Tag Archives: women’s history

Josephine Cochrane and her Dazzling Dish-Washing Machine

THE FIRST PODCAST Of the tens of thousands of U.S. patents granted in the 19th century, only a small fraction were held by women. One of those women — Josephine Cochrane — would change the world by solving a simple household problem.

While throwing lavish dinner parties in her gracious home in Shelbyville, Illinois, Cochrane noticed that her fine china was being damaged while being washed. Certainly there was a better way of doing the dishes?

Cochrane’s extraordinary adventure would lead to places few women are allowed — into gritty mechanical workshops and the exclusive corridors of big business. Nobody could believe a woman responsible for such a sophisticated mechanical device.

In her own words: “I couldn’t get men to do the things I wanted in my way until they had tried and failed on their own.  They insisted on having their own way with my invention until they convinced themselves that my way was the better.”

FEATURING: The voice of Beckett Graham from the History Chicks podcast, portraying the actual quotes of Mrs. Cochrane (or shouldn’t that be Cochran)?

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“The Garis-Cochran Dish Washing Machine having been in competition with both foreign and home inventions at the World’s Fair received a diploma and medal for best mechanical construction, durability and adaptation to its line of work and unrivaled for quantity and quality of work.”

Mrs. Cochrane in her later years:


Suffragettes on Parade! In 1915, thousands march for right to vote

For once, the biggest news story in America one hundred years ago today was not about the war waging in Europe.

On October 23, 1915, the forces of the women’s suffrage movement mobilized to create the most ambitious gathering to date, a parade of thousands to force the issue into the consciousness of New Yorkers and American at large. 

Here are some clips from newspaper articles of the day, celebrating their efforts, chastising and trivializing in part, but recognizing that a corner had been turned and that the right to vote for American women was now an inevitable (if not immediate) outcome:


“The latest, biggest and most enthusiastic of suffrage parades, and the one which, according to the leaders of the suffrage forces, will be the last ever needed to plead their cause in New York, marched up Fifth Avenue from Washington Square to Fifth-Ninth Street yesterday afternoon, blazoned the whole city with the yellow of its banners, and brought out what seemed to be the larger part of the population of Manhattan to look at them.”
New York Times, October 24, 1915

“It was a three mile argument for equal rights — a dignified, splendid argument — and every vantage point along the gay colored way was covered with men and women who saw its force.  Through the chill of a windy afternoon, though the sun shone on the mighty host, the great army of women passed, the white costumes of many glittering in the sunlight, defying the cold wind that the onlookers felt to their spines as they stood to see it all.”
New York  Sun, October 24, 1915


“Some whose names are to be found all through the Social Register marched side by side with working mothers with babies in their arms.  A large proportion of the marchers were young girls who would not be old enough to vote were they enfranchised.  They made up in beauty what they lacked in years and were cheered all along the crowded Fifth Avenue sidewalks.”
New York Evening World, Late Edition, October 23

“Old women, as old as suffrage, marched. Often beside them were little girls barely in their teens. And there were even tiny babies in carts, making their appeal for their mothers’ votes.

There was little applause all along the route for the women marchers.  But this was not strange, for it could be seen that the spirit of the parade had made itself felt on the sidewalks. It was no laughing matter, this parade.  The women in it did not smile or giggle.  They were serious and determined. And this mental characteristic was contagious.”
New York Tribune, October 24




Above: Four women carrying ballot boxes on a stretcher 

“Is Dame Nature a suffragist? At any rate, she was kind yesterday. In golden sunlight and keen air the great parade went its triumphal way, to the satisfaction of participants and spectators. With no disrespect to the men in it, the female marchers and riders, as always, showed the hopeless feminine superiority in grace, decorative effect, art of representation.”
editorial, New York Times, October 24

“The spectators laughed in good natured sympathy with the struggles which the wind caused the marchers.  Unruly skirts demanded attention from those who bore the militantly inscribed banners.  Nearly all the flag carriers had to call for help upon heir companions and sometimes four or five women struggled with brave laughter with a single standard to keep it from being swept to the street.”  — NY Evening World


“[S]igns were a cardinal feature of the parade. One which attracted attention everywhere and appealed significantly to the male onlookers was, “We talk with you, we eat with you, we dance with you, we marry you, why can’t we vote with you?” Another read: “Oh, men, please do give us the vote.” — NY Tribune

“King Albert of Belgium favors votes for women,” “Australian women have the ballot,” “Queensland women vote,” “Bohemia was the first in the world to pass a law for women’s suffrage in 1861,” “Oestreichischer Komite fur Frauenstremrecht” were some of the inscriptions on the banners. In all the languages of the earth they proclaimed the advance women have made in the various countries in gaining the vote, and scattered through the division were banners asking: “Women vote in Australia, why not in New York?” and “Women vote in twelve Western States, why not in New York?” — NY Sun



“It was a long parade — begun in mid-afternoon and finished by moonlight. And while thousands had drifted away, the avenue was still packed with onlookers when the men’s brigade — some thousands this time in place of the valorous ninety-two who were jeered in the first parade only four years ago — came along just in front of the army of automobiles that ended the procession.” – NYT

“The parade ended with a concert of thirty bands and a giant chorus singing patriotic songs at the Central Park Plaza.  There were several battalions of men in sympathy with the cause which were noisily greeted by the people along the curb.” — Evening World

Graphic from the New York Times, October 24




Margaret Vale, niece of President Woodrow Wilson, at the Suffrage parade. Alaska had granted women the right to vote in 1913.


