9 Important Pictures Of Women Wearing Pants Before 1920 — PHOTOS
The road to women wearing pants has been a fairly long and arduous one, but you know what? It's probably been going on a whole lot longer than you think. Most people assume that pants didn't start to come into vogue until the '20s (along with the feminist flapper movement) but it actually started much earlier than that, because get this: Victorian women wore pants. Georgian women wore pants. Women who served in the Civil War wore pants. Yep, women definitely wore pants before the '20s, and — as you might expect — they were all pretty darn rad.
It was far from common place (a few notable ladies even got thrown in jail for presuming to wear pants, according to ANB) but it certainly happened. From rogue artists who attained special permission from the government (yes, really) to decorated surgeons from the Civil War (also yes, really) modern day women have been rocking pants for well over a hundred years now — the fashion-forward suffragette Lady Sybil Crawley from Downton Abbey wasn't the only woman to don harem pants in the Georgian era.
So, with all that in mind, let's take a quick look at some of the pants pioneers of the mid-to-late 1800s and the early 1900s!
1. Calamity Jane
Martha Jane Canary, better known by her nickname, "Calamity Jane," was a folk hero and frontierswoman, best known for being a crack shot and a good drinking companion, according to Biography. She was something of a legend, and liked to cross-dress.
2. Flora Sandes
British legend Flora Sandes fought on the front lines in World War I and World War II, according to the Daily Mail. She started off as a volunteer for the ambulance service at age 38 during WWI, and ended up joining the Serbian Army (one of the few that accepted women at the time), eventually rising in the ranks to sergeant-major and earning a medal of valor. Later, she fought against Nazis in 1941 — until she was imprisoned by the gestapo. Luckily, she survived, and ended up living to the ripe old age of 80.
3. Cora Laparcerie
Cora Laparcerie was an actor and comedian, shown here wearing the designs of Paul Poiret, who was notable for his early take on harem pants.
4. Dr. Mary Edwards Walker
According to National Library of Medicine, Dr. Mary Edwards, the first-ever female recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, was a BAMF surgeon who saved many lives during the Civil War. She often took to dressing like a man in the late 19th century — a pastime for which she was arrested multiple times, although she claimed to have special permission from Congress to dress as she pleased.
5. Female Soccer Players
Granted, this picture is from 1925, but all-women soccer teams existed as far back as the early aughts — and you can't very well play soccer in a heavy skirt and corset.
6. Pauline Cushman
Much along the lines of Mata Hari and Hedy Lamarr, Pauline Cushman was an actor... and a spy. According to National Parks Service, she worked for the Union army during the Civil War, infiltrating the Confederate Army, and she later performed in one-woman plays about her exploits, reports Biography.
7. Rosa Bonheur
According to Art History Archive, Rosa Bonheur was a French 19th century artist who often dressed in traditional menswear — complete with close-cropped hair, and the occasional cigar. A self-described "animalier," she was best known for her portraits of animals, according to the MET website — her close work with animals was part of her impetus behind wearing trousers (for which she obtained special permission from the police). She also had some pretty wise words on the matter — in History of Art , she is quoted as saying, "The suit I wear is my work attire, and nothing else. The epithets of imbeciles have never bothered me."
8. The Vivandieres
Yes, there's a skirt over these pants, but they're still pants, okay? The Vivandieres were women attached to military regiments, according to the Gilder Lehrman Institute Of American History, and their uniform was basically a women's version of their standard men's uniform, with a skirt worn over pants (a style that incidentally still comes in and out of fashion to this day).
9. Jane Diulafoy
Also known as "The Sharpshooter of Persia," Jane Diulafoy pulled something of Mulan — she disguised herself as a man, and fought in the Franco-Prussian war alongside her husband, according to MentalFloss. They later traveled Persia and Susa together, where she did everything from meeting the Shah, to fighting off bandits. She was awarded with the cross of the Légion D'Honneur, and went on to write novels about her experiences — and as with other women on this list, she was eventually given special permission from the government to wear men's clothes.
Want more fashion and beauty tips? Check out the video below and subscribe to Bustle on YouTube!
Images: Getty Images