Columbia woman brings advocate of women's rights back to life

Monday, February 11, 2002

Submitted photo

Betty Cook Rottmann will portray Amelia Bloomer, the 19th-century fighter for women's rights, during an appearance in Cape Girardeau.

Southeast Missourian

Betty Cook Rottmann will portray Amelia Bloomer in an appearance at the Cape Girardeau Holiday Inn on March 5. She will be hosted by the River City Business & Professional Women's Organization.

Rottmann, who lives in Columbia, Mo., will be in an Amelia Bloomer costume with a copy of the first women's rights periodical as she portrays the 19th century women's rights proponent.

Bloomer brought her pleas for women's equality -- to property, to education, careers with equal pay, divorce from drunkards and the right to vote -- to Missouri on occasion, traveling the state by steamboat and stagecoach.

The program begins at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The Rottmann performance is funded by the Missouri Humanities Council, the state of Missouri and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Amelia Bloomer was born Amelia Jenks in Homer, N.Y., on May 27, 1818. She was married at age 22 to a lawyer, Dexter Bloomer, who encouraged her to write for his newspaper. In 1848, she became editor of The Lily, a newspaper devoted to women's rights and temperance. In 1851, she recommended and adopted the reformed dress of short skirt and trousers. Because she advertised it in her newspaper and wore it on her lecture tour, the outfit became universally known as the Bloomer costume, or bloomers.

The Lily ceased publication when Bloomer moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa, in 1855, but she continued to play an active role in the campaign for women's rights.

Rottmann said she became caught up with the role.

"It's been a delight to help bring Amelia back," said Rottmann, who has been portraying Bloomer since 1994.

"I had visited Seneca Falls, N.Y., that year," said Rottmann. "I'm a journalist and had been fascinated with Bloomer's publication, The Lily. The League of Women Voters in Columbia were holding a parade, and I decided to go as Amelia Bloomer."

Rottmann said she is looking forward to her trip to Cape Girardeau.

Rottmann's husband, Leroy Rottmann, was an Extension agent in Southeast Missouri in Ste. Genevieve County and New Madrid County before becoming a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Missouri.

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