November 2018 - Lougheed House

Giving Tuesday: your righteous response to Black Friday

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What’s the fuss about “Giving Tuesday”? The simple answer, of course, is that it’s one day to signal the time of year that most charities receive the majority of their donations. But is there more to it than that?

Coming as it does on the heels of the Black Friday, U.S, Thanksgiving, Cyber Monday sandwich, it’s an opportunity for folks to take care of the causes that they care about. Right after they’ve taken care of their own needs and those of family and friends during the shop-and-save, give thanks, shop-and-save cycle described above.

Wikipedia says Giving Tuesday started in the US “as a response to commercialization and consumerism in the post-Thanksgiving season.”

There can be little doubt that overindulgence in the department store, at the turkey table, and in the Amazon checkout can leave one feeling remorseful, maybe even somewhat ashamed.

Psychology Today helpfully informs us that “shame impacts our feelings about who we are as people, it makes sense that it would create motivation to change those aspects of ourselves about which we feel negatively.”

What better way to assuage those feelings and to motivate us to change, than to give to a cause that we feel good about?

So here we are on Giving Tuesday, 170,000 charities around Canada, ready to help you feel good about yourself again!

My particular favourite, Lougheed House, is amongst 85,000 charities with a Charitable Registration number, able to give you a tax receipt to help you feel good not only right now but clear through to tax time in April and beyond.

During the busy Lougheed House Holiday Season we are raising funds for Youth and Family Programs which run all throughout the year. Won’t you help us put smiles on the faces of young people and their families as they learn about the past and experience history?

Please donate now, register your righteous response to commercialization and consumerism, and banish those feelings of overindulgence. You’ll feel glad you did.

Sean French, Lougheed House Development Manager

Sean French, Development Manager

 

The origins of Remembrance Day

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Armistice Day was inaugurated across the British Commonwealth by King George V in 1919, and formed the basis for today’s Remembrance Day observances. The date was selected to commemorate the ceasefire declared by representatives of Germany and the Entente, “at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, at the 11th month,” in 1918.

This WWI “trench art” is an artifact of the House, and was probably gifted to one of the Lougheeds by a soldier.

While today the June 28, 1919 signing of the Treaty of Versailles is more often recognized as the end of the Great War, it is important to bear in mind that for the average Canadian, the end of hostilities may have had greater personal value than any formal victory.

For Canadians, the day was first ratified in 1921, when the Canadian Parliament passed its Armistice Day bill, which solidified the date as a national holiday. For the majority of the 1920s, observances were performed by churches and other non-state organizations, and frequently incorporated into Thanksgiving services. In 1931, a group of veterans and other concerned Canadians successfully petitioned

Clarence Lougheed served oversees in WWI

Parliament to clearly separate the day from Thanksgiving, and to place greater emphasis on commemorating the sacrifice of those who served, as opposed to celebrating the Allied victory. That year, Armistice Day was revitalized under the new name, “Remembrance Day,” in keeping with similar name changes in other Commonwealth nations.

Though originally instituted to commemorate the First World War, Remembrance Day has since been expanded to recognize the service of those who participated in the Second World War, Korean War, and current veterans and servicepersons.

 

Where Did All the Corsets Go? Dress Reform in the Late 19th Century

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by Adam Sarjeant, Lougheed House Admissions Assistant

You may have noticed from our photos of the Lougheed family that they were a pretty fashionable bunch. Lady Lougheed retained a seamstress by the name of Sarah Crelda Dunn twice a year, in spring and fall, just to make sure the family was up to snuff with the latest fashions.

You may also have noticed how much the Lougheed’s dress changed over their time in the house. Photos from the 1890s show the lady of the house in full Victorian dress – bodices, bustles, corsets and all – but photos from the 1910s and 20s show Isabella and her eminently fashionable daughter Dorothy in loose, casual dresses, blouses and skirts. What happened?

Today, we explore the small group of cutting-edge English reformers who masterminded this change, and the Dress Reform movement they created.

 

From Le Figaro in 1891, showing reform undergarments (a liberty corset, union suit, bloomers, tights, and petticoats).

Establishing an exact timeline for the Dress Reform movement is difficult. As you might expect, reactions against restrictive European clothing have existed for as long as the trends themselves – since at least the 15th century. The beginning of the 19th century, for example, saw a brief revolutionary period in which European aristocratic society seemed to reject the corseted waistline. Napoleon’s first empress, Joséphine de Beauharnais, was an adherent of the more freeing Neoclassical “Empire” style, which became the norm in fashionable circles for several decades, at which time it was politically dangerous to display one’s wealth too openly. By the 1820s, however, the vogue for elaborate cinches, petticoats, corsets and stays had returned in full force as the stigma against ostentatious displays of wealth evaporated.[1] With this revival, the trend swung even more towards the extreme, precipitating a new, even more anti-naturalistic ideal body: “tightlacing” was the tradition of tying the corset as tightly as possible, in order to produce superhuman waist sizes. The new look also had the added effect of producing respiratory dysfunction, organ displacement, and chronic injury.

