From Ohio History Central
Amelia Bloomer before 1900
Amelia Jenks Bloomer was a prominent women's rights advocate during the nineteenth century.
Amelia Jenks was born in May 1818, in Homer, New York. She attended school and eventually became a schoolteacher. On April 13, 1840, she married Dexter Bloomer, an attorney. He also edited a newspaper in Seneca Falls, New York, and Amelia wrote articles for this publication, especially articles concerning temperance and women's rights. In 1848, Bloomer attended the first women's rights convention in the United States, which was held in Seneca Falls. The next year, she began to publish the Lily, a newspaper dedicated to gaining women suffrage and equal economic and educational opportunities as men. It also encouraged temperance. The paper eventually had more than four thousand subscribers. In 1851, Bloomer began to give public lectures in support of her causes.
In 1851, Amelia Bloomer began to wear a style of clothing that would become known as bloomers, after Amelia. Bloomers consisted of a loose-fitting blouse, a knee-length skirt, and baggy pants. Women during this time period were expected to have a figure that resembled the number eight. Most women had to strap themselves into tight-fitting corsets to attain this figure. These corsets sometimes caused health problems and could even lead to physical deformities. On top of the corsets, women were to wear several layers of clothing, including petticoats and dresses. Men expected respectable women to wear this clothing at all times of year. In the summer heat, the attire could be intolerably hot. It also made women's household duties difficult to perform. As a result, Amelia Bloomer actively encouraged women to forsake this style of dress for the cooler outfit that still bears her name. By 1860, Bloomer stopped wearing bloomers. Women's clothing had changed. Corsets were less popular and cooler hoopskirts had emerged as the preferred style of dress. New and cooler fabrics also began to appear, making women's and men's clothing much more conducive to summer weather. Bloomer found the new style of women's clothing more comfortable and reasonable to wear. She may also have begun wearing more accepted clothing to men to draw attention away from the clothing she wore to the issues about which she wrote and lectured, especially suffrage for women and temperance.
In 1854, the Bloomers moved to Mount Vernon, Ohio. Amelia continued to publish the Lily for another year after moving to Ohio. She also gave speeches across the Midwest, including in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Louis. In 1855, the family moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where Amelia resided for the remainder of her life. She continued to fight for women's rights. She served as the first president of the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association from 1871 to 1873. A member of the Episcopal Church, she fought not only for the rights of women but also assisted poverty-stricken people through various charitable causes. She died in December 1894.