Victorian Mourning Culture: Women as the True Mourners

For Victorian women, mourning was an emotional outlet, an acceptable public display in a strict social sphere. Women had power in their mourning; they had the responsibility to show grief and love of the deceased. While men were expected to quietly grieve continuing their everyday customs as though nothing was wrong, the women’s role was compose themselves in the opposite way. This practice may be viewed today as prohibitive and unfair, in the 19th century, these actions allowed power beyond a woman’s sphere of influence in the home.

Black crepe mourning veil made in Columbus, Ohio, around 1900 (H 20920).

Black crepe mourning veil made in Columbus, Ohio, around 1900 (H 20920).

The mourning period for men and women was the same – a first cousin would be mourned for as little as six weeks, while a widow was expected to mourn her husband for two and a half years. However, women had many social protocols to be followed. After her husband passed, a widow would immediately fall into Deep Mourning for one year. During this period, the widow was to maintain strict social isolation, only accepting formal invitations from close relatives and avoiding public spaces and pleasurable occasions. After a year and a day, although it was advised to put off the change for the sake of good taste, a widow was to follow into Second Mourning, which allowed more social freedom and a change in clothing. After nine months, Third Mourning began, which resulted in more freedom and another change in clothing. This third period lasted until the end of the second year. These first three mourning periods were considered Full Mourning. After two years, a widow entered into Half Mourning, which would last from an additional six months to the rest of their lives with an additional change in clothing. While some women never came out of half-mourning – including Queen Victoria – the Grand Maison de Noir, a mourning warehouse in Paris, advised its customers that “everyone is free to prolong this period of wearing mourning but it is in good taste to effect any exaggeration in this as over other circumstances.” While it was important to properly grieve, mourning placed a social and cultural burden both on the mourner and on those around them.

Formal cape worn during the later stages of mourning  between 1880 and 1900 (H 75360).

Formal cape worn during the later stages of mourning between 1880 and 1900 (H 75360).

One distinct difference did exist between widows and widowers. Unlike widows, widowers were allowed to remarry as soon as they desired. A man did not even have to wait until he was out of mourning for his first wife in order to marry his second. “The Grand Maison de Noir declared that such a man should leave off his mourning for the ceremony but take it up the next day. Furthermore, ‘his new wife should equally associate herself with his mourning’, wearing only black or shades of half-mourning in memory of her predecessor.”

Colors, styles, and decorations differed in women’s clothing for each stage of mourning. A woman in Deep Mourning would wear a dull, black, crape-covered dress with a single flounce at the waist. Her head was to be covered at all times, a black hat and veil when she emerged from her home, and a white indoor cap when she was at home. With the exception of the indoor cap and handkerchief, the widow’s entire wardrobe was black. During Second Mourning, less crape was worn; the material was applied to her wardrobe in a more elaborate way. Throughout this mourning period, women were slowly allowed to add more decorations and trim to their clothing. In Third Mourning, crape was discarded and black trimmed with black ribbon, lace, embroidery, and jet was allowed. It was not until Half Mourning began that a woman was allowed to discard the black dress and wear the special half mourning colors – a range of soft purples. After the period of Half Mourning was over, a woman could resume wearing any style and color of clothing and fully re-enter society.

Textiles associated with female mourning went far beyond just the dress. Check back next week to learn about a mourner’s accessories.

Caitlin Smith, History Collections Intern

Sources:
National Park Service. “The Custom of Mourning During the Victorian Era.” National Park Service (2011): 1-5. http://www.nps.gov/jofl/historyculture/upload/MourningArticle2011.rtf.
Taylor, Lou. Mourning Dress: A Costume and Social History. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1983.
Zielke, Melissa. “Forget-Me-Nots: Victorian Women, Mourning, and the Construction of a Feminine Historical Memory.” Material History Review 58 (2003): 52-66.

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Grand Finale for Archives Contest

The I Found It In the Archives contest has officially wrapped up for 2014.

I FOUND IT IN THE ARCHIVES

Deborah M. Tracy

Deborah M. Tracy

The Ohio History Connection ran our local I Found It In the Archives contest from June 1 through August 1, 2014. Our winner, Deborah M. Tracy, visited the Archives/Library on August 18, 2014 for a personal, behind the scenes tour with reference archivist Lisa Long. Her achievement was also recognized by her state senator and state representative. Deborah’s submission was then entered in the statewide competition sponsored by the Society of Ohio Archivists.

Deborah Clark Dushane with one of her prizes, a t-shirt that says #thinklikean archivist.

Deborah Clark Dushane with one of her prizes, a t-shirt that says #thinklikeanarchivist.

