on projects involving aid to abused women and cancer patients and their families. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Additional Resources

Jones, Marian Moser. 2013;2012;. The american red cross from clara barton to the new deal. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press

Goldfield, David. 2013. Still fighting the civil war LSU Press.

McArthur, Judith N., and Harold L. Smith. 2010. Texas through women’s eyes: The twentieth-century experience. 1st ed. Vol. bk. 24. Austin: University of Texas Press.

Megan Seaholm, “Texas Federation of Women’s Clubs,” Handbook of Texas Online, June 15, 2010. Texas State Historical Association

Turner, Elizabeth Hayes, and Inc NetLibrary. 1997. Women, culture, and community: Religion and reform in galveston, 1880-1920. New York: Oxford University Press.

Object: Doll

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I-0277tt
Doll
Japanese
Unknown date, likely 20th Century
Materials: Cloth, hair, Ceramic

Chikanobu Toyohara, Foxfires, 1898.The print depicts Yaegaki-hime carrying the helmet of the warrior Shingen as she dances amidst magical foxfires.  Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Chikanobu Toyohara, Foxfires, 1898.The print depicts Yaegaki-hime carrying the helmet of the warrior Shingen as she dances amidst magical foxfires. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

This Japanese doll is a depiction of princess Yaegaki-Hime, the heroine of a five-act drama called Honcho Nijushiko or The 24 Models of Filial Piety. This drama was originally preformed in 1766 as a Bunraku, a Japanese puppet theater originating in Osaka, and then became a popular drama in the live acting Kabuki theater. The character of the princess Yaegaki-Hime has gained fame through the Bunraku and Kabuki plays. The Yaegaki-Hime doll presented depicts her holding the legendary helmet that had been gifted to a samurai lord named Takeda Shingen by a fox god called Suwa Myojin. The helmet is enchanted to protect the samurai who wears it so that the samurai will always win and, when in need, the helmet would summon 808 foxes to protect the owner. In the famous scene of heroinism, Yaegaki saves her lover, Katsuyori, from the wrath of her father. He had sent two men to kill Katsuyori because of a family feud, Yaegaki prayed there was something she could do and mourned for her lover. She touched the enchanted helmet and became possessed by its power, with the protection of two white foxes she ran across a frozen lake to warn Katsuyori. The climax of both Bunraku and Kabuki plays is Yaegaki’s dance as she becomes possessed by the fox spirit and saves Katsuyori. The story ends as the family feud is resolved, the lovers marry and live happily ever after.

A Japanese man plays a shamisen while another man sings. Photo by Rdsmith4, via Wikimedia Commons.

A Japanese man plays a shamisen while another man sings. Photo by Rdsmith4, via Wikimedia Commons.

In the Bunraku tradition, scenes are narrated by musical chanting with the accompaniment of a shamisen, which is a stringed instrument of the lute family. The narrator voices the characters using a unique emotional vocal style for each character, sometimes for important scenes there may be multiple narrators chanting together. The puppeteer, or chief handler, also plays a role in narrating the story with his own exaggerated facial expressions, he would operate the head and right hand while 2 assistants, dressed and hooded in black, control the left hand and lower body movement.

The tradition of puppet theater in Japan stems from 11th century traveling story tellers and may have been influenced by Central Asia. The style of puppets has evolved from simplistic, hand-less and leg-less puppets to intricate full bodied puppets with moveable mouths and eyes. Japanese puppet theater was considered a sophisticated, adult pastime and was immensely popular the during the Tokugwa, or Edo, Period (1600-1868). The Japanese puppet theater did not gain the name ‘Bunraku’ until the late 18th century, it derives from the troupe established by Uemura Bunrakuken in Osaka, Japan. The plays for the puppet theater were written playbooks, published in authorized editions and, at the height of the puppeteering tradition over 1,000 plays were written and performed.

A new type of Japanese entertainment emerged in the beginning of the 17th century called Kabuki, where women would play both male and female parts in storytelling with song and dance. Many of the stories in the original Kabuki tradition were those of everyday life however, many of the successful Bunraku plays were adapted for the Kabuki stage. During this period, when women played the roles, Kabuki was not deemed as sophisticated as its puppeteering counterpart. The themes of these stories were often comical, suggestive and the women were usually prostitutes. The Shogunate banned women from acting to discourage prostitution and became a tradition of performance with a completely male cast. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

Visit the Asian Festival at the Institute of Texan Cultures on February 4th to see live performances of Asian music and dance.

