Thursday, June 25, 2015

"Articles" for the Bazaar

From Frederick Douglass' Paper, 10 July 1857:
Some of the articles mentioned in the Bazaar Report as commanding a ready sale, are as follows: -- materials for children's dresses unmade; aprons and pinafores of all kinds made up; baby linen, with the exception of caps; hosiery, worked collars, and cuffs; crochet work of all kinds, tatting, and knitted edgings; cambric handkerchiefs; fine Irish linens; boxes of tapes; white crochet mats and doyleys; purses and balls; needle-books and pin-cushions of superior quality; knitted and embroidered slippers; sofa cushions, and carriage bags; Honiton lace; papier machie ornaments; Irish bog oak ornaments; fancy stationary, and water colored drawings.
Antislavery women, "were forced to defer to the men and to sit home expending their energy on handicraft monstrosities to send to Maria Chapman for her antislavery bazaars in Boston," wrote William McFeely in his biography of Frederick Douglass (p. 142). Granted, the volume came out in 1991, when historians were only beginning to scratch the surface of women's roles and work in the antislavery movement. Still, this passage makes me cringe. 

The excerpt from Frederick Douglass' Paper above, shows the types of items that these women made and which ones sold well. "Children's dresses," "aprons and pinafores," "baby linen," "slippers," "carriage bags," "hosiery" and so forth were all useful items that could take time to make and not available ready-made. Nicer items, such as the lace, drawing, and stationary all made nice gifts. As the two types of "ornaments" indicate, even then people purchased items for Christmas, a holiday gaining popularity in a form that we would recognize, with Christmas trees and presents, even if the whole celebration would shock today's celebrants with its modesty. 

As for the bazaar, mentioned in such passing as to suggest its irrelevance, Chapman could bring in a thousand dollars or more each year. That kept antislavery lecturers on the road and the Liberator and National Anti-Slavery Standard in print. 

Don't underestimate the knitters!

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