Amelia Jenks Bloomer was born in Homer, New York, in 1818. Though she herself was only formally-educated for two years, she taught school and was thought remarkably intelligent by her peers. At age twenty-two, in 1840, she married lawyer Dexter Bloomer. By his encouragement, Amelia began writing articles in support of prohibition and women’s rights for his paper, The Seneca Falls Courier. Her interests led her to join several temperance groups and women’s rights organizations in the Seneca Falls area, even taking her to the famous Seneca Falls Convention in 1848.
In January, 1849, encouraged by women’s rights leaders such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Bloomer published the first edition of her own newspaper, The Lily, devoted entirely to women’s issues (and what she thought to be women’s issues), including suffrage, temperance, education, and fashion. Amelia’s dedication to such issues even compelled her to become part of a women’s dress reform. She became noted during her travels to give lectures for wearing billowy, full-length pants, gathered at the ankles, with a short skirt over it. Some thought her attire unbecoming of a woman, inappropriate, and simply ridiculous. Bloomer, however, even went so far as to defend her pants in The Lily; though she was not the first to wear them, her avid endorsement linked her name to the garb forever, "bloomers." Unfortunately, too, since Amelia continued wearing bloomers for so long after other feminists had abandoned them in the fear that their concerns for women would not be taken seriously, her own efforts on behalf of women were impaired.
Bloomer continued to publish The Lily in spite of waning support and even held the position of deputy postmistress in Seneca Falls. When she and her husband moved to Mt Vernon, Ohio, in 1854, she kept her newspaper, and aided him with the publication of his paper, the Western Home Visitor. The Bloomers remained in Mt Vernon for only a year, before Dexter decided to sell his paper and move to Council Bluffs, Iowa. Amelia also sold The Lily, but continued to help her husband with his work and still gave lectures and wrote for other papers. Amelia’s dedication to women’s rights lasted until her death in 1894 at Council Bluffs.
Amelia Bloomer was, of course, an exception to the nineteenth-century rule for women. She and her husband had moved from a far more progressive place than most Ohio settlers had, so when she arrived in the newly-established Mt Vernon, the ideas which she expressed in the Western Home Visitor were met not only with skepticism, but outright criticism of her, her womanhood, and even her husband for "allowing" her to write such things. The following is an excerpt from her salutatory article in the Western Home Visitor.
This article (and many more like it published in the same paper) was considered inflammatory by local readers, both men and women. Surprisingly, however, subscriptions to The Lily rose. The difference between the two papers was that the readers of The Lily expected to read such an article, and in fact, would have been disappointed with anything more timid or less honest. Her letters in The Lily sometimes even reached accusatory peaks. Bloomer was outraged at the treatment of women, but especially of wives. The following article, entitled "Golden Rules for Wives" was published in The Lily, displaying her outrage at husbands’ treatment of their wives.
After a few months in Mount Vernon, Dexter Bloomer decided to sell his paper and move westward, finally settling on Council Bluffs, Iowa. In spite of her support for equal rights for women, Amelia Bloomer followed the wishes of her husband and sold The Lily to move with him. To the modern observer, Amelia’s ability to reconcile her role as women’s rights advocate and her role as a dutiful wife, seems contradictory. Bloomer, however, considered her leaving The Lily an act of love, and not obedience. In her farewell letter, she wrote: "But the Lily, being as we conceive of secondary importance, must not stand in the way of what we believe our interest. Home and husband being dearer to us than all beside, we cannot hesitate to sacrifice all for them[.]" (Bloomer, 189)
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