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Amelia Jenks Bloomer

May 20, 2012
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

When Amelia Jenks married Dexter Bloomer, she had the word "obey" struck from her marriage vows. Dexter was a Quaker with progressive views, so he had no problems with the omission. Today that action would barely be noticed, but that was in 1840, and in 1840 only a rebellious woman would require such a restriction. Amelia's husband Dexter, edited a newspaper and he better than anybody understood his 22 year old bride's determination. As it was, Dexter's editorials denouncing slavery were his stock in trade.

A few years after they were married, Amelia became the editor of Lily a nationally known and circulated newspaper. Its mission was as bold as its editor, stating it would fight for the emancipation of women from intemperance, injustice, and bigotry.

In Lily, Bloom championed dress reform. She advocated Turkish style pantaloons, and for many years wore a costume consisting of a jacket, a shirt, and the garment that bore her name, "bloomers." By the late 1800's bloomers became the preferred dress of women bicyclists, however feminists moved away from them, believing the costume turned attention away from more important issues.

In 1855 Amelia and Dexter moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa. She continued to edit Lily for a while, but then stopped publication and continued writing on social and political topics, and lectured on temperance, unjust marriage laws and women's rights. She's credited with helping get women the right to vote in 1873.

During the Civil War she organized the Soldiers Aid Society at Council Bluffs and by 1865, working with Annie Wittenmeyer, she coordinated statewide contributions to the U.S. Sanitary Commission.

After the war she became interested in the Iowa woman Suffrage Society, which she became president of in 1871.

Bloomer died at Council Bluffs on December 30, 1894. Until her death, the woman who lent her name to one of the most famous items of apparel continued a defense of her ideals, both in print and by lecture.

 
 

 

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