Additional Resources:

Kennedy, Dennis. The Oxford Companion to Theatre and Performance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Levinson, David, and Karen Christensen. Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2002.

Sasaguchi, Rei. “A Master of Many Voices: Living National Treasure Tells a Bunraku Classic.” The Japan Times, September 5, 2001.

Object: Shoes

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I-0601a
Shoes
Salvatore Ferragamo Shoes
Italian
1960s
Materials: Leather, Thread

This object is a pair of black and white leather spectator pumps, designed by the Italian designer Salvatore Ferragamo and owned by Lady Bird Johnson.  They were loaned to the Institute of Texan Cultures for a temporary exhibit called “Footprints and Imprints” showcasing famous and influential people through their shoes, and later donated to the museum.

Photo portrait of First Lady Lady Bird Johnson in the back yard of the White House. Photo by Robert Knudsen, White House Press Office (WHPO), via Wikimedia Commons.

Photo portrait of First Lady Lady Bird Johnson in the back yard of the White House. Photo by Robert Knudsen, White House Press Office (WHPO), via Wikimedia Commons.

Lady Bird Johnson became the 36th First Lady of the United States when her husband, Lyndon B. Johnson, was sworn in as president following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Born Claudia Alta Taylor, Lady Bird received her nickname at an early age, when a nursemaid stated that she was “as purty as a lady bird.”  The nickname stuck, and for the rest of her life she was known as Lady Bird.  Though her father and brothers called her “Lady,” her husband called her “Bird,” and that’s what she signed on her marriage certificate.

In the 1930s, Mrs. Johnson attended the University of Texas in Austin, earning degrees in History and Journalism.  During that time, she met Lyndon B. Johnson, and in 1934 they were married in San Antonio at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church.

When Johnson became President in 1963, Lady Bird focused her energies on her first love- the environment.  The country was facing uncertain times, and Washington, D.C. was in need of a facelift.  Having grown up in the outdoors of far East Texas, Lady Bird had an appreciation and respect for the natural beauty of landscapes and wildflowers.

As First Lady, she embarked on a beautification project, which was named the Society for a More Beautiful National Capital.  The project consisted of planting millions of flowers throughout Washington, D.C., including tulips, daffodils, roses, and the dogwood and cherry blossom trees that the Capital is so well known for. She stated at the time that “where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

Cherry blossoms and the Washington Monument. Image by Wendy Harman, via Wikimedia Commons.

Cherry blossoms and the Washington Monument. Image by Wendy Harman, via Wikimedia Commons.

This proved to be just the start of what became a national campaign, and in 1965, the Highway Beautification Act was passed.  Through this Act, Lady Bird was instrumental in restricting junk yards and limiting billboards along highways throughout the country, in addition to promoting wildflower plantings along interstates all over the country.

Mrs. Johnson wasn’t just interested in beautification, but also in conservation.  One method she used to bring attention to her campaign was to visit historic sites, national parks, and scenic areas.  By taking along the head of the National Parks Service, dignitaries, and media, Lady Bird was able to shine a spotlight on the natural beauty that was in danger of being destroyed all over the country.

After leaving Washington, Lady Bird Johnson focused her attention on Texas.  She was the force behind developing ten miles of beautiful hike and bike trails around Town Lake in Austin.  In 1982, she teamed up with her friend, actress Helen Hayes, to found the National Wildflower Research Center.  In 1995, it was moved to 279 acres in southwest Austin and renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.   The center is dedicated to conservation, education, and beautification through the use of locally available plants and flowers.  It is now one of the country’s most credible research institutions, and is run by The University of Texas.

Lady Bird Johnson saw a need to preserve and protect our nation’s natural beauty before it was destroyed by industry.  Her imprint can be seen every spring, driving the roads of Texas, or visiting the nation’s Capital.  She was instrumental in making environment issues a priority for our country.  She lived a legacy foretold by her nanny when she was given the nickname “Lady Bird.”  Lady Bird Johnson truly left a lasting impact through her work, and because of her, we can still call our country “America the Beautiful.” [Carrie Klein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Gould, Lewis L.  Lady Bird Johnson: Our Environmental First Lady.  Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1999.

