Tag Archives: sheetmusic

Your Bloomers Are Showing

Cover of "The Bloomer's Complaint," 1851.

According to an informal and completely unscientific survey, five out of the eight women who work in the RBMSCL’s reading room are wearing pants today. This might not be the case were it not for the efforts of Amelia Bloomer, early feminist and fashion pioneer, who celebrates her 192nd birthday today.

To honor Amelia, we quote from a 6 August 1851 letter from University of North Carolina chemistry professor Benjamin Sherwood Hedrick to his future wife, Mary Ellen Thompson (from our Benjamin Sherwood Hedrick Papers).

Remarking on current cultural matters from his position at the Nautical Almanac in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he writes:

There is something said every day or two about ‘Bloomers.’ I have seen several of them and like them. The young ladies have changed the fashion of putting up their hair, combing it up and back, something like what is vulgarly called a ‘cow-lick.’ I do not like it.

Professor Hedrick’s progressive opinion on the bloomer suit was not widely shared. Witness the chorus of “The Bloomer’s Complaint,” a charming song also from 1851:

I’ll come out next week, with a wide Bloomer flat
Of a shape that I fancy will fright them,
I had not intended to go quite to that,
But I’ll do it now, only to spite them—
With my pants “a la Turque,”
And my skirts two feet long
All fitting of course, most completely
These grumblers shall own after all, they are wrong,
And that I, in a Bloomer, look sweetly,
And that I, in a Bloomer, look sweetly.

Thanks to Mitch Fraas, RBMSCL Research Services intern, for suggesting this post.

For Mom

On this special day, we’re sharing this cover from the sheet music from 1915 song (words by Edward Morton and James S. Donahue and music by Newton B. Heims). We love the sweet chorus:

Just write her a nice little letter,
Tell her you hope she is well,
Send her some little remembrance,
Something to make her heart swell,
Pet her and call her your sweetheart,
Cheer her and make her feel gay,
Don’t say a word that will grieve her,
Let this be your Mother’s Day.

Of course, we can’t write about mothers without mentioning one of the beloved treasures of the RBMSCL: enslaved woman Vilet Lester’s 1857 letter to her former mistress (from the Joseph Allred Papers). Vilet asks about her precious daughter, whom she had to leave behind when she was sold (ultimately) to a Georgian family. Each time we read it, our eyes get teary and our hearts break all over again.

Happy Mother’s Day, Vilet. Happy Mother’s Day to moms everywhere!