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Bonnet belonging to Lucretia Mott

This bonnet belonged to Lucretia Mott and most likely dates between 1850 and 1880. It is typical of Quaker bonnets of the period. It is very stiff and made out of buckram covered with gray-green silk; it is all handsewn. The brim is lined with white silk. Instead of the five deep pleats that many people associate with Quaker bonnets, this one is gathered where the crown meets the brim in such a way that it gives the illusion of being pleated. The distinctive stiff bonnets, usually in gray or tan, would have identified its wearer as a Quaker.

In general, Quaker bonnets followed the fashions in headwear of the day–after a manner. While fashionable bonnets, which were worn throughout most of the nineteenth-century, changed rapidly in the angle and depth of the brim, as well as in the trimmings, Quaker bonnets were plainer and had minor changes, mainly in the depth of the brim. Therefore, they are extremely difficult to date accurately. Additionally, older women often continued to wear the style they had worn as young women.

Bonnets such as these would have been worn over a sheer day cap (the type that is represented in the portrait of Lucretia Mott on this website). At home a woman would only wear the cap, but when in public she would also wear the bonnet. On rainy days, special rain-resistant covers would be worn over the bonnet.

Division of Social History, Costume
National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
Behring Center
Gift of Lucretia Mott Churchill Jordan


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