The statewide contest ran from August 18 2014 through August 31, 2014. Two other repositories, the Greene County Archives in Springfield, Ohio and the University of Akron Center for the History of Psychology in Akron, Ohio submitted entries. The winner of the statewide contest, Deborah Clarke Dushane, was announced on September 23, 2014. Deborah was honored at the fall meeting of the Society of Ohio Archivists held in Columbus on October 3 and 4. She was introduced to the attendees and presented a certificate at lunch. This was followed by a session in which she introduced herself and shared the fascinating story of her rapscallion ancestor, Isaac
Prugh Weymouth, known to her as Uncle Ike, who once shot Constable John Harris in Cedarville, Ohio in 1883. While in Columbus Deborah also toured the Ohio Statehouse.

Deborah Clark Dushane on tour Chris Matheney in the rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse.

Deborah Clark Dushane on tour with Chris Matheney in the rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse.

If you interested in submitting an entry, running a contest in your local repository or reading the fascinating submissions and casting your vote, you will get the chance again in 2015. The Ohio History Connection and the Society of Ohio Archivists are committed to bringing the contest back. The first statewide contest was an amazing way to celebrate archives and show the broader community, particularly legislators, the impact that archives have on our everyday lives.

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Adoption Research for the Family Historian

Register now!

Learn about the history of adoption, the adoption process, access and restrictions regarding adoption records, adoption research strategies and the use of DNA testing. Ohio History Connection collections that include adoption information will be highlighted with examples of original records available in the Archives/Library at the Ohio History Center in Columbus. You will learn what information is in these records, how the information was obtained, where the records are located and how to access them.

Presenters:

Lisa Long, Ohio History Connection

Jayne Davis, Franklin County Genealogical and Historical Society

Date: Saturday, October 18

Time: 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Location: Ohio History Center at I71 and 17th Ave.

Cost:

$15 for Ohio History Connection or FCGHS Members

$20 for Non Members

Click here to register online or call 614-297-2510 to save your seat!

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The House of Harold: H. Harold Curmode’s Journey from Hobbyist to Fashion Designer

From October 12-18, Columbus Fashion Week will showcase local design talent. So, we thought it would be a great idea to write a post about a local Columbus designer. H. (Harry) Harold Curmode designed clothes from the 1950s to the 1980s and was known for his small fashion house: ‘the House of Harold.’ He was an untrained hobbyist and never worked for a fashion house or as an apprentice. In spite of this, he showcased his collections in style shows and designed costumes for theater productions. He created original designs and made clothes for nearly 50 clients only two years after his first style show in 1960. Curmode made a name for himself in Columbus fashion and created partnerships with local talent, including Columbus accessories designer Evelyn Engelman (Doni Designs label). He also participated in the local fashion community by taking part in Fashion Designers Foundation of Central Ohio, a group spearheaded by Carol Ross, fashion-merchandising director of the Barbizon School, in 1978.

Harold Curmode finishing hem on a coat.

Harold Curmode finishing hem on a coat.

Doris Curmode stands for a fitting.

Doris Curmode stands for a fitting.

 

Curmode was born in Flint, Michigan on July 1, 1928 to Harry Paul and Mae Curmode. The family moved to Kansas and then Columbus, Ohio in 1936 to find work. In 1950, Curmode joined the army. While stationed in Japan, he designed pieces of clothing for his mother and sister. After leaving the army in 1952, he began working at Rockwell International and designed clothing as a hobby. It was only after his marriage to Doris Ann Vaughn, in 1955, that many began to notice Curmode’s designs. Curmode designed and made clothing for his wife, who always received compliments. After attending an event held by the Alpha Mu Chapter of beta Sigma Phi sorority, Curmode encouraged his wife to join the sorority. The outfits Doris Curmode wore at sorority events became increasingly popular, and Curmode’s outfits received attention from a Columbus fashion writer. Eventually Curmode’s friends convinced him that he should venture into the fashion business. With the financial backing from a close friend in Cleveland and two seamstresses who were neighbors of the Curmode family (Mrs. James Popovich and Bernadine Kessler), Curmode set off to create his first collection. It was shown in a style show on August 24, 1960, sponsored by the Alpha Mu chapter.  The show was called “Holidays with Harold”, and showcased 25 outfits for fall and winter. The outfits were inspired by important local events, and featured the “Jet Collection” with dresses named after a different type of plane, made to be convenient for travel.

Harold Curmode adjusting hemline for Lee Ruggles.

Harold Curmode adjusting hemline for Lee Ruggles.

Miss Central Ohio, Roseann Wolpert, being fitted for a competition gown in 1961.

Miss Central Ohio, Roseann Wolpert, being fitted for a competition gown in 1961.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although Curmode did design several high fashion pieces using materials such as chiffon, lamé, silk, and tulle, he believed in the versatility of clothing and became known for his multiple piece, interchangeable outfits. He worked on the concept of interchangeable outfits nearly ten years before his first collection. Curmode created designs that could go from daywear to nightwear, and made clothing convenient for travel and working women. Although Curmode mostly designed clothing for women, he also experimented with the idea of interchangeable outfits for men. For example, his design for a tuxedo jumpsuit went from nightwear to daywear by removing the dickey and vented skirt. The H. Harold Curmode Photograph Collection shows fashion design change over time and also shows the progression of Curmode’s career up until 1985 when he went into semi-retirement.