An organized movement against the increasingly absurd state of 19th century dress reached its climax in the 1870s and 1880s. The medical profession, of course, played a significant role in providing a sound scientific basis for the movement. Though medical practice at the time was hardly as developed as it would become in the early 20th century (germ theory, for example, was still very much under debate), the deleterious effects of the more extreme fashion practices of the time were made readily obvious simply by casually observing of the changed bodies of chronically tightlaced women. However, Europe’s medical community was insular, and rarely communicated with the public. Popularizing the movement, and providing it with a voice in the culture at large, fell to a growing community of Women’s Interests advocates (often thought of as a precursor to the 20th century feminist movement).

Skeleton illustration from Ada Ballin’s 1885 book, The Science of Dress in Theory and Practice

 

In 1881, an alliance of women’s advocates in London formed the Rational Dress Society, the first organization designed purely to advocate for change in women’s (and to a lesser degree men’s) apparel. The leadership of the society contained its fair share of celebrities and public figures – including Constance Wilde, wife of Oscar Wilde – and was spearheaded by Mrs. E.M. King (honorary secretary) and Florence Wallace Pomeroy, the Viscountess Harberton (president). King was a controversial political figure; between 1870-75, she had organised public protests for the repeal of an English act regulating prostitution, established the Women’s International Peace Society, addressed several scientific societies about the growing need to share domestic work equally between genders, and had been accused by her detractors of contributing to the downfall of English family life and moral order. King was in fact so inflammatory that she was ejected from the Society in 1883, and went on to form the Rational Dress Association, a more radical and active competitor to the Society.[2]

The Association advocated for five specific principles of dress:

  1. Freedom of Movement
  2. Absence of any pressure over any part of the body
  3. Not more weight than is necessary for warmth, and both weight and warmth evenly distributed

4 Grace and beauty combined with comfort and convenience

  1. Not departing too conspicuously from the ordinary dress of the time[3]

One can gather from point #5 that despite their concern for women’s health, the movement was not focussed on altering fashion in an artistic or cultural sense. The Dress Reform movement mainly concerned itself with re-imagining women’s undergarments, and, by modern standards, only by degrees. Despite their concern for women overburdening and overheating their bodies, the Society settled on an acceptable total weight of seven

Rational Dress Society patterns from The Science of Dress in Theory and Practice

pounds for a woman’s outfit – weighty by modern standards, but not enough to include heavy lacing. Their recommended outfit for women still included no less than five separate undergarments for the waist and torso alone.[4] The Association’s greatest public achievement was a major 1883 exhibition, an enormous but scattershot display of clothing alternatives, mostly women’s undergarments, aiming to educate the public on healthy alternatives to their current mode of dress. The exhibition featured everything from corsetless underwear systems, to quilted bodices, to athletic wear.[5] Despite reaching a large audience, coverage in the entirely male-dominated and largely conservative newspapers was hostile.[6] Shortly after the exhibition, E.M. King departed England for North America with her (possibly romantic) companion Elizabeth “Nellie” Glen.[7]

Equally important to the spread of the Dress Reform movement were a number of popular books on the subject, the most successful of which was The Science of Dress in Theory and Practice by Ada S. Ballin. As a lecturer for the National Health Society, Ballin possessed the unique skills necessary to bridge the gulf between the medical community and the movement for women’s rights. In particular Ballin insisted that Dress Reform’s failure to gain traction with modern women was due to the fact that most of the material on the subject “…has been written by men for women.”[8] Far from condescending to her female readers, Ballin created a book which was highly

John Singer Sargent’s 1897 painting, “Mr. and Mrs. I.N. Phelps Stokes” in reform clothing.

literate in the medical discourse, including discussions of infant mortality rates, The Lancet’s assessment of reform undergarments, basics of internal anatomy and the effects of organ displacement, and numerous detailed illustrations demonstrating everything from arch support in footwear to the perspiratory and sebaceous glands of the skin.[9] Though in many ways the book followed the principles set out by the Society, it diverged in its defence of the sensible use of corsets, and even recommended the use of stays for women of a “corpuscular” build, operating under the mistaken belief that this could prevent weight gain.[10]

Though nowhere near as revolutionary in their attitudes as the avant-garde of the 20s would be, the Dress Reform movement formed an essential alliance between science and the equitable treatment of women. Dress Reformers proved that a woman did not have to flaunt decorum or fly in the face of tradition in order to achieve improved living conditions, democratizing and incorporating into the “mainstream” a way of thinking which had previously been considered too radical for polite society.

[1] Katell Bourhis. The Age of Napoleon: Costume from Revolution to Empire, 1789–1815. (NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1989).

[2] Ian Leader Elliott, “Mrs EM King – Campaigning for Women’s Rights Pt 1,” Women’s History Network, December 22, 2013, accessed September 21, 2018, https://womenshistorynetwork.org/mrs-em-king-campaining-for-womens-rights-pt-1/#more-3200.

[3] Christine Bayles Kortsch, Dress Culture in Late Victorian Women’s Fiction: Literacy, Textiles, and Activism (UK: Routledge, 2016).

[4] Patricia A. Cunningham, Reforming Women’s Fashion, 1850-1920: Politics, Health, and Art (US: Kent State UP, 2003), p. 93-4.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Elliot, ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Cunningham, 94.

[9] Ada S. Ballin, The Science of Dress in Theory and Practice, orig. published January 01, 1885, accessed September 21, 2018, https://archive.org/details/b2476422x.

[10] Cunningham, 96.