Born this day in 1827: Lydia Sayer Hasbrouk (1827–1910), writer, feminist, and proponent of dress reform
Lydia Sayer was born in 1827 in Warwick, New York. In 1849 he began wearing what later became known as “bloomers”—a knee-length skirt paired with a pair of pantaloons (or “Turkish trousers”). She wore them for practical reasons, but when her style of dress kept her from being admitted to the Seward Seminary (Florida, New York), she began wearing them as a matter of principle as well.
In 1856 she began editing The Sibyl: A Review of the Tastes, Errors and Fashions of Society, a feminist periodical established by her future husband, John Whitbeck Hasbrouck, editor of the Whig Press (Middletown, New York). She married John that same year. The couple had three children.
Hasbrouck opposed slavery and embraced many feminist causes. She was a proponent of medical training and education for women. She believed in property rights for women, equal pay, and suffrage—even refusing to pay taxes on the grounds that she could not vote for representation. The cause she most championed in The Sibyl, however, was dress reform. She was also president of the National Dress Reform Association, 1863–1864. Many other feminists, including Amelia Bloomer, whose name is inextricably linked with the trousers (she vigorously defended them, though did not invent them), gave up the cause of dress reform: the outfits engendered so much ridicule that they distracted the public from the more urgent needs of women’s movement.
For a description of the layers and layers of skirting and undergarments women typically wore in the mid-19th century, go here. This hoop frame is the least of it!
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