Sketch of ball gown designed by Harold Curmode.

Sketch of ball gown designed by Harold Curmode.

Sketch of a "House of Harold Couture Original."

Sketch of a “House of Harold Couture Original.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The H. Harold Curmode archival collection is available at the Ohio History Center. It includes photographs as well as Curmode’s sketches for his original designs. For more information on the collection visit the Ohio History Connection’s Manuscripts, Audiovisual, and State Archives catalog, or to access information on pieces created by Curmode held at the Ohio History Center visit the Museum Collections Catalog.

Adria Seccareccia, Processing Assistant

References:

“Foot-Loose and Fashion.” Columbus Dispatch, August 14, 1960. H. Harold Curmode Collection, AV 157. Box 2, Folder 8. Ohio History Connection, Columbus, Ohio.

“Area Designers Form Group.” Columbus Dispatch, November 9, 1978. H. Harold Curmode Collection, AV 157. Box 2, Folder 8. Ohio History Connection, Columbus, Ohio.

“New design Business provides ‘Total Look.” Columbus Dispatch, Monday, November 1965. H. Harold Curmode Collection, AV 157. Box 2, Folder 8. Ohio History Connection, Columbus, Ohio.

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Putting Ohioans to Work

October is Archives Month!

This year’s theme is Ohio in the Depression. This is the third in a series of blog posts highlighting photographs of people and places in Ohio during the 1930s.

Teacher Viola Davis...

WPA employed teacher Viola Davis with her students at the Butler County Emergency School, Oxford, Ohio, 1936.

Today’s Archives Month image is one of many photographs taken by the Federal Writers’ Project, part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), while writing the Ohio Guide. These photographs documenting the Great Depression are now part of the Ohio Guide Collection in the Ohio History Connection Archives/Library. This photograph depicts a class from the Butler County Emergency School. Mrs. Viola Smith taught this class in homemaking in Oxford, Ohio in the fall of 1936. Her class focused on cooking, food values, meal planning, sewing, quilting, and basketry. In order to raise money for materials for the class, the students wrote and put on a play in Stewart High School. The materials purchased from this fundraiser allowed them to make aprons and dresses, thereby enabling them to learn more about sewing, designing, and finishing garments.

Four children participating in the WPA "Learn to swim" campaign at the pool in Navarre, Ohio.   These "Learn to Swim" campaigns were part of the Works Progress Administration, a project that hired unemployed Americans to work on various government projects from April 8, 1935 to June 30, 1943.

Four children participating in the WPA “Learn to swim” campaign at the pool in Navarre, Ohio. These “Learn to Swim” campaigns were part of the Works Progress Administration, a project that hired unemployed Americans to work on various government projects from April 8, 1935 to June 30, 1943.


Viola Smith was one of thousands of teachers employed by the WPA. Created in 1935, the WPA offered employment to those in need on an unprecedented scale, spending federal money on a wide variety of programs – from highway construction to rural rehabilitation, reforestation, and schooling. The goal of these and other programs like it was to get people back to work rather than simply giving them a government handout for unemployment. As Harry Hopkins, the administrator of the WPA, said, “Give a man a dole, and you save his body and destroy his spirit. Give him a job and you save both body and spirit.”
Bookbinding project in Cincinnati Public Library, Cincinnati, Ohio.  WPA work relief programs included training in library instruction.

Bookbinding project in Cincinnati Public Library, Cincinnati, Ohio. WPA work relief programs included training in library instruction.


Hopkins’ philosophy worked. In the first six months, the WPA employed over 173,000 Ohioans. More than 1,500 of these were unemployed teachers, whom the WPA used to teach courses ranging from homemaking to reading. One of these teachers’ foremost tasks was to teach illiterate adults how to read. Others employed by the WPA included writers, who wrote the Ohio Guide and interviewed former slaves and who artists painted murals in public buildings throughout Ohio. The WPA continued to operate throughout the United States until 1943. By this time, the World War II was underway and unemployment had dropped drastically as war-time jobs were created in response to the need for munitions and supplies. During its nine years of existence, the Works Progress Administration completed over 1.4 million projects and employed about 8.5 million people, providing work and hope to those families during a time of widespread unemployment and hopelessness.

Interested in learning more about the Works Progress Administration and the Great Depression? Check out these links:

Lilly Library, Indiana University. “The Works Project Administration in Indiana.” Indiana University. http://www.indiana.edu/~liblilly/wpa/wpa.html.

