Hasbrouck, Lydia Sayer

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HASBROUCK, Lydia Sayer

Born 20 December 1829, Warwick, New York; died 24 August 1910, Middletown, New York

Wrote under: Lydia Sayer

Daughter of Benjamin and Rebecca Forshee Sayer; married John Hasbrouck, 1856

Raised on a farm, Lydia Sayer Hasbrouck was educated at the Elmira High School and Central College in upstate New York. She attended a three-month course on hydropathic medicine at the Hygeio-Therapeutic College in New York City, afterwards practicing medicine, writing, and lecturing in the East. Shortly before her marriage to an editor and publisher, he established the Sibyl, a feminist journal, for her. Hasbrouck edited the Sibyl for nine years, producing two eight-page issues a month for the first six years and one a month thereafter.

In addition to promoting women's rights through Sibyl, Hasbrouck lived according to her feminist principles. Her special wedding vows included the sentiment: "Yet while in this covenant I ignore that part of the accustomed marriage ceremony which demands of woman undue subjection and obedience, I promise equally with you to walk by your side through life, meeting the duties and requirements devolving upon us in every sphere of action, not renouncing my individuality in yielding unto you the true wife's love and duty." In 1859 she refused "taxation without representation," whereupon a tax collector entered her home and "levied upon, and advertised a pair of Bloomer pants." In 1863 she worked on a local road crew rather than pay a road tax. When New York State enacted school suffrage in 1880, she was elected to the Middletown Board of Education. Still later she became a real estate developer in downtown Middletown.

Although Sibyl promoted most women's rights causes, such as increased educational opportunities and suffrage, it primarily advocated Hasbrouck's favorite cause, dress reform. Hasbrouck had adopted the short skirt worn over pantaloons, the "Bloomer" dress, in 1849; and she had been denied admission to the Seward Seminary in Florida, New York, because she refused to abandon the outfit. Her editorials in Sibyl reveal her beliefs that women's equality and women's health depended upon liberation from the dictates of fashion—from the confining, deforming corsets and stays and the heavy, unwieldy hoops and crinolines. She describes the ease with which the reform dress allowed her to perform her daily chores—whether she was picking strawberries, cultivating her orchard, or cutting grass for the cow.

Hasbrouck used Sibyl to promote a club among like-minded women, printing reports of the convention proceedings of the National Dress Reform Association, which she served as president from 1863 to 1864, and listing names of Sibyl subscribers (mostly from New York and the Midwest) who in spite of scorn and ridicule, wore the reform dress.

Hasbrouck's relationship to the readers of Sibyl was intense and intimate. She encouraged them to correspond with "Sister Lydia" about their problems, and she shared with them, through the pages of her paper, her own personal life. She was perhaps the only one of the early dress reformists who did not backslide: she wore the Bloomer outfit until her death.


Reference works:

DAB. NAW (1971).

Other references:

AHR (July 1932). Lily (15 Sept. 1856).


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