Profiles of Courage and Persistence: Amelia Jenks Bloomer

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tags: suffrage, womens history

Amelia Jenks Bloomer was a prolific writer, speaker, and activist who recognized the power of her pen to initiate social change. Amelia wrote to newspapers across the country to denounce slavery and promote equality for women in education, employment, and property rights. In 1848, Amelia attended the first public Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y. That same year she helped organize the first Ladies’ Temperance Society and created a newspaper for women.

Amelia Bloomer became the sole owner, editor, publisher of The Lily for the next five years, molding it into one of the most influential publications dealing with women’s issues in the early 19th century. The paper evolved to include Amelia’s writings and articles by Elizabeth Cady Stanton as well as other women’s rights advocates. By 1850, The Lily had more than 6,000 subscribers throughout the East and Midwest. Amelia’s paper provided an open forum where women could express themselves and share their views; this freedom of expression was not offered by other papers. The Lily allowed early women’s rights supporters to publicize their principles, educate readers about inequities, and encourage social reform; it was a model for other suffrage periodicals, providing leaders and followers with a sense of community and continuity through the years of campaigns for the right to vote.

In 1849, Amelia Bloomer was appointed assistant/deputy postmaster of Seneca Falls, becoming the first U.S. woman to hold such a position. Amelia later described her experience as a practical demonstration of a “woman’s right to fill any place for which she had a capacity.” In 1851, Amelia introduced Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Susan B. Anthony; Anthony & Stanton would soon lead the campaign for women’s voting rights. About that same time, Amelia and other activists began wearing Turkish trousers while traveling and giving speeches, stating it was more comfortable and better adapted to the active life women were leading. Although she did not create the costume, Amelia’s name has been forever associated with it and women’s dress reform. In 1853, Amelia and her husband hired a female typesetter to work at their offices in Ohio; however, the male typesetters refused to work with a woman. Several men quit and Amelia promptly hired more female typesetters to fill their jobs.

Read entire article at The Courier (Waterloo, IA)

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