Ohio History Central. “Works Progress Administration.” Ohio History Connection. http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Works_Progress_Administration?rec=1011.

PBS. “The Works Progress Administration (WPA).” PBS. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/general-article/dustbowl- wpa/.

Caitlin Smith, History Collections Intern

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Victorian Mourning Culture: How Men Mourned

Between high infant mortality rates, periodic plagues, and military conflicts for an expanding Western empires, death was an everyday occurrence during the Victorian Period. As a result, an entire social structure developed around the idea of death and how to react in the public and private spheres. In this second in a series of posts about Victorian Mourning Culture, the idea of socially acceptable mourning practices for men is explored.

Mourning culture was divided along gender lines.  While mourning for women was a public display – one of the few ways to express emotion that was socially acceptable– for men, mourning was a private affair.  Males worked and lived in a more visible sphere then women; they were expected to hide their emotions from the larger world, grieving privately at home.

From the Ohio History Connection Archives. Portrait of Ulysses S. Grant taken in April 1865 after accepting General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Grant is wearing a black crepe mourning band on his arm in honor of President Abraham Lincoln after he was assassinated.

From the Ohio History Connection Archives. Portrait of Ulysses S. Grant taken in April 1865; Grant is wearing a black crepe mourning band on his arm in honor of President Abraham Lincoln.

Males did have some outward expression of mourning, but it was largely muted.  Unlike women, who normally wore bright colors, men’s dress was subdued; black, brown, and grey suits were the cultural norm.  Because of this, men did not have different mourning color clothing as women did.  Instead, they simply wore a black armband and added a black band to their hats to indicate that they were in mourning.

 

H 21915 001-2

H 21915.001-002

The black wool armbands (H 21915.001-002) seen in the photograph are an example of the type of mourning attire that would have been worn by males.  This set of armbands was sent to the parents of Irvin Danford by the Noble County Chapter of the American Red Cross after Danford was killed during World War I in 1919, after the Victorian Age.  Some aspects of the Victorian mourning culture re-emerged as a result of the massive number of deaths that occurred during World War I, including symbols of grief, like these armbands. There was even a revival in séances, as grieving families attempted to find closure with the loss of their loved ones who were often buried overseas where families were unable to visit the graveside.

H 50796

H 50796

 

Another way males participated in mourning was through the use of black-bordered stationary and calling cards.  This allowed males to indicate their mourning status to visitors and correspondents. Additionally, this prevented those grieving from having to repeatedly answer questions regarding the loss of their loved one.  One such example is Miss Maggie Hazlet’s calling card (H 50796).  While this black-bordered calling card is for a female, males would have the same border added to their cards and stationary.

Victorian men mourned the same length of time as their female counterparts; it was simply more private, with very few outward expressions of their grief.  Check back soon to learn how Victorian female mourning expression differentiated from male mourning.

Caitlin Smith, History Collections Intern

 

Sources:

Old Sturbridge Inc. “Historical Background on Mourning Rituals in Early 19th Century     New England.” Old Sturbridge Village (2003).       http://resources.osv.org/school/lesson_plans/ShowLessons.php?PageID=R&Lesso            nID=37&DocID=2043&UnitID=.

Taylor, Lou.  Mourning Dress: A Costume and Social History. London: George Allen        and Unwin, 1983.

Zielke, Melissa. “Forget-Me-Nots: Victorian Women, Mourning, and the Construction of a Feminine Historical Memory.” Material History Review 58 (2003): 52-66.

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Electronic Records Day this Friday 1010!

electronic records logo_2014 final

The Council of State Archivists (CoSA) is celebrating Electronic Records Day this Friday, 10.10. Electronic Records Day is an opportunity to raise awareness among government agencies, related professional organizations, the general public and other stakeholders about the crucial role electronic records play in our world. Now in its third year, Electronic Records Day was created by CoSA as part of its State Electronic Records Initiative (SERI).

Why do electronic records matter?
With the increasing reliance on information technology, the challenge to manage, preserve, and provide access to digital records and information continues to grow. Managing electronic records is an urgent issue!

Electronic records are subject to changes in software and hardware that can leave them virtually inaccessible after just a few years, if not monitored.

Electronic records require proactive management. The best time to plan for electronic records preservation is at the time records are created, rather than when software is being replaced or a project is ending.

Electronic records should be evaluated according to their information content, not their format, and be subject to the same retention schedules and public records requirements as physical records.

Paper records stored in good conditions can be read centuries afterwards; electronic records, however, can become unreadable very quickly, without proper management and care.

For more information on Electronic Records Day please visit CoSA’s website.

Did you find this post through Facebook or Twitter? Then check out the Ohio Electronic Records Committee’s Social Media Guidelines and Tip Sheet. The OhioERC has other electronic records management and preservation guidelines and tip sheets as well, including email, digitization and websites.

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