The appearance of Mayor John Purroy Mitchel (‘the boy mayor of New York‘) was considered a big boost for the marchers although it certainly would have been a major snub if the mayor has skipped such a major parade!


Absent from all of the news coverage (at least the articles I reviewed) was the participation of African-American suffrage advocates.  They played an active role in the movement but were most likely absent from the parade.

Despite this grand parade, New Yorkers defeated a referendum on suffrage the following month.  A little over two years later — on November 6, 1917 — the women of New York state would win the right to vote.   The Nineteenth Amendment, ensuring the vote for all American women, was ratified on August 18, 1920.

All photographs on this page courtesy Library of Congress

And now, the New York Female Giants: (Briefly) A League Of Their Own

For a very brief period — likely just a single year — there was a female counterpart to the New York (Male) Giants.

The New York Female Giants seem to have an unofficial affiliation with the better known Giants, the city’s most popular baseball team.  Author Michael Carlebach speculates the team was probably formed by Giants manager John McGraw.


Early women’s teams — called ‘Bloomer Girls’ — often had a few men playing alongside them.  Occasionally those men even disguised themselves as women as in a revealing case in the summer of 1913 in Washington DC: “Four thousand angry fans surged on the diamond in the old Union League baseball park this afternoon when they learned that the “Bloomer Girls,” who were playing against a team of young men, were not girls. The deception was suspected when the “girl” playing in centre field threw the ball from deep centre to the home plate.” [source]

(The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, featured in the movie A League Of Their Own, would not be formed until the 1940s.)

The Female Giants don’t appear to be all women players either although there are no disguises at least. The men featured in these pictures played with the New York Giants.

The female players were mostly girls from local high schools and women athletes from other fields of sports.  Following her stint with the Female Giants, their captain Ida Schnall would head to Hollywood and become a silent film actress. She would later become an accomplished swimmer and an advocate for women’s sports, petitioning the National Olympics Committee to expand their offerings for women. Below: Ida in a glamorous pose



They broke up into two teams — the ‘Red Stockings’ and the ‘Blue Stockings’– and played a notable exhibition game for almost 1,500 people on Sunday, May 25, 1913 at the Lenox Oval, a sports field at Lenox Avenue and 145th Street.

Below: A 1919 soccer game being played at the Lenox Oval

Courtesy Museum of the City of New York
Courtesy Museum of the City of New York

It seems their typical game schedule went unnoticed by the press which is probably a good thing. That May 25th game was written about by the New York Tribune in the following fashion : “The batter hitched up her skirt.  The pitcher nervously adjusted a side comb. Girls will be boys, and the Reds and the Blues of the New York Female Giants were playing an exhibition game at Lenox Oval, 145th Street and Lenox Avenue.” [source]

Below: A catcher from the New York Giants, playing alongside a diminutive young player


We know about this particular game because it got shut down by the cops.  In the ninth inning, a detective stepped out onto the field and handed the third baseman — a 17 year old teenager named Helen Zenker — a subpoena to appear in Harlem court.

Due to New York ‘blue laws’, teams were not supposed to legally sell tickets to a baseball game on Sundays. While the women were indeed playing a practice game, Helen had been caught selling programs. She claimed that no such sales activity had taken place; people were just giving her money, including the detective. [More details in this amusing New York Times article from 1913.]

Fortunately, the young Zenker (“seventeen, pretty, active, intelligent, and has the easy gait and springy step of the athlete”) easily charmed the judge, and the case was dismissed. [source]

The photos in this post obviously take place on another date as they’re wearing uniforms which they were not allowed to do on a Sunday.






EDIT: After going live, I later included the line about the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League and also to clarify that the team also featured adult women playing along with high schoolers. For instance, Ida Schnall, who went on to greater athletic fame, was 24 or 25 at the time of the game described above.

THIS is New York Fashion Week — as it might have been in 1915

 New York Fashion Week, the city’s twice-yearly celebration of couture and runway, traces its roots to a 1943 press week event at the Plaza Hotel, organized by publicist Eleanor Lambert.  But there had been a variety of one-off ‘fashion weeks’ or American fashion events in the  years between the wars.  In 1934, the Mayfair Mannequin Academy, a local modeling school, even petitioned Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia to declare an official New York Fashion Week as a way to encourage American designers who worked in an industry dominated by Paris.

But well before any of those events, New York’s most famous runway show took place on the street — the Sunday promenades along Fifth Avenue.  It was especially robust during Easter with wealthy women trying to outdo each other in latest styles from Europe.  Newspapers covered Easter Sunday with the same fervor as a modern fashion show, noting colors, hem lines, and even the plumage flagrantly bursting from hats.

While there was no dedicated ‘fashion week’ one hundred years ago, there was heightened and excited attention to of-the-moment fashion trends.  So here’s a little thought experiment — what would an actual Fashion Week in 1915 look like?

There would in fact be fashion-related events at Madison Square Garden (in its original location off of Madison Square) so let’s put this imaginary Fashion Week there:

from September 4, 1903, New York Evening World
from September 4, 1903, New York Evening World


An End to Bondage

Women’s fashion would be affected by the war in Europe in many ways.  Travel restrictions put an end to the constant flow of fashion queues from Paris. New ideas that were strictly American could begin influencing the way women dressed here.

