I recently made an error in thinking based on a long-held assumption. Here's the error.
Quilt by Lucinda Ward Honstain at the
International Quilt Study Center & Museum
I did a couple of blog posts in the fall about Lucinda Ward Honstain who made the wonderful quilt here. My analysis was that she had family in the dry goods business. Here's what I wrote a few weeks ago:
"Lucinda Ward Honstain's famous pictorial quilt dated 1867 includes a block with a wagon labeled W.B. Dry Goods, which researchers have linked to her brother Thomas's store Ward & Burroughs. Lucinda's father, another Thomas, was also in the drygoods business in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Her husband was a tailor for two decades before the Civil War and her sister was a professional dressmaker."
In looking at all this I did not consider that Lucinda herself might be in the fabric business in some capacity.
Suzanne found Lucinda's record in a list of bank account holders at the Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank Records from New York. The name might be spelled Hounstain in this list but it is Lucinda as she is recorded as living on Devoe Street in Williamsburg. I think this page is from 1857 but it might say 1867.
In the column labeled Occupation she is listed as a "Tailoress." I was surprised. Lucinda herself was in the fabric business.
The Emigrant Savings Bank is still in business
Why did I just assume Lucinda had no occupation?
How many other deep-seated assumptions do we have about women's work that are as difficult to overcome as our default view that the occupational line after the word wife should be blank?
It's like there was some kind of giant conspiracy to make us think women did not work.
UPDATE on the Giant Conspiracy theory. I just read Jane & William Pease's bookLadies, Women, & Wenches: Choice and Constraint in Antebellum Charleston & Boston in which they look at censuses from the 1840s. The director of the Boston census directed enumerators to ignore the women's occupation column.
1868 photo of women and men working in a tailor shop
Ross J. Kelbaugh Collection
Sketch of Irish immigrants at the Emigrant Savings Bank in the 1870s
Lucinda seems to have been employed and adept at finances.She also had an account at the Williamsburg Savings Bank in Brooklyn, to which husband John forged a check when he returned from the Civil War. When her husband returned they owned several houses and were building another. I'd guess she managed the real estate while he was gone.
I wonder if we aren't spelling Lucinda's husband's last name wrong. It may be Houstain as in this 1891 real estate transfer. A handwritten U or N looks pretty much the same. And you know Houston Street in New York. Named after another Houstain---which may tell us how to pronounce it.
House-Tun---accent on the first syllable.
A statistic on the New York's clothing trade:
"Clothing was the largest industry in New York City by 1855, enveloping nearly 13% of the immigrant population."
Found on this post---another seamstress in New York:
And all the posts on Lucinda Ward Honstain: