One of the most colorful and controversial persons with a Knox County connection was Amelia Bloomer. The connection between an article of women's clothing and Amelia's last name is obvious, but the real interest is the person herself. Amelia Jenks was born in Homer, New York, in 1818, the daughter of Ananias and Lucy Jenks. The family moved to Seneca Falls, New York, where Amelia was educated in the common schools. At age 17 she taught school and did private tutoring. She married Dexter C. Bloomer, a lawyer, in 1840. Mr. Bloomer was a Quaker with controversial ideas about social reforms. He also published a newspaper, the Seneca Falls County Courier, for which Amelia wrote articles about slavery, temperance and women's rights.
Dexter and Amelia apparently were much in agreement regarding social issues. In 1849 Amelia began the publication of The Lily, a periodical devoted primarily to issues of temperance and women's rights. Susan B. Anthony contributed articles and Elizabeth Stanton had a regular column, writing as "Sunflower." The Lily had a circulation of about 6000 in 1850.
One of the issues addressed about this time was the matter of women's clothing. Amelia and some of the other reformers began wearing pantaloons covered by a short skirt. Amelia wore this regalia as she went about making speeches. Many came to see her, but stayed to listen. "Bloomers" became a social issue.
In 1853 Dexter and Amelia Bloomer decided to "go west." On the way they stopped in Ohio and they chose to settle in Mount Vernon after looking over several other communities. Here for just over one year, Amelia continued to publish The Lily at her offices, located in the Kremlin building on the public square. The Bloomers were also involved with The Western Home Journal, a literary magazine that was being published in Mount Vernon at that time. In 1855 Amelia sold The Lily and the Bloomers moved to on Iowa.
There are many stories about Amelia Bloomer and Mount Vernon during 1854. There was the matter of her employment of women and the male employees going on strike. There was a lively interchange between The Lily and the other Mount Vernon newspapers. It should be noted that also in 1854, The True Whig was being published by A. Banning Norton, and the Democratic Banner by Lecky Harper. Though these rival editors treated Amelia with some respect, there were some interesting editorialized news items. And keep in mind that Amelia was going about in pantaloons giving lectures on temperance and women's right to vote.
Lorle Porter, writing about Amelia Bloomer in the Annal of Iowa, Spring, 1973, comments that "She might not have won equality for women during her stay in Mount Vernon, but her efforts were part of the history of what has proved to be a significant movement—women's struggle for equal rights . . . ."
Amelia Bloomer died in 1894.
She wrote no books as such, but in 1994 Ann Coon edited and published Hear Me Patiently/ The Reform Speeches of Amelia Jenks Bloomer,
and also, Amelia's husband, Dexter, wrote and edited The Life and Writings of Amelia Bloomer (D. C. Bloomer, 1895).
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