Johnson, Lady Bird and Carlton B Lees.  Wildflowers Across America.  Austin, TX: National Wildflower Research Center; New York: Abbeville Press, 1988.

Johnson, Lady Bird and Michael L. Gillette.  Lady Bird Johnson: An Oral History.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Loughmiller, Campbell, Lynn Loughmiller, and Lynn Sherrod.  Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide.  Austin: University of Texas Press, 1984.

Object: Handbill

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I-0398d
Handbill
Womans Pavilion for HemisFair 1968
American
ca. 1968
Materials: Paper/Ink

This is a brochure from the Woman’s Pavilion for HemisFair ’68 requesting donations. Sister Mary Corita of the Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles, California designed the cover. The cover features the words, “The joyous responsibility of being a woman and as a woman responsible for joy.” The inside of the pamphlet has a quote attributed to Carl Sandburg “There is only one woman in the world, and her name is All Woman.”

Mrs. Winfield S. Hamlin (left), president of the Women's Pavilion at HemisFair

Mrs. Winfield S. Hamlin (left), president of the Women’s Pavilion at HemisFair

The President and Principal Executive Officer/Protocol Officer of the group behind the construction of the Woman’s Pavilion was Vivian Johnson Hamlin Terrett, also known as Mrs. Winfield S. Hamlin. Her responsibilities included supervising all the meetings and directing the activities of the staff involved. The purpose of the pavilion was to exhibit the contributions of women to society from all over the world. In January of 1967 Nellie B. Connally sponsored a luncheon at the La Paloma del Rio Restaurant in San Antonio which two hundred women attended to lend their support. Fay Sinkin, the president of the League of Women Voters, hosted the first coffee party benefiting the effort. Membership included up to 12,000 women from all over the world. The Woman’s Pavilion was the only one at the HemisFair built from the contributions of individuals. The architect, Cyrus Wagner, and Margaret Lynn Batts Tobin worked together to design the building. It featured 12,000 square feet of space meant to be used after the HemisFair ended. The building included a recording studio and a wall made of clay tiles with the hand prints of its founders.

After the charter obtained funding, Lady Bird Johnson participated in the dedication of the pavilion. Admission to the Woman’s Pavilion during Hemisfair was $1 for adults and 50¢ for children. Jewelry by Jeweler Irena Brynner, a sculpture called “Madre y Nino” by Bolivian Sculptor Marina Nunez del Prado, and artwork by Magazine Photographer Maria Martel were exhibited at the pavilion. During HemisFair, women volunteers staffed the pavilion.

An aerial view of the model for the Women’s Pavilion circa 1968

An aerial view of the model for the Women’s Pavilion circa 1968

After HemisFair ended, the intention was to make the building the home of the Inter-American Institute. The Institute would focus its research on different cultures, hosting seminars and housing a library that would include major works from different cultures. However, after HemisFair, the building reverted to the city of San Antonio and then was deeded to the University of Texas at San Antonio.  Eventually, the building fell into disuse and ended up as a storage warehouse for UTSA. The land was finally returned to the city and efforts to restore the building began. The Executive Director of the original project, Sherry Kafka Wagner, is now the President of the Women’s Pavilion board. The Women’s Pavilion board hopes to restore the building for future public events and women-focused exhibits, renamed as the San Antonio Women’s Pavilion at HemisFair Park. Currently, the city is working to revive the Hemisfair Park Area and provide the public with homes, businesses, and cultural spaces in the heart of San Antonio. [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Crowder, Richard. Carl Sandburg. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1964.

Holmsely, Sterlin. Hemisfair ’68 and the Transformation of San Antonio. San Antonio: Maverick, 2003.

Stuhler, Barbara. For the Public Record: A Documentary History of the League of Women Voters. Westport: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Women’s Pavilion at HemisFair Park, Inc. Women’s Pavilion at HemisFair Park, Inc, 2008. Web.