The growing independence of women also allowed for a looser, more comfortable style.  Gone from the streets were the dreaded hobble skirts, limiting the ability of women to take long strides. (Anything for fashion!) What audiences might have seen in 1915 were skirt styles that opened up at the bottom, allowing for freer movement.

Ladies' Costume (6505) ; Blouse (6362) ; Ladies' Four-Piece Skirt (6517) ; Blouse (6450) ; Ladies' Two-Piece Draped Skirt (6526) ; Ladies' Semiprincess Costume (6473) ; Motifs (12193) ; Blouse (6331) ; Skirt (6503) ; Scallop (11661). Courtesy New York Public Library
Ladies’ Costume (6505) ; Blouse (6362) ; Ladies’ Four-Piece Skirt (6517) ; Blouse (6450) ; Ladies’ Two-Piece Draped Skirt (6526) ; Ladies’ Semiprincess Costume (6473) ; Motifs (12193) ; Blouse (6331) ; Skirt (6503) ; Scallop (11661). Courtesy New York Public Library

These would come to be called ‘war crinoline’, essentially a precursor to a modern conservative skirt and described as bell-shaped, a “very full calf-length skirt” requiring extra fabric to attain its flowy, romantic look.

This would seem to be antithetical to wartime thinking — when lifestyles were often pared back — but these larger gowns were touted as practical fashion and thus ‘patriotic’ in their intent.  The role of women in wartime, many thought, was to simply look their best. At least, this was the line many fashion designers took during the era.

1915 Delineator Spring dresses
1915 Delineator Spring dresses
New York Sun, August 1915
New York Sun, August 1915

Revolutionary Undergarments

While some women would continue to subject themselves to the corset, the practicalities of life soon led to its unpopularity.  In 1914, Carisse Crosby, a well-connected society heiress from New Rochelle, received the patent for a revolutionary new form of support  — the modern bra.  Called the backless brassiere, the invention further facilitated a departure from stiff and uncomfortable silhouettes.

Crosby (really named Mary Phelps Jacobs) was a well connected society woman and would have been milling about the crowd at Madison Square Garden.  In 1915 she married the Boston Brahmin playboy Richard Peabody and eventually moved to Manhattan when she became pregnant with his child.

Lingerie And Negligees, 1915. Courtesy New York Public LIbrary
Lingerie And Negligees, 1915. Courtesy New York Public LIbrary


from the New York Evening World, October 21, 1915
from the New York Evening World, October 21, 1915

The Gradual Straight Line

Perhaps the boldest fashion transition in the 1910s was the subtle shift from curvaceous, hour-glass forms to a straight, shapeless silhouette.  While the war crinoline still required a narrow waist for some of its dramatics, competing styles leaned towards sleekness.   This was an evolution from the Empire waist which had gained a resurgence earlier in the decade.



Rise of the Dangerous

The predominant form of women’s fashion in the 1920s — the boyish flapper with sleek dresses and short hair — would rise from the edgier look of the ‘vamp’, best embodied in the late 1910s by film and stage actress Theda Bara.  This took the reformed instincts of woman’s fashion to its extreme. Sexuality became more overt and stylized, from bold makeup to exposed flesh.  This was certainly not the look of your average lady on the street, but soon slight shades of the vamp style would eventually seep into everyday fashion.

Theda Bara in the 1915 film Sin
Theda Bara in the 1915 film Sin


The Popularity of Make-Up

It was unseemly of women to paint their faces with too many cosmetics during the late 19th century. But by the mid 1910s, women were influenced by actresses and dancers, and taboos against wearing cosmetics were relaxed.  The natural pale complexion so desired a decade earlier gave way to a kind of democratization that only makeup could provide.  Women were allowed to heighten the drama in their faces and mask the imperfections.

In 1915, two major forces in women’s beauty opened salons on Fifth Avenue — Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubenstein. Both heavily influenced by the Parisian fashion aesthetic, elite New York women flocked to their shops.   Within a decade, these two entrepreneurs would be the anchors of a burgeoning and highly lucrative beauty industry.

from a 1915 Gimbels fashion magazine, courtesy  the blog Historically Romantic
from a 1915 Gimbels fashion magazine, courtesy the blog Historically Romantic


Hints of the ‘Little Black Dress’?

Black was not worn by women of gaiety and glamour.  It was strictly the hue of mourning during the Gilded Age and rarely made an appearance in actual evening wear.  However in an imagined fashion show in 1915, you may have seen a slight hint of it here or there, although not very practical and only as part of bold ‘vamp’ styling of its time.  It might have seemed edgy and even a bit bizarre, something only a worldly woman might have worn.

It would take another decade — and the influence of Coco Chanel — to bring the black dress into fashionable prominence. It would eventually becoming one of the defining looks of the New York woman.

from a 1915 Pictoral Review
from a 1915 Pictoral Review
A brief skating fashion fad inspired this spread in the New York Tribune, November 14 1915
A brief skating fashion fad inspired this spread in the New York Tribune, November 14 1915

Driving Attire

The continued popularity of the automobile required specific sorts of fashion to protect the clothes from dust.  These items found their way into regular wear.  This article from an August 1, 1915, issue of the New York Sun proclaims the return of the smock. “The smock is worn in the garden and on the golf links.”


Still A World of Hats

One taste that didn’t wander far was the love of hats. While flamboyant hats still topped many society ladies head, styles eventually became a little serious with nautical and even military influences.



