A Horror of Hoops
EDITED BY L. MOODY SIMMS, JR.*
IN THEIR EFFORTS TO EMANCIPATE THE AMERICAN WOMAN, NINETEENTH-
century feminists emphasized the importance of dress in women's
search for freedom. Without comfortable clothes, a woman could not
work or relax properly. Hoops and long skirts prevented women
from competing with men for employment, and the high cost of
clothes made women more dependent upon male incomes. As re-
former Gerrit Smith observed: "So long as she remains in her clothes-
prison, she will be dependent and poor." Developing the same theme,
Elizabeth Stanton declared that paper sleeves, tight waists, and trailing
skirts deprived women of all freedom and taught them "the poetry
Such views were characteristic of those agitators who led the fem-
inist movement; but what attitudes prevailed among the majority of
American women who were not reformers? Perhaps the short-
lived Anti-Crinoline League of Brenham, Texas, can provide a partial
answer to this question.
Organized early in March, 1893, the League was composed of a
small number of Brenham housewives and professional women. Pri-
marily serving as a private forum, its only public action was embodied
in a satire of women's dress which appeared in the local newspaper,
the Brenham Herald. Endorsed by the membership of the League,
this satire was written by Miss Ethel Hutson.
Miss Hutson, a native of Cuthbert, Georgia, was employed as a
teacher in Brenham's public school. By nature a thoughtful and con-
servative person, she was quickly accepted by the people of this small
Texas town. Immediately recognized as an intelligent young woman, she
received invitations to join several community literary societies. The
Anti-Crinoline League was conceived during a meeting of one of
these discussion groups.
In a letter to her father,' an instructor of English Literature in
*Mr. Simms is assistant professor of history at Illinois State University.
1Gerrit Smith to Elizabeth Stanton, December 19, 1853; Stanton to Smith, January 5,
1851. Both excerpts from these letters are quoted in Andrew Sinclair, The Emancipation
of the American Woman (New York, 1965), 105. See also R. Riegel, "Women's Clothes
and Women's Rights," American Quarterly, XV (Fall, 1963), 390-401.
'The letters of Ethel Hutson, which are part of the Hutson Family Papers (1807-1955),
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 72, July 1968 - April, 1969. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117146/. Accessed February 12, 2016.