Bad Girls, Smoking And Duels And Bloomers, Oh My!

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JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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duel smoking woman.jpg

' Bad ', not what you're thinking. For her era she's just behaving weirdly.

She's from the ' first ' dress reform movement. There were two, one slightly before the one we see practiced during the war. Movement one adhered more to traditional notions of ' pretty '. The other really did not. Smoking was yet another flaming brick thrown at convention. We showed them huh? Girls can smell awful and die of lung disease too.
dress reform dr cox lg.jpg

" Dr. Cox ". Even Dr. Mary Walker took another decade to adopt Dr. Cox's extremely plain garb. Dr. Mary hovered awhile before donning her top hat and cane.

female dress reform.JPG

From an extremely long article on an 1864 ' convention ' in NYC. Women on both sides of the dress reform movement showed up by the gazillion to hash out what was at the time a huge, big deal.

female astride.JPG


There's a fair amount of snark over women riding astride- in wasn't for another 30 years plus you could do it without being consider a loosey goosey bad girl careless of reputation. Remember Marie Antoinette setting the whole world on fire, riding astride? She may look elegant here in an obviously commissioned painting- cartoons of the era lampooned Marie. They're pretty er, earthy in content so won't post them.

marie antoinette astride.jpg


All were considered outrageous. Note the smoking- it was also a ' thing ', an outrageous ' thing '.

You know those books on etiquette, manners and ' polite usages of society '? I get smitten by them and they are charming. One passed down to me is another Bliss and Peck publication from the 1860's, " A Lady's Companion ". It's awesome except for the chapter all about dealing with ' the help '.The thing is, in 2019 it seems pretty normal to behave outside what anyone could call a social code. Heck, it's unclear whether there are any. Good and bad there. On one hand it's less likely to someone would be ostracized on the other I don't think being nice to each other ever killed anyone.
We formerly enjoyed a societal insistence on ' nice ', today it's some archaic practice.

Speaking of kill anyone. We dueled sometimes. The whole female dueling thing quickly became genuinely salacious however. Get this. Dueling matches between women were held to great fanfare ( by men ) as women stripped to the waist. So a side show. Typical. There are a good amount of stories about women dueling, I see none where one of us was killed. IMO, it may not have been through poor marksmanship. Women seem to have been mostly adverse to killing each other.

Still, living inside what amounted to narrow confines dictated by societal expectations meant those who stepped over the line were considered outrageous. I have a feeling one's social status provided some buffer. You could be wealthy and considered eccentric instead of a bad girl. I make no excuses for the word ' girl '. While some social norms have been pretty well slain others have been erected- got scolded by referring to us as girls just last week. Oh well.

Some of our smoking bloomer girls lampooned. What you have to love is how frequently ' bad ' women were portrayed as unattractive toboot. It was alllll the time.
female bloomers smoking.jpg


It's pretty fun seeing what scandalized society enough to end up small headlines ( and not so small ). It took another 60 or so years post war to be able to vote, heck, my grandmothers were among the first generation to vote. That isn't that long ago. As always, progress has meant a lot of things to us. Good and er, bad.

female duel 1863.JPG
 
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JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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If you want to have some fun, look at old teacher contracts. They could not smoke, have a gentleman caller, don’t know what else. Quite stringent, and that was in the 20’s. No wonder women lopped off their hair and donned fashions that hid their feminine figure!

You'd probably know this, having spent years immersed in living history. Did I read somewhere the same kind of thing was the case for female nurses during the ACW? I've read a few accounts that seem to hint at it, if not a contract some conditions imposed on them contingent on how they behaved? I know Sophronia became snippy with a doc and just for that was relieved from duty at one hospital.
 
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Mrs. V

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You'd probably know this, having spent years immersed in living history. Did I read somewhere the same kind of thing was the case for female nurses during the ACW? I've read a few accounts that seem to hint at it, if not a contract some conditions imposed on them contingent on how they behaved? I know Sophronia became snippy with a doc and just for that was relieved from duty at one hospital.
Yup, adverts called for “matronly women, plain of face, no curls and minimal adornment”. I tell my classes I’ve got the matronly part down!
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Joined
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19,167
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Central Pennsylvania
Yup, adverts called for “matronly women, plain of face, no curls and minimal adornment”. I tell my classes I’ve got the matronly part down!

I forget the reasoning behind this- either the wounded men would be distracted ( from healing? :giggle: ) or the nurses from duties? The whole thing didn't work anyway- there's account after account where romance bloomed.

It had to have discouraged women from considering doing the job. " Yes indeed , you're hired! "came with a general agreement you'd be unattractive enough. Ouch. A female wouldn't have to be vain to have some convoluted feelings about it.
 
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