Even the school girls got into the act of fashion!  Here’s a pair from the first day of school in 1915….


Twelve great reasons why women do not deserve the right to vote — according to a prominent 1914 anti-suffragist

Suffragists are just women who can’t get a man, according to this postcard. (Courtesy June Purvis/History Extra)

Just as support for women’s suffrage was on the rise by the 1910s, there were equally as vehement opponents to those expanded rights.  The anti-suffragist movement based its objections on several points that adhered strongly to the stability of civilization and the traditional roles of women.

On March 22, 1914, the anti-suffragist Grace Duffield Goodwin laid out several commandments for rejecting the right to vote in a column in the New York Tribune — and in listicle form, no less.  These points are derived from a 141-page treatise she penned entitled Anti-Suffrage: Ten Good Reasons which you can read at the Internet Archives. (One example from the book — Chapter One: The Ballot Is Not A Right)

On this Election Day 2014, I present to you her reasons against the right to vote.  You can read the entire column here.  I’ve interspersed her column with some of anti-suffragist cartoons and handbills of the day, both from America and England:

(Library of Congress)

1) “Because the basis of government is force – its stability rests upon its physical power to enforce its laws; therefore it is inexpedient to give the vote to woman. Immunity from service in executing the law would make most women irresponsible voters.” 

Women were not allowed to serve in juries or in the Armed Forces in 1914, and very few sought out roles in traditional law enforcement.  Goodwin’s thinking is that if women can’t actually enforce the laws, they should not be able to determine the laws.

2) “Because the suffrage is not a question of right or of justice, but of policy and expediency; and if there is no question of right or of justice, there is no case of woman suffrage.”

Goodwin echoes the feelings of many Americans back then that the right to vote and to elect leaders was not a fundamental right of Americans.  Keep in mind that just 125 years before her, many believed that only land-holding white educated men should have the right to vote.

3) “Because it is the demand of a minority of women, and the majority of women protest against it.”

And really, Goodwin argues, women don’t really want the vote anyway.  Goodwin thankfully avoids mentioning many of the offensive characteristics suffragists supposedly possessed.

4) “Because it means simply doubling the vote, and especially the undesirable and corrupt vote, of our large cities.”

Voting procedures in America were already so distorted by corrupt political machines, adding voices to this mix would only make it worse.  Keep in mind that political machines were still greatly in control in most places in the United States, locally and nationally.  Swelling the numbers of voters would only give machines like Tammany Hall further opportunities to corrode the process. (As for the “undesirable” vote, I believe Mrs. Goodwin’s classism is shining through here.)

5) “Because the great advance of women in the last century — moral, intellectual and economic — has been made without the vote; which goes to prove that is it not needed for their further advancement along the same lines.”

Women can simply piggyback upon the decisions made by men on their ascent through professional circles.  Many are already benefiting greatly from this adjacency. So why change anything?

6) “Because women now stand outside politics, and therefore are free to appeal to any party in matters of education, charity and reform.”

Mrs. Goodwin dances around a salient point here — the idea that being outside of politics allows somebody to get things done that would be impossible within the constraints of government. Of course, this isn’t a justification for simply women; today many choose the sidelines as a place to affect change.

7) “Because the ballot has not proved a cure-all for existing evils with men, and we find no reason to assume that it would be more effectual with women.”

She’s being accidentally radical here with the notion that because it’s so broken, why even bother participating in it?  We all think a version of this every year we go to the polls.  It’s the universal notion of my vote doesn’t matter.  Mrs Goodwin uses it here as a justification of avoiding the process entirely.

New York anti-suffragists on a day trip up the Hudson River, May 30, 1913 [source]

8) “Because the women’s suffrage movement is a backward step in the progress of civilization, in that it seeks to efface natural differentiation of function, and to produce identity, not division, of labor.”

This gets to the fundamental argument of both anti-suffragists and anti-feminists — was it even appropriate for women to be given such a role, when nature has given them other responsibilities such as motherhood and nurturing?  A similar refrain echoes through many modern issues today including gay marriage.  Creating laws which obviously go against what is so clearly and naturally delineated by the universe is simply dysfunctional and even dangerous.

9) “Because in Colorado [who had already gave women the right to vote in state elections] after a test of seventeen years the results show no gain in public or political morals over male suffrage states, and the necessary increase in the cost of election, which is already a huge burden upon the taxpayer is unjustified.”

This is another statement which echoes into our current state-vs federal debate of controversial laws.  I suspect many will express similar statements in a couple years over another revolutionary Colorado ruling — the legalization of marijuana.

Socialists win! Courtesy Virginia Department of Historic Resources

10)  “Because our present duties fill up the whole measure of our time and ability and are such as none but ourselves can perform.  Our appreciation of their importance requires us to protest against all efforts to infringe upon our rights by imposing upon us those obligations which cannot be separated from suffrage, but which, as we think, cannot be performed by us without the sacrifices of the highest interests of our family and our society.”

“Our present duties” would include both the traditional basis of womanhood  (including giving birth, raising children and creating a home) but also advanced societal roles in church and charity.  Mrs Goodwin believes these will be detrimentally obstructed if woman had to participate in the political sphere.  And once these roles are compromised, then the fabric of society suffers.

