May 27, 1818
Homer, New York, United States
|Died||December 30, 1894 (aged 76)|
Council Bluffs, Iowa, United States
|Occupation||Women's rights and temperance advocate|
|Known for||Publicizing the idea of women wearing pants|
Amelia Jenks Bloomer (May 27, 1818 – December 30, 1894) was an American women's rights and temperance advocate. Even though she did not create the women's clothing reform style known as bloomers, her name became associated with it because of her early and strong advocacy. In her work with The Lily, she became the first woman to own, operate and edit a newspaper for women.
Amelia Jenks was born in 1818 in Homer, New York, to Ananias Jenks and Lucy (Webb) Jenks. She came from a family of modest means and received only a few years of formal education in the local district school.
After a brief time as a school teacher at the age of 17, she decided to relocate, and moved in with her newly married sister Elvira, then living in Waterloo. Within a year she had moved into the home of the Oren Chamberlain family in Seneca Falls to act as the live-in governess for their three youngest children.
On April 15, 1840, when she was 22, she married law student Dexter Bloomer who encouraged her to write for his New York newspaper, the Seneca Falls County Courier. Bloomer supported her activism; he even gave up drinking as part of the Temperance Movement.
In 1848, Bloomer attended the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women's rights convention, though she did not sign the Declaration of Sentiments and subsequent resolutions, due to her deep connection with the Episcopal Church. This meeting would serve as her inspiration to start her newspaper.
The following year, she began editing the first newspaper by and for women, The Lily. Published biweekly from 1849 until 1853, the newspaper began as a temperance journal, but came to have a broad mix of contents ranging from recipes to moralist tracts, particularly when under the influence of suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Bloomer felt that because women lecturers were considered unseemly, writing was the best way for women to work for reform. Originally, The Lily was to be for “home distribution” among members of the Seneca Falls Ladies Temperance Society, which had formed in 1848, and eventually had a circulation of over 4,000. The paper encountered several obstacles early on, and the Society's enthusiasm died out. Bloomer felt a commitment to publish and assumed full responsibility for editing and publishing the paper. Originally, the title page had the legend “Published by a committee of ladies.” But after 1850 – only Bloomer's name appeared on the masthead. This newspaper was a model for later periodicals focused on women's suffrage.
Bloomer described her experience as the first woman to own, operate and edit a news vehicle for women:
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.
In her publication, Bloomer promoted a change in dress standards for women that would be less restrictive in regular activities.
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.
In 1851, New England temperance activist Elizabeth Smith Miller (aka Libby Miller) adopted what she considered a more rational costume: loose trousers gathered at the ankles, like women's trousers worn in the Middle East and Central Asia, topped by a short dress or skirt and vest. The costume was worn publicly by actress Fanny Kemble. Miller displayed her new clothing to Stanton, her cousin, who found it sensible and becoming, and adopted it immediately. In this garb Stanton visited Bloomer, who began to wear the costume and promote it enthusiastically in her magazine. Articles on the clothing trend were picked up in The New York Tribune. More women wore the fashion which was promptly dubbed The Bloomer Costume or "Bloomers". However, the Bloomers were subjected to ceaseless ridicule in the press and harassment on the street. Bloomer herself dropped the fashion in 1859, saying that a new invention, the crinoline, was a sufficient reform that she could return to conventional dress.
In 1854, when Bloomer and her husband decided to move to Council Bluffs, Iowa, Bloomer sold The Lily to Mary Birdsall in Richmond, Indiana. Birdsall and Dr. Mary F. Thomas kept the publication going at least through 1859.
Bloomer remained a suffrage pioneer and writer throughout her life, writing for a wide array of periodicals. Although Bloomer was far less famous than some other feminists, she made many significant contributions to the women's movement — particularly concerning dress reform. Bloomer also led suffrage campaigns in Nebraska and Iowa and served as president of the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association from 1871 until 1873.
Death and burial
She is commemorated together with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Ross Tubman in the calendar of saints of the Episcopal Church on July 20. In 1975 she was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame. In 1980 her home at Seneca Falls, New York, known as the Amelia Bloomer House, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1995 she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. In 1999 a sculpture by Ted Aub was unveiled commemorating when on May 12, 1851, Bloomer introduced Susan B. Anthony to Elizabeth Cady Stanton. This sculpture, called "When Anthony Met Stanton", consists of the three women depicted as life-size bronze statues, and is placed overlooking Van Cleef Lake in Seneca Falls, New York, where the introduction occurred. Since 2002, the American Library Association has produced an annual Amelia Bloomer List of recently published books with significant feminist content for younger readers.
- D. C. Bloomer (1895). Life And Writings Of Amelia Bloomer. Universal Digital Library. Arena Publishing Company.
- Weber, Sandra S., "Special History Sturdy", Women's Rights National Historic Park, Seneca Falls, New York, US Department of the Interior, National Park Service, September 1985
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
- Women's Rights National Historic Park
- "Elizabeth Smith Miller". New York History Net. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
- "Aub Discusses Commemorative Sculpture - Hobart and William Smith Colleges". .hws.edu. 2013-07-17. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
- "Susan Campbell: We Lost This Time, But Women Push Back - Hartford Courant". Courant.com. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
- Beach, Eloise (2 Aug 1976). "Richmond Once Was Site for Paper Published by Amelia Bloomer". Palladium-Item. Richmond, IN. p. 9.
- Editors, The (1945-10-24). "Amelia Bloomer | American social reformer". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2017-11-02.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- City Clerk. "Cemeteries | Council Bluffs, IA - Official Website". Councilbluffs-ia.gov. Retrieved 2017-11-02.
- "1975 Iowa Women's Hall of Fame Honoree: Amelia Jenks Bloomer (1818-1894)". Retrieved 2017-10-28.
- "Congressional Record | Congress.gov | Library of Congress". Congress.gov. 1995-09-15. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
- "Bloomer, Amelia - National Women's Hall of Fame". Womenofthehall.org. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
- "The Freethought Trail". The Freethought Trail. Retrieved 2017-10-28.
- Bloomer, Dexter C. Life and Writings of Amelia Bloomer. Boston: Arena Pub. Co., 1895. Reprinted 1975 by Schocken Books, New York. Includes bibliographical references.
- Coon, Anne C. Hear Me Patiently: The Reform Speeches of Amelia Jenks Bloomer, Vol. 138. Greenwood Publishing Group, Inc., 1994.
- Smith, Stephanie, Household Words: Bloomers, sucker, bombshell, scab, cyber (2006) -- material on changing usage of words.
- The Lily: A Ladies' Journal, devoted to Temperance and Literature. 1849.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Bloomer, Amelia Jenks.|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Amelia Bloomer.|
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- Biography/Pottawattamie County, Iowa
- "Amelia Jenks Bloomer". Women's rights activist, social reformer. Find a Grave. Jan 1, 2001. Retrieved Aug 17, 2011.
- Norwood, Arlisha. "Amelia Bloomer". National Women's History Museum. 2017.
- BBC video article on Amelia Jenks Bloomer, 4 July 2019