Amelia Bloomer

Amelia Bloomer

Amelia Jenks was born in Homer, New York, on 27th May, 1818. She only received two years of formal schooling and at the age of 22 married the lawyer Dexter Bloomer. He was a Quaker with progressive views and encouraged Amelia to write for his newspaper, the Seneca Falls County Courier. Over the next few years she wrote articles in favour for prohibition and women's rights.

In 1848 Bloomer attended the Woman's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls but she did not sign the Declaration of Sentiments. Over the next few years she met Susan Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

With the encouragement of her feminist friends, Bloomer started her own bi-weekly newspaper, The Lily. Bloomer used the journal to promote the causes of woman's suffrage, temperance, marriage law reform and higher education for women.

The Lily was a great success and quickly built a circulation of over 4,000. In 1851 Bloomer began to publish articles concerning women's clothing. Female fashion at the time consisted of tightly laced corsets, layers of petticoats and floor-length dresses. Bloomer began to advocate the wearing of clothes that had first been worn by Fanny Wright and the women living in the socialist commune, New Harmony in the 1820s. This included loose bodices, ankle-length pantaloons and a dress cut to above the knee.

Punch Magazine (1858)
Punch Magazine (1858)

Bloomer and other campaigners for women's rights such as Susan Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton began wearing these clothes. Most feminists abandoned this type of clothing as they concluded that the ridicule it frequently elicited undermined attempts to convince people of the need for social reform. However, Bloomer, continued to wear these clothes until the late 1850s.

The Lily ceased publication after Bloomer moved to Council Buffs, Iowa in 1855. She continued to play an active role in the campaign for women's rights and as well as speaking at public meetings was president of the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association (1871-73).

Amelia Bloomer died at Council Buffs on 30th December, 1894.

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