Courtesy Oregon Blue Book

11) “Because it is our fathers, brothers, husbands and sons who represent us at the ballot box.  Our fathers and our brothers love us; our husbands are our choice, and one with us; our sons are what WE MAKE THEM.  We are content that they represent us, in the cornfield, on the battlefield and at the ballot box, and we THEM in the schoolroom, at the fireside, and at the cradle, believing our representation even at the ballot box to be thus more full and impartial than it would be were the views of the few who wish suffrage adopted, contrary to the judgement of the many.

In essence, women are represented in government by those who raised them.  They vote when they choose their husbands and instill their values into their children.   To give a woman the right to vote would be redundant and only subjects their vote to corrupt forces.

12) “We believe that political equality will deprive us of special privileges hitherto accorded by law.”

The power that women possess in 1914 America is so unique and instrumental to the current operation of the country that to tinker with this mechanism will only take rights away from women in other spheres.

To equalize women with men in a voting booth will mean equalizing them in places where women have the upper hand.  And we certainly don’t want to upset the apple cart or, in this case, the hen house:

Housewives demand open markets! One century ago, New York radically changed how people bought groceries

[Manhattan open market.]

Setting up a market under the Manhattan Bridge. (Courtesy MCNY. Note: This photo may be of an earlier market here, but this gives you an idea of where the 1914-15 markets would have been located.)

Groceries are becoming more expensive as retailers mark up prices due to food shortages (or simple price gouging at perceived shortages). So people are turning to rather unconventional methods of getting fresh meat and produce.  Is this 2014 or 1914?

At the start of World War I, there was an immediate shortage of certain food items at New York grocers. Local distributors greatly took advantage of this special circumstance, marking up a variety of essential items.  “Sugar and flour, which have been increasing in price so rapidly, gave indications of continuing their upward march,” an article from August 19, 1914 proclaimed.

Shopping at a typical New York grocer, 1903 (MCNY): 

266 Seventh Avenue c. 1903.

Fifty years before, New Yorkers could interact with farmers and butchers directly at open-air markets.  But by the 1910s, most transactions were governed by local distributors. Old Washington Market was by this time a thriving indoor wholesale market. Local grocers had limited space with limited selection. The era of the modern supermarket — with greater selections and better values — was still a decade or two in the future. (The first supermarket is often considered to be Piggly Wiggly, which opened in Tennessee in 1916.)

To fend off rising food rates, the city of New York did something rather extraordinary:  it opened its own direct markets (or “open markets”) which cut out the middle-man entirely.

Manhattan Borough President Marcus M. Marks authorized the opening of four such markets in the following open areas — under the Manhattan sides of the Manhattan and Queensboro Bridges, the intersection of 3rd Avenue and 129th Street (today’s Harlem River Park), and the Fort Lee Ferry Terminal (West 139th Street and the Hudson River, near today’s Riverbank State Park).  A similar program was also set up in Tompkinsville, Staten Island.

Below: Interior of the Queensboro Bridge Market, 1915 (MCNY)

[Interior of market under the Queensboro Bridge.]

The markets opened in September 1914 with dozens of Long Island and New Jersey farmers bringing their wares to New York. Pushcart vendors, already spread throughout the city, also set up shop here.  What makes this such a controversial move is that it was a clear attempt to undercut all established grocers, to force distributors to quit gouging price.

They were an immediate hit despite being located in areas quite distant from certain populated areas. The markets appealed to women of many classes, because who doesn’t love a bargain? “At this market were many housewives who came in automobiles to buy from the farmers,” said a report from September 20, 1914. “Baskets filled with fresh vegetables and fruits were on seats, and the legs of more than one chicken projected from paper parcels under the chauffeur’s elbows.”  By 1915, the markets were considered by some “a social affair.”

Below: from an April 1915 profile from the Sun:

 The open markets were so successful that stock was usually emptied out by mid-morning.  Late-arriving women “actually wept when the market was bought out.” [source]

Naturally, retail grocers were angered by the city’s bold move and soon went on the offensive. “There is nothing but politics in this open market game, gentleman, from start to finish,” declared one speaker at a grocers union rally that October.

The city counteracted the grocer’s propaganda by providing ‘bargain days’ for extra values, reeling in the participation of farmers, butchers, poultry brokers and even honey producers.  “A butcher, who will open a new stand, says that he will give a head of cabbage in lieu of trading stamps to every purchaser of a piece of corned beef.” [October 15, source]

The markets lasted only a few months and, strangely enough, it was the city itself that killed them. Obviously bending to pressure from local businessmen, the city began charging high rents for a spot at the markets, and smaller farmers soon fled.  The Evening World noticed rents that would equal up to “$900 a year”. That’s $20,000 in 2014 currency.

In essence, this was one end of New York government attempting to dampen the authority of the other (namely, the borough president’s office).  Vendors had to raise prices to keep their place, and so the usefulness of the markets swiftly faded.

The Women’s Peace Parade, a moody anti-war protest in 1914

Give Peace A Chance: Women take to the streets in a stunning parade of mourning

Below are some pictures of what’s possibly New York City’s first anti-war protest organized by women, on August 29, 1914.

War had erupted that summer in Europe, sparked by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in late June and unfurling into a continent-wide catastrophe, as countries entered the fray on either side of the conflict.  Within weeks of the conflict, New Yorkers with strong ties to individual nations were raising money and even boarding ships to fight alongside their distant countrymen.

