Margaret Perry's review of Women in Pants
provides an interesting overview of those women (in the Western world) who chose to wore pants in the 19th and early 20th centuries
when the standard gender norm dictated dresses for girls and women. R.S. Fleming has a great collection of Victorian women-in-pants images
, particularly in non-American military garb. See also: Welsh pit miners
, women fighting in the US Civil War
(and support-staff), this cattle thief/gunfighter
, some cowgirls
, and Dr. Mary Walker
- here she is in more traditionally masculine dress
(second picture). In France, the artist Rosa Bonheur had to get permission from the police
to wear pants (picture
) while sketching in public (her license
), while adventurer/archaeologist Jane Dieulafoy
got a lifetime exemption to wear pants from France.
The Bloomer - a style Elizabeth Smith Miller
introduced to the U. S. after a trip to Europe and Amelia Bloomer publicized (and primarily worn by a small number of middle and upper-class women) inspired scorn, taunting, mockery, and disapprobation and a constant negative focus from the press. Women who wore pants - especially more pants that were closer fitting - could be accused of fraud for impersonating a man or assumed to be prostitutes; they could be charged for being unwomanly or indecent or morally corrupt. In the 1850s, Emma Snodgrass
was arrested over and over again all across the USA. In 1866, a California woman arrested in pants was released by a judge for not actually breaking any law
. Similarly, in 1910, the Kansas Attorney General ruled it wasn't against the law for women to wear pants
if they were the head of the household. In 1923, a 14 year old WV girl was arrested
for wearing pants; that arrest led to a change in local law. In 1943, a Chicago woman was picked up for violating a 90 year old law against non-gender-conforming dress
- a law which was modified slightly in the wake of the outrage against her arrest but didn't stop the arrests; in this case, the judge still sent the woman to a psychiatrist because she just wasn't feminine enough to get away with wearing pants.
The stigma of women in pants in western cultures has never gone completely away, even if it has diminished with time. In 1969, some NYC restaurants were still banning women in pants
. Some big hotels
wanted women in pants to leave via the kitchen if they must wear pants. In this latter case, the hotelier had to be informed that the woman he wanted to send out the back way was the First Lady of the United States. Just this year, a girl was booted from her prom
because she wore pants.
Change comes slowly: In the 1990s, U.S. Senate rules were changed
to allow women in pants onto the Senate Floor. In 2010, Wonder Woman got to wear pants
. In 2012, female Canadian Mounties were finally given permission
to wear pants to formal RMCP events. In 2013, Paris revoked a 200 year old law (however unenforced) preventing women from wearing pants in the city
(in 1902, an exception was made for bike and horse riders). Even today, the web is littered with arguments from a variety of American religious traditions that women wearing pants is unChristian and Should Not Be Done.
Previously on MetaFilter:
Not All Our Foremothers Wore Taffeta and Lace
, last week's pants and history FPP