Bridget Sisk

Loyola School | New York, NY | 9th

Inspirational Family Member
Amelia Bloomer

Letter to a Younger Self –

Dear 15 Year Old Amelia Bloomer,

You have so much ahead of you, so much to accomplish and experience in your lifetime. When your mother gave birth to you in Homer, NY in 1818, little did she know that her daughter, Amelia Jenks, would be one of the most influential social reformers in women’s dress in America's history. One of the most formational times in your life was the years you spent at your local public school. From there, you began working as a teacher in your late teens and then later as a live-in teacher. Then, your marriage to Dexter C. Bloomer introduced you to a world of politics and public affairs. His work as a newspaper editor and his loving support helped to launch your career as women’s rights activist.

As a powerful reformer in American History, you made your mark in women’s reforms, particularly in clothing and dress. You made powerful connections with independent women when you traveled to the Seneca Falls Convention organization with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott in 1848. This experience was so impactful that next January, you established the first woman run and edited newspaper called, “The Lily: A Ladies Journal”. This outstanding feat illustrated new ideas in women’s temperance and literature, written for women, by women. 

Your most notable accomplishment was your involvement in dress reforms. During and before your lifetime, the long and heavy dresses, expected to be worn by women, were outrageous and potentially dangerous. Several doctors claimed that these dresses could have detrimental effects on ladies, especially expectant mothers. Progressive alternatives arose including the Turkish Trousers, also known as “pantaloons”. As a now influential advocate for women’s rights, your support in these clothing items were instrumental to their success. Although you had no role in inventing “pantaloons”, your name will be awarded to this clothing item as “bloomers”. Supporters of this new fashion will be identified as ‘Bloomerites”. With aid from publicity in “The Lily”, women across America became empowered to wear the outfits they felt comfortable in. Although your successes in dress reform were no easy feat, many critics voiced their opposition. During the time period, major changes in clothing, especially by women, were seen as radical, so the brave ladies were often harassed for merely wearing what they wanted to. Eventually, you stopped wearing bloomers because you thought that instead of adding to reforms in women’s education and employment, the controversy created distracted from the underlying issues. Even though you were not able to strike change in clothing for women immediately, ladies across America would have you to thank for their freedom to wear pants. You were monumental in paving the way for other reformers who worked to make women feel free everywhere. My advice to you is to work hard in school, because education, a privilege not everyone receives, will form your character to go into the world and change things that are not just. It is your responsibility to make this world better, not only for yourself, but for generations of women to come. You may not see the outcome during your lifetime, but your dedication is a step along the way to women’s equality.

Sincerely,

Amelia Bloomer

 

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