In other cities with sizable European populations — such as Montreal — people were already marching, calling for an end to the conflict.  And leading this call were women already involved in social organizations, in particular, suffragists with networks that reached into high society.

Protesting war has been a touchy issue in New York City. [See the Civil War Draft Riots for such a protest gone wrong.]  The mayor had expressly forbade parades in support of individual nations on New York streets lest a microscopic version of the European conflict erupt here.  Anti-war was often associated with socialist organizations and indeed, that August, several did march in Union Square.  But these were comprised largely of men.

Which makes the Women’s Peace Parade so unusual.  Prominent women met at the Hotel McAlpin in mid-August to plan what was essentially a mourning parade, with its participants — from all walks of life — dressed in black as though in a funeral procession. (As you can see in the pictures, many women also chose to wear white in a symbol of peacetime, garnished with black accessories.)

Many people didn’t quite understand what a peace protest even meant, seeing it as a wasted effort. One letter writer to the New York Times asked. “Will any of the women who intend to parade in protest of the war explain what they mean to accomplish by such a demonstration?”

While the parade drew from prominent individuals in the suffrage movement, others were simply not convinced.  Carrie Chapman Catt, one of America’s most famous suffragists, remarked, “If anybody thinks that a thousand, or a million, women marching through New York or talking about peace in the abstract will have any effect on the situation in Europe, it is because they don’t know the situation in Europe.”

But, in fact, there was a motivation.  One of New York’s leading activists Harriet Stanton Blanch — daughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton — was very succinct about their motivation. “This is a movement for actual work. We intend to do something definite. We wish to have a meeting at The Hague Peace Conference called.”

The parade began in the afternoon, marching down Fifth Avenue from 58th Street down to Union Square. Women who either lived or shopped along the avenue now marched in formal procession down it, accompanied by the “ominous beat of muffled drums.”  There was occasional applause but otherwise “the general silence of the great gathering was considered the best evidence of understanding.” [source]

Among the marchers were Lillian Wald and the nurses of Henry Street Settlement.
The skies were appropriately gray.  Some participants hoped for rain actually.  “Every woman in the slow-moving line wore some badge of mourning, either a band of black around her sleeve or a bit of crepe fluttering at her breast, as a token of the black death which is hovering over the European battlefields.” [source]

The parade marshal was the young Portia Willis, a magnetic lecturer on the suffragist circuit. .

While the organizers announced there was to be only one flag on display in the parade — the flag for peace — one other crept into the proceedings.  “The smallest Boy Scout was Alfred Greenwald, 4 years old, who … attracted much attention.  Little Alfred unknowingly broke the most stringent rule of the parade by carrying a flag.  He carried a United States flag but it was furled.” [source]

Unfortunately I was not able to locate any pictures of the second half of the parade — with 250 African-American women in solidarity, followed by “a number of Indian and Chinese women” and carloads of elderly women and babies.

Those who witnessed the parade would not soon forget it, especially in the following months as the conflict that would become known as World War I grew to eventually encompass the United States.

The sumptuous story of Ladies’ Mile: Traces of cast-iron grandeur, the architectural delights of the Gilded Age

The opening of Siegel-Cooper department store, 1896, created one of the great mob scenes of the Gilded Age.  Today, TJ Maxx and Bed Bath and Beyond occupy this once-great commercial palace.  

PODCAST  Ladies’ Mile — the most famous New York shopping district in the 19th century and the “heart of the Gilded Age,” a district of spectacular commercial palaces of cast-iron. They are some of the city’s greatest buildings, designed by premier architects.

Unlike so many stories about New York City, this is a tale of survival, how behemoths of retail went out of business, but their structures remained to house new stores. This is truly a rare tale of history, where so many of the buildings in question are still around, still active in the purpose in which they were built.

We start this story near City Hall, with the original retail mecca of A.T. Stewart — the Marble Palace and later his cast-iron masterpiece in Astor Place. Stewart set a standard that many held dear, even as his competitors traveled uptown to the blocks between Union Square and Madison Square.

 Join us on this glamorous journey through the city’s retail history, including a walking tour circa 1890 (with some role play involved!) of some of the district’s best known buildings.

PLUS: Why is Chelsea’s Bed Bath and Beyond so particularly special in this episode? You’ll never buy towels there the same way again!

To get this week’s episode, simply download it for FREE from iTunes or other podcasting services, subscribe to our RSS feed or get it straight from our satellite site.

You can also listen to the show on Stitcher streaming radio and Player FM from your mobile devices.

Or listen to it straight from here:
The Bowery Boys #1645 Ladies’ Mile


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America’s first department store — A.T. Stewart’s Marble Palace, near City Hall. The building is actually still there today! The address is 280 Broadway. (Courtesy NYPL)

Stewart’s even more celebrated department store at Astor Place, nicknamed the Iron Palace with its cast-iron construction. Unlike Stewart’s first store, this one is no longer there. (NYPL)

1903: Ladies on a freezing day, surrounding the 23rd Street entrance to the Sixth Avenue Elevated Railroad, placing them just a few blocks from the biggest department stores in the world. (Courtesy Museum of the City of New York)

 6th Ave & 23rd St.

 The entrance to Stein Brothers on 23rd Street. There’s a Home Depot in this building today, but you can still see the SB insignia over the door. And below, the street scene in 1908.(Photo: Edmond V Gillon, MCNY)

[32-46 West 23rd Street.]
[West 23rd Street from 6th Avenue East.]

