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Exhibition Shall Not Be Denied: Women Fight for the Vote

Elizabeth Smith Miller (1822–1911), photographed wearing her bloomer outfit, 1851. Carrie Chapman Catt Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (011.00.00)
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Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Reminiscences, Chapter XIX, “The Bloomer Costume,” n. d. Holograph document. Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (012.00.00)
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National Dress Reform Association Constitution, ca. 1857. NAWSA Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (013.00.00)
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Dress Reform and the Bloomer Outfit

As a mother of young children and an avid gardener, suffragist Elizabeth Smith Miller began wearing a short skirt over loose trousers in the early 1850s. Her cousin Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Stanton’s neighbor Amelia Bloomer (1818–1894) copied her style. When Bloomer publicized the healthful and liberating benefits in her temperance newspaper, The Lily, the look became known as the bloomer outfit. Although Miller and Bloomer became officials in the National Dress Reform Association, Stanton stopped wearing “the shorts” publicly in 1853 for fear that negative reaction was hurting the suffrage cause.

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