Donning a Bonnet

On March 24 at 7 PM, I’ll be donning a long dress and bonnet and speaking at the Heritage Village Museum as Murray Shipley’s mother-in-law, Mary J. Taylor.

Mary was deeply committed to caring for the poor, the neglected, the outcasts, and the unprotected—particularly women and children. She helped found and manage the Home for the Friendless (a halfway house for former prostitutes) and was instrumental in establishing The Children’s Home (a placement facility for orphaned and abandoned children, as well as a shelter for youngsters whose families were temporarily unable to care for them).

Murray tends to get the credit for founding The Children’s Home since he bought the building, pursued the articles of incorporation, and served as the president of the Board of Trustees from the institution’s formation in 1864 until his death in 1899. However, it was really at Mary’s prompting that they converted the original day school into a residential facility, largely because Mary was appalled that imprisoned women often had to take their children to jail with them simply because there was no place else for them to go.

Kudos go to the Heritage Village Museum for having a dress and cap that are very similar to what Mary wore in her portrait from the 1870s. But look at how tiny her waist was! I just fit into the dress, and Mary would have been swimming in it! And while it would be more authentic for me to wear wool socks, I couldn’t get my feet into period shoes wearing anything other than hosiery! Fortunately, the dress goes to the floor, so no one should notice!

I’m told by a friend whose family has been Quaker for eight generations that a Quaker woman’s dress from that period would not have had white buttons (not quite plain enough). But then again, Mary’s white collar wasn’t quite typical, either. And do I see a touch of lace in her cap?? Incidentally, the buttons on my dress are purely decorative; the front is actually closed by a couple dozen hooks and eyes.

If you’re keen to attend the program, the cost is $17 for members of the Heritage Village Museum, or $20 for non-members. I’ll speak for about 30-45 minutes, followed by Q&A and dessert. Advance registration is required. To register, please call 513-563-9484. Hope to see you there!

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