Amelia Jenks Bloomer

Amelia Jenks Bloomer

Bloomer, Amelia Jenks, 1818-94, American reformer, b. Homer, N.Y. She was editor (1848-54) of the Lily, first published in Seneca Falls, N.Y., and devoted to women's rights and to temperance. In 1851 she recommended and adopted the reformed dress of short skirt and full trousers introduced by Elizabeth Smith Miller. Because she advertised it in the Lily and wore it in her lecture work, it became universally known as the Bloomer costume, or bloomers.

See biography by her husband, D. C. Bloomer (1895); C. N. Gattey, The Bloomer Girls (1968).

Amelia Jenks Bloomer (May 27, 1818December 30, 1894) was an American women's rights and temperance advocate. She created the "Loose Bloomer" for women's comfort.

Bloomer came from a family of modest means and received only a few years of formal schooling. When she was 22, she married attorney Dexter Bloomer who encouraged her to write for his New York newspaper, the Seneca Falls County Courier.

She spent her early years in Cortland County, New York. Bloomer and her family moved to Iowa in 1852. She died at Council Bluffs, Iowa. 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, the date of Stanton's death.

Social activism

In 1848, Bloomer attended the Woman's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls. In 1849, Bloomer began publishing her views on temperance and social issues in her own bi-weekly publication, The Lily. While the newspaper initially focused on temperance, Bloomer came under the influence of temperance activist and suffragette Elizabeth Cady Stanton who contributed articles on the broader issues of women's rights. The newspaper contained a broad mix of contents ranging from recipes to moralist tracts, including topics such as marriage law reform and higher education for women. In publication through 1853, The Lily eventually had a circulation of over 4,000. This newspaper is believed to have been a model for later periodicals focused on women's suffrage.

Bloomer, describing her feelings as the first woman to own, operate and edit a news vehicle for women, wrote:

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.

Bloomer remained a suffrage pioneer and writer throughout her life, writing for a wide array of periodicals. She led suffrage campaigns in Nebraska and Iowa, and served as president of the Iowa Woman Suffrage Association from 1871 until 1873.

Although Bloomer’s work was far less renowned than her contemporaries were, she made many significant contributions to the women’s movement — her ideas of dress reform and her work in the temperance movement were notable. Moreover, The Lily was a voice for many women reformers such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. It spoke on many issues such as dress reform and the need for enfranchisement for women.


  • 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.

See also

External links

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