Editor's note: A pair of pants causes a stir in society's attitude toward women.
Amelia Bloomer was not a proper lady. In fact, Amelia Bloomer thought proper ladies were silly. She thought it was silly that proper ladies were not allowed to vote. So she tried to change the laws so that they could.
"Good grief," people said.
Amelia Bloomer thought it was silly that proper ladies were not supposed to work. So she started her own newspaper and went to work on that. She named the newspaper THE LILY. It was a special newspaper all about women. She hired other women to work on it, too.
"A shame," people said.
But the silliest thing of all, thought Amelia Bloomer, was the way proper ladies were supposed to dress. Their dresses were so heavy, wearing them was like carting around ... a dozen bricks! What was proper about that?
Their dresses were so long that proper ladies looked like walking broomsticks. They acted like broomsticks, too, because their skirts swept up all the mud and trash from the street. What was proper about that?
The corsets they wore underneath their dresses were so tight it was hard to breathe in them. Proper ladies were fainting at the drop of a hat. What was proper about that?
And the hoops they wore beneath their dresses were so wide that no matter how they squeezed, no matter how they squished and squashed and stuffed themselves through, proper ladies still got stuck in doorways all over town. What in the world was proper about that?
Even little girls had to wear proper dresses. So they couldn't run or jump or play.
"This has got to stop!" declared Amelia Bloomer.
Then one day, Amelia's friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton came to visit. Elizabeth brought her cousin Libby with her. Libby looked remarkable! She was even more improper than Amelia because Libby was not wearing a dress!
"Dresses," said Libby. "Bah! How silly!"
Instead of a dress, Libby was wearing something that was not too heavy and not too long and not too tight and not too wide. It looked just right.
"Brilliant!" announced Amelia.
And she went right to her sewing machine and sewed a matching outfit for herself. Then she went out for a walk.
The townspeople were aghast.
"You forgot your skirt, Amelia Bloomer!" called a little boy.
"Shocking!" everyone said.
But Amelia didn't care one bit. She thought the new clothes were wonderful! She ran and jumped and twirled ... and did all the things she had always wanted to do.
Amelia had such a good time that she wanted other women to know about the new clothes, too. So when she got home, she wrote about them in THE LILY.
"Marvelous!" said a lady from Boston.
"I declare!" said a lady from Charleston.
"Where can I get one?" asked a lady from Baltimore.
Pretty soon Amelia had letters from women everywhere. They all wanted patterns so they could make the new clothes themselves. Some of them even wanted tips on what to wear with the new style.
Some people called the new style of clothes the American Costume. Most people just called them Bloomers. Of course, not everyone liked Bloomers.
"Hmmph," said one very proper gentleman.
"Balderdash," said another.
"This can only lead to more rights for women," grumbled a third.
Over time, Bloomers went out of style. Proper ladies and gentlemen everywhere breathed a sigh of relief.
"Thank goodness," they said. "Now everyone will forget this nonsense and things can return to normal."
But did people really forget all about Amelia Bloomer and her improper ideas?
Well ... what do you think?
From YOU FORGOT YOUR SKIRT, AMELIA BLOOMER by Shana Corey, illustrated by Chesley McLaren. Published by Scholastic Press, a division of Scholastic Inc. Text copyright c 2000 by Shana Corey, illustrations copyright c 2000 by Chesley McLaren. Used by permission.