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Underwear in 1912

This discussion on "Underwear in 1912" is in the Edwardian Fashion section; I'm curious to know what men, women and children wore as underwear in 1912????...

      
   
  1. #1
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    I'm curious to know what men, women and children wore as underwear in 1912????

  2. #2
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    A quick perusal of the National Cloak & Suit Catalog of the early 1900's shows advertisements for "drawers, chemises, corsets, petticoats, princess slips, camisoles, cotton vests and union suits."

    Kyrila

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    Men wore flannel or linen boxers, undershirts of flannel or cotton, and in winter those awful woolly things - union suits I think they were called, which had a panel for - shall we say - "necessity."

    Some very elegant men of course wore silk underthings - boxers, night shirts, robes. The Broadway producer Flo Ziegfeld had a partiality for silky underclothes, according to his wife Billie Burke. She said he was very fastidious about his underwear and night clothes - one would imagine he would have been since he spent so much time bed-hopping with his "Follies" stars! Poor Billie.

    As for the ladies: They wore corsets made of cord or silk in white or colors; corset covers or chemises in light, gauzy fabrics and usually trimmed in lace and ribbon; underdrawers or "knickers" (which reached to the knees) or else what was called a "combination" which was just what the word implies - a chemise and knickers in one.

    By the 1910s, women were wearing brassieres. These actually went OVER the corset and reached all the way to the waist! Because of the fashion for very narrow skirts, petticoats (in the old sense of ruffled, fluffy things) were quite "out" in 1912, having been replaced by the new-fangled straight slip. But many women wore no slip at all. In fact, in a "hobble skirt" - the most extreme version of the scant skirt fashion - it was impossible to wear anything under it but underdrawers (and even these had to be quite tight or else one would get unsightly bulges!)

    Women also wore cotton, lisle or silk stockings, held by garters. Sometimes these attached to the bottom of the corset which extended down over the hips.


  4. #4
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    I'm thinking women would have had an awkward time of it using the bathroom while wearing the "combinations" you mention.

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    Merry Xmas Tracy,

    Yes, the combinations could be a problem there unless they had an "access" panel!

    Warm regards,
    Randy


  6. #6
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    what about burlap underwear?
    Wasnt that the rage back then?


    regards


    tarn

  7. #7
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    Burlap??? Sounds...itchy! I doubt the fad lasted for long if it existed at all.

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    I think Tarn was pulling our collective legs with the burlap reference.

  9. #9
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    I think you are right, Tracy. My fashion suggestion to Tarn is to try on a pair of burlap knickers. They're just the thing he needs to ... bring him up to scratch.

  10. #10
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    >>They're just the thing he needs to ... bring him up to scratch.<<

    BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    I just can't imagine Lady Duff strutting in a pair of Victoria Secret pink lace bikini panties...

    ;-)

    Michael A. Cundiff
    USA

  12. #12
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    Michael Cundiff wrote: "I just can't imagine Lady Duff strutting in a pair of Victoria Secret pink lace bikini panties..."

    Ah, come on Michael, admit it. You've been fantasizing about that for years.

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    You betcha Randy...for what it's worth my ex, oh how I hate that word :-( one wife that was...

    ...bears similar resembleance to a younger Miss Gordon. And pink is her...uh my favorite ;-)

    BTW Randy, my ex's don't live in TEXAS...

    Michael A. Cundiff
    USA

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    Hey, dont knock burlap underwear, its great, especially on hot days.....
    Its beats barbed wire thongs, thats for sure...

    reagrds

    Tarn Stephanos

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    I'm almost in pain contemplating the idea of a barbed wire wedgie.

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    Michael wrote: "BTW Randy, my ex's don't live in TEXAS..."

    I guess I'm better off knowing that but ain't real sure, hoss. Anyhow, 'wish I could say the same about my ex's!

    And Tarn, your S&M underwear fetish is getting kind of scary.



  17. #17
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    This 1912 lass is proud of her natural beauty. Indeed, why worry about underwear when one has such a lovely hat!




