Lydia Sayer Hasbrouck Dress Reform Collection

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Lydia Sayer Hasbrouck Dress Reform Collection

Collection Facts


Historical Context

Lydia Sayer was born on Dec. 20, 1827 near Bellvale, a hamlet of the Town of Warwick, New York. As a child she was fearless, self-reliant, physically active, and skilled in horsemanship and the domestic arts. Keenly interested in books and learning, she was devastated when as a young woman she was refused admittance to nearby Seward Institute for her habitual mode of dress--an adaptation of Turkish pantaloons with shortened skirt. In her own words, “As I left…I fairly bathed my soul in an agony of tears and silent prayers….I registered a vow that I would stand or fall in the battle for women’s physical, political and educational freedom and equality.”

Lydia finished her education elsewhere, studying hydropathy at the Hygeia-Therapeutic College in New York. After practicing medicine in Washington and becoming a newspaper correspondent, she established the women’s dress reform newspaper, The Sibyl in early July 1856. The main focus of the paper was the new reform dress, also called "the bloomer", which usually consisted of a knee-length dress and a pair of trousers. An image of a woman wearing a reform dress is printed at the top of the front page of every issue of paper. A few weeks later on July 27th she married her publisher John W. Hasbrouck, editor of the Middletown Whig Press (NY).

Throughout her life, Lydia pursued her social and political goals, writing and lecturing, in addition to being a successful wife and mother. Even through the Civil War years she was unflagging in her energy and determination to achieve women’s dress reform and suffrage. It was her view that women could not hope for equality or to be able to compete in a man’s world while hampered with constricting, heavy, and impractical garments. To this cause she devoted her entire life, passing away in August 1910, just ten years before women’s right to vote was at last realized.

Scope of Collection

This collection includes selected issues of Lydia Sayer's dress reform newspaper The Sibyl, which ran from 1856 until 1864.

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