Adams Dry Goods, decades after the shop at closed. In later years, it was a Hershey’s plants and a military storage space. Today, on the ground floor, there’s a Trader Joe’s grocery store. (Photo: Edmond V Gillon, MCNY)

  [675 Sixth Avenue.]

1901: Women in front of the Church of the Holy Communion, the elevated train in back of them. (MCNY)

Street Scenes, Sixth Avenue at 20th Street.

The windows at Simpson Crawford Co. at Sixth Avenue and 20th Street, 1904. (MCNY)

Simpson Crawford Co. 

The Siegel-Cooper department store fountain, with a statue of Republic (by Daniel Chester French) and electric lights in a kaleidoscope of colors. And, below it, another view of Siegel Cooper from the opposite side of the tracks. (MCNY)

  Siegel Cooper

Retail Trade - Dept. Store 1896. Siegel Cooper Co. (Exterior) 6th Ave at 18th St.

Ladies in the Siegel Cooper canned goods department. The store canned its own food. Very organic! (MCNY)

  Retail Trade Dept. Store.

An overhead shot of Macy’s at 14th Street and the Sixth Avenue elevated railroad station. (MCNY)

[6th Avenue and 14th Street.]

Lord & Taylor’s, at Broadway and 20th Street, 1904. (Wurts Brothers, MCNY)
Broadway and East 20th Street. Lord and Taylor, old building.

Inside WJ Sloane, Carpets Rugs and Furniture, at Broadway and 19th Street (MCNY)

W.J. Sloane, Carpets Rug & Furniture, 19th St. & Broadway.

The Flatiron Building, completed in 1902, is considered part of the Ladies Mile Historic District, even though it was never a department store.

Arbuckle’s Deep Sea Hotel, aka ‘the Working Girls Hotel’, a coffee king’s housing solution for independent women

The boat hotel built by a coffee manufacturer, photo from January 1913 (courtesy LOC)

Arbuckle’s Deep Sea Hotel was neither in the deep sea, nor was it a hotel.  But for hundreds of young, single women at the end of the Gilded Age, it was home.

Accommodations were indeed limited for the thousands of women who arrived in New York City at the start of the 20th century.  Wealthier single ladies could enjoy a degree of independence by indulging in fashionable apartment living.  Affordable options like boarding houses were often socially binding.  For instance, the morality-minded YWCA housed hundreds of New York women by the 1890s.  It was often too expensive to rent on your own place, even with roommates, and the neighborhoods where such housing was available would not have been too desirable.

Enter Brooklyn coffee millionaire John Arbuckle.  The sugar manufacturer, already a chief competitor of William Havemayer, innovated the mass production of coffee by the 1890s, making himself extremely wealthy.  His Jay Street plants and Water Street warehouses dominated the Brooklyn waterfront in the area of today’s DUMBO.

In emulation of greater New York philanthropists, Arbuckle commissioned free water-bound excursions for the overcrowded poor of the Lower East Side.  However, when a steamboat owned by another company — the PS General Slocum — exploded during one such excursion, killing over 1,000 people, such trips quickly went out of fashion.  Arbuckle then decided to use one of his ships in a more unconventional way — a long-term hotel for single women.

His ship the Jacob A. Stampler was turned into a floating hotel for one hundred women, with a smaller ship nearby for young working men.  It was docked at West 21 Street on the Hudson River, near the massive piers for passengers liners.

“The fundamental idea of this hotel scheme,” according the New York Tribune in 1905, “is to benefit young men and young women who are receiving low wages and are striving to live respectable lives.”  In 1905, its first year of operation, women paid “40 cents a day, or $2.80 a week, while the young men pay 50 cents a day or $3.50 a week.” [source]

From the Tribune profile:

While both genders benefited from the unusual hotel idea, Arbuckle’s focus was in the assistance of women.  “A young fellow can fight for himself and get along his own way,” said the millionaire, “but it is different with a woman or girl confronted with problem of keeping herself respectable while working for low wages.”

The women were fed well and provided a selection of magazines and newspapers, not to mention a piano for Sunday evening sing-alongs.  They were also given sewing machines and laundry facilities.

The rocking of the boat and the relative bustle of a busy pier seems not to have bothered Arbuckle’s early tenants.  “It’s so quiet here. No rattle and roar from the streets,” said one young woman. [source]  Ladies could receive gentlemen callers, but men had to vacate by 10 pm.  As many women worked quite late in the day, this probably didn’t amount to much socializing.

During the summer, the boat actually did take regular trips to various places in the region, from Coney Island to the shore of Staten Island.  In July, the two floating hotels would head out to Coney Island every day, docking for a couple hours at Dreamland amusement park.  Surmising from its frequent journeys, I imagine Arbuckle’s floating hotels had few long-term summer tenants in these early days.

Below: The dining room and the sleeping quarters of the Deep Sea Hotel, circa 1913 (LOC)

Over the next ten years, the Deep Sea Hotel took fewer trips, becoming more or less a semi-permanent, floating apartment complex.  It was referred to by this point as the Working Girls Hotel.  At some point, perhaps due to overwhelming traffic at the Chelsea piers, the Stampler made the east side its home, regularly docking at East 23rd Street.