  18. #18
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    Children wore liberty bodices, both boys and girls. It was a thick short-sleeved vest, sort of padded, with rubber buttons. They were still around in the late 1950s and, as a small child, I was forced into one to keep me warm. Life was much colder then I admit, but I hated it - little fingers trying to do up the rubber buttons in a bathroom with ice on the inside of the windows .... brrr. This link from a museum in Leicester shows nearly every kind of underwear you can think of.
    http://museums.leics.gov.uk/collecti...WSE_COLLECTION

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    This 1912 lass is proud of her natural beauty. Indeed, why worry about underwear when one has such a lovely hat!
    A bit like this poster girl in a Philip Steer painting, 'The Black Hat', from "The Edwardians: Secrets and Desires" exhibition touring Oz:

    http://www.nga.gov.au/Exhibition/Edw...26208&ViewID=2

    One really should be mindful of one's accessories, such as shoes, gloves and HATS. All else is apparently a bit secondary...!

  20. #20
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    Haha, when discussing burlap undergarments and barbed-wire thongs, do not forget the all-time famous historical fashion: Scottish highlanders wearing scratchy wool kilts without anything on underneath them in a climate which was cool and breezy. Now that's brave!

    All joking aside, this is actually a very interesting thread. The everyday lives and routine things that people would do in different times throughout history are often overlooked. While underwear through time isn't usually the focus of my thoughts, I have often wondered about the details of everyday life that my relatives and ancestors lived with.
    Regards,
    Tad
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  21. #21
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    Hi Tad (Welcome back!)-
    I am sure people think about underwear more than they would like to admit. But coming from a female perspective, I think the women deserve a lot of credit for all of the daily hassles of wearing a corset and petticoat that were very restrictive and uncomfortable. Surely most of men's undergarments were much more wearable?

    I say "Hat's Off" to all the Ladies!

  22. #22
    Alyson Jones
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    Underwear in 1912? Did men wear those long leggings as underwear?and did women have bras back in 1912?or was the corset considerd a bra?

    Women i think back in 1912 went though hell with there dress code,think men had it so much easier.

  23. #23
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    Certainly most men wore what we now call 'long johns'. Boxer shorts and briefs didn't make much progress before the 1930s. You can find pictures dating from ancient times which feature women wearing garments very like bras, but the modern version functioning as a support garment dates from the early years of the 20th century and would have been in common use by 1912.

    (No, Monica, this comes from reading, not personal experience!)

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    You think you only have to worry about Monica? :-D

  25. #25
    George L. Lorton
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    This 1912 lass is proud of her natural beauty. Indeed, why worry about underwear when one has such a lovely hat!
    It was all about the hats indeed. My Mother's Grandmother had about 20 of 'em and she was 19 in 1912. My Mom spent an afternoon in 1958 with her Grandmother trying them on. I've asked and she says that most of them were only 10 years or younger in age at the time which places them in the late 40's to 50's. No vintage unfortunately. Of course G-Grandma like many children of Swedish Immigrants was a domestic in 1912 so she probably couldn't have afforded a fancy hat in 1912 anyways. She might of made her own though.

  26. #26
    Alyson Jones
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    George, it seems that women today have not changed since you're grand mother's days [1912] of owning 20 pairs of hats. These days women own 20 pairs of shoes or 20 pairs of jeans!Some things never change.

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    >Of course G-Grandma like many children of Swedish Immigrants was a domestic in 1912 so she probably couldn't have afforded a fancy hat in 1912 anyways. She might of made her own though.