Object: Magazine

I-0569i (2)
I-0569i
Magazine
“The Saturday Evening Post”
American
March 1911
Materials: Paper/Ink

This object is an issue of “The Saturday Evening Post” from March 1911. The cover features the illustration of a woman wearing a broad brim hat, a white blouse, and holding a pink chain purse. She is checking her makeup in the mirror.  The featured article included with the illustration is “The Sin of Homeliness, the Duty of Every Woman to Be Well Dressed” by Dr. Woods Hutchinson. In the article, Dr. Hutchinson says that “beauty is the outward visible sign” of health. The article stresses the importance of attire to the appearance of a woman’s beauty. This includes buying the highest quality clothing that can be afforded.

Bianca Lyons in a dress, circa 1902

Bianca Lyons in a dress, circa 1902

The general public used to look negatively at women of the lower class who wore clothing similar to upper class women. They were viewed with distrust and judgment. The best fashions were only associated with the rich. The lower class was expected to buy clothing for its function and not its fashion. Women were made to feel embarrassed of their desire to imitate the look of wealth. In the case of women who lived in rural areas, women were made to fear fashion as a threat to their financial security. A writer from the Ladies Home Journal suggested that men could trace the source of their poverty to the expensive clothing and jewelry they gave to their female family members. However, more and more magazines were encouraging female readers to purchase upper class fashions. Popular magazines had increased in circulation from around 18 million in 1890 to 64 million in 1905. Articles similar to the one Dr. Woods wrote, which encouraged women to purchase up and coming expensive fashions, increased. The Ladies’ Home Journal emphasized the value of clothing when the editorial staff congratulated women for dressing well in 1923.

In reaction to a growing demand for cheaper fashions, programs started to develop around the country delivering advice to women on how to dress stylish inexpensively. The Cornell Extension Program offered presentations, the most popular of which was “The Well Dressed Woman” in 1924. Up to 4,597 rural women were known to attend these programs. Because some women sewed their own clothes at home, in 1863 the Butterick Publishing Company started to sell sewing patterns modeled after the popular styles of the time.

Patent US1313496” detailing the back of the “Deltor” Butterick pattern for an evening dress, from August 19, 1919 via Wikimedia Commons

Patent US1313496” detailing the back of the “Deltor” Butterick pattern for an evening dress, from August 19, 1919 via Wikimedia Commons

As serious shoppers, women helped to increase consumerism in the twentieth century.  The upper class were always changing their style in order to separate themselves from the lower classes that were copying them. Because of the constant changes, the demand for accessible fashion increased, stimulating production. Advances in technology allowed for the creation of the assembly line . As technology grew, so too did storefronts.  Between 1886 and 1912, the recorded number of chain stores increased from two chains with five stores total to 177 chains with 2,235 stores. The department store also increased in popularity. The department store embodied elements of smaller stores, offering multiple products to their customers. The first department store was opened in New York City in September 1848 called The Marble Palace, also known as A.T. Stewart Dry Goods Store. In 1877, R.H. Macy & Co in New York occupied 11 buildings. By 1924, it relocated to Herald Square and occupied more than 1 million square feet of space.

A.T. Stewart’s Retail Store, Broadway and 10th Street” circa 1860-1905, via Wikimedia Commons

A.T. Stewart’s Retail Store, Broadway and 10th Street” circa 1860-1905, via Wikimedia Commons

Some scholars suggest that the response to women’s consumer needs led to a growth in mass manufacturing and led to the consumer society we live in today. [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]

Additional Resources:

Carter, Ernestine and Diana Vreeland. The Changing World of Fashion: 1900 to the Present. New York: Putnam, 1977.

Damon-Moore, Helen. Magazines for the Millions: Gender and Commerce in the Ladies’ Home Journal and the Saturday Evening Post, 1880-1910. Albandy: State University of New York Press, 1994.

Mower, Ralph M. History of Macy’s of New York, 1858-1919: Chapters in the Evolution of the Department Store. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1943.

Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. World Clothing and Fashion: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Social Influence. Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, Inc, 2014.

Schoonover Farm Blog

This is the blog for our little farm in Skagit county. Here we raise Shetland sheep, Nigerian Dwarf goats, and Satin Angora rabbits. In addition we have donkeys, llamas, cattle, pigs, chickens, geese, ducks, peafowl and pheasants. The blog describes the weekly activities here.

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Exploring the digital humanities

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experimenting with social microexhibitions since 2007

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