The floating hotel never really made a profit, and after Arbuckle died in 1912, his inheritors attempted to shut it down.  I should also note that the Stampler was a very, very old boat. “[The] ship was beginning to rot and soon would be unsafe,” said the New York Sun.  The women who lived there, however, fought successfully to keep it open until 1915, when they were finally told to permanently disembark

Interesting fact to note about its final days — both single men and women lived aboard the boat by 1915.  Its last documented population was 50 girls and 16 boys, according to the Sun.  It rarely sailed to Coney Island in the sumner, but had become a destination in itself.  “One of the five decks is fitted up as a dance hall,” “crowded every night with dancers” when music from a nearby pier begins to play.

The last tenants finally left on September 1, 1915, with many unable to find further housing.  “There isn’t a girl on this boat that makes $9 a week,” said one mournful tenant, “and you know how far that goes in this city.” [source]

By 1917, the Stampler was a rotted breakwater off of Bayville Beach in Oyster Bay.  To this day, perhaps, some remnant of the ship still sits in the water off the coast of Long Island.

By the way, they still make Arbuckle’s Coffee today.

Presenting Mrs. Randolph Fitzhugh, Kaleidoscope woman, society church thief: “I am being hounded to prison by men”

The former St. Bartholomew’s on Madison Avenue and 44th Street, burgled by one Mrs. Randolph Fitzhugh. [LOC]

NOTE: I revised this article this afternoon which some additional information just discovered, making this story ever stranger! New information includes Mrs. Fitzhugh’s real name, details about her baby, her length of stay in the Tombs, and information on another arrest at St. Patrick’s.

The papers called her ‘woman of mystery’ and a ‘woman enigma‘. Later on, she would garner a new nickname — the Kaleidoscope woman.

Rarely had a female criminal so confused New York law enforcement as the unusual Southern woman arrested in early 1913 for stealing from society ladies prominent New York churches.

She called herself Mrs. Randolph Fitzhugh, a Southern woman with a demeanor as such that she could spirit into any number of prominent churches and snatch up a host of items, including a diamond bracelet at the Church of the Transfiguration and a $500 gold mesh bag at St. Bartholomew’s (at its previous building on Madison and East 44th Street, see above).

The revelation of this crimes was most strange.  The owner of the bag received a letter from the Hotel Flanders (6th Ave/W.46th Street) claiming a woman carrying that bag was staying there. Fitzhugh was staying at the hotel with an infant; later witnesses claimed the hotel was holding the baby for an “unpaid rent bill.”

To those in the hotel, Mrs. Fitzhugh claimed she was only “renting the child” due to some troubles in Washington DC. The baby was taken to an acquaintance in Brooklyn, and Mrs. Fitzhugh arrested.

The story with Mrs. Fitzhugh (her real name was Catherine Fennell or Northrup) wasn’t her crime but her reaction to prosecutions.  She plead guilty to avoid a sentence at Auburn Correctional Facility.  But she didn’t stop with that.

A reporter from the New York Evening World interviewed the convicted from her cell at the Tombs where she had been a prisoner for almost seven months.

She told a remarkable tale of a runaway betrothed to the previously-named Randolph Fitzhugh.  It was apparently a controversial marriage, for when he died, her family rejected her. She was then arrested for stealing from a department store.  “All I had done is charge some goods to an intimate friend of mine who had an account at the store . I had often done it before and she gave me carte blanche.”

She then claimed to have married and had a child, although she “never bothered to take good care of our marriage certificate” and was later sued by the man.  Most likely the child was hers, but the ‘renting’ business is still a mystery.  She used the child in later testimony to claim that she took the solace of random churches because she believed somebody was trying to kidnap her baby.

She then exploded with emotion at the Evening World reporter.  “I tell you I am being hounded to prison by men–men–men.  It is ‘The Butterfly on the Wheel’ all over again! I cannot get justice from men.”  The phrase ‘butterfly on the wheel’ is from Alexander Pope‘s ‘Epistle to Dr. Arbutnot’, meaning a concerted effort in appearance to break to the will of something insignificant.

Whatever is going on with Mrs. Fitzhugh — bad luck, desperation, mental illness — it’s easy to sympathize with her from our vantage a century later.  She feared the prison system, knowing it would change her forever, knowing she might never break from it.  She was instead put to a lighter sentence at Bedford Hills in Westchester County.  But she issued a grave warning.

“I am not a common woman.  I understand that almost every inmate of that Bedford place is such a woman. To be thrown with them may embitter me to such an extent that I shall ever after revenge myself on society and turn a really clever, unscrupulous thief.  I may and very likely shall become a professional thief.”

Indeed, she lived up to her word.  After she was released, she returned to a life of crime.  She was arrested once again in February 1915 in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

And later that year, from her perch at the Holland House at 5th Avenue and 30th Street, Mrs. Fitzhugh again plundered neighborhood churches, stealing from the Catholic parish St. Leo’s Church on 28th Street.

To avoid suspicion — although this seems to have failed — Mrs. Fitzhugh changed costumes “six to eight times a day” and was known to hotel staff as the Kaleidoscope woman due to her ever-different garments.

Somehow, Mrs. Fitzhugh had befriended a film actress and was living in her flat at the Holland House.  Most likely, it was the clothing of this unnamed actress that Mrs. Fitzhugh was wearing.  “Her bills, according to the management of the hotel, had been always promptly paid.” [source]

From there I’m able to find anymore information about Mrs. Fitzhugh, the Kaleidoscope lady. She disappears from the criminal record under that name. But I’ll continue to look, because she strangely fascinates me.