    Oh, I beg to differ, partially, George. Hats were actually quite cheap then - and started getting that way when they, like ready-made clothes, were starting to be mass-produced. Even if she couldn't afford a ready-made, she could have cobbled together her own fancy hat. I've read and seen cases of women not only at the turn of the twentieth-century being notoriously frugal in their re-use of material from dresses and bodies and trims from hats, but cases can be found going far back into the nineteenth and even eighteenth century. Once say an 1880s bustle dress that was VERY fancily trimmed, in your typical mid-1880s form, that was actually a remade crinolined dress from the mid 1860s - the original bolero jacket from the ensemble had not been altered and was still being worn with the 1880s version. The look produced was... unique. But they did the same with hats, and if they didn't have the trims cannibalized from other hats, a lot of women, as can be seen in many extant examples, made their own trims - from various things. Once I saw an 1840s gypsy widebrim (it's a plain, wide-brimmed VERY finely woven straw hat that was worn for casual wear for strolling the grounds, picnic outings, etc - but not for any formal use.) that was trimmed with daisies made from crepe paper, using acorns as the centers. I thought it was really cool.


    So yeah, even women who didn't have much means could actually afford a relatively fancy hat - even if they had to spend some time on it making it themselves. And your Grandma sounds like my mom - she probably has dozens upon dozens of hats and she wears them every day (not all at the same time, mind you) 1940s/1950s does have some decent vintage on them now, anything from before then can actually be pretty difficult to come by, when one is shopping antique stores and stuff.



    Back on topic: I once had a couple of items from the 1891 Queen Anne I'm trying to help get restored have an overnight stay in my house once, as they had been left in a nightstand loaned from the family that was returned to them. When I was handed the bag, by the great-granddaughter of the man who built the house, I asked what was in it.

    "Underwear."

    "Underwear?"

    "Great-Grandpa's underwear?"

    "Really?"


    I opened the bag, and digging past the VERY beautiful, albiet somewhat faded rust-orange 1891 parlor drapes, was a foxed and worn looking pair of long-johns with shell buttons fastening the fly. They were probably 1910s or '20s, and were actually pretty neat. Very lightweight too, which would make sense for Florida. Unfortunately, I didn't photograph them while they stayed overnight in the house before they went off to storage.


    Florida, due to its climate, produced hit-or-miss cases of edwardian-underwear-wearing. Either you wore it, or you didn't. Such was your choice, and there really was no in-between, because it was humid, and hot for most of the year, with only a brief reprieve in December and January - so wearing woollen long-johns, even in summerweight, would have been... uncomfortable... even past or before summer.


    Same went for swimming. That part of Florida being in relative isolation until the 1920s, except for the area around the FEC which came through in 1895, you could have the beach to yourself (partly because getting there was a chore in itself, crossing swamps and lagoons.) Either you had something to wear to go in the water, or you didn't. Some people actually bathed out there, and in the lagoons.


    So really, it depends on where you are, who you are and what exact area you're in that determines what you wore in that time, and even today.

  28. #28
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    I have a copy of EVERYDAY FASHIONS 1909 to 1920 AS PICTURED IN SEARS CATALOG. Basically the book is reprints of pages from Sears catalogs during those years. In 1912, Sears featured nine gorgeous hats decorated with velvets, laces, ribbons, feathers, and all sorts of elegant do-dads. Price: $2.98 each. Comparably, women's every day dresses started at $2.75 for a calico, $7.95 for a velveteen, and $13.75 for a taffeta.

    The following year, 1913, similarly styled hats ran from $3.65 to $4.65. Children's fancy hats were around $1.19. Dresses were advertised from $7.48 for an embroidered net overdress to $16.50 for a silk charmeuse and $22.50 for a silk crepe.

    Fast forward to 1915 and prices fell to $2.48 to $3.98. Dresses dropped to $3.98 for a combination crepe, $4.95 for a washable silk, and $6.98 for an embroidered cotton voile.

    I'm no expert in what that would translate in today's prices, but I know there are many here who could put it in perspective. Someone may also be able to explain the variances in the economy that drove the prices up and down in such a short time.

  29. #29
    George L. Lorton
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    Thank you for your input Alyson and Brandon. You convinced me. Although I can't find any photo's of G-Grandma wearing a hat from her younger teenage early married days. She might of been raised to take her hat off when her photo's was being taken. My other hat mad Grandma did pose in a hat. Both are below. Both loved hats but only one wore them in photo's

    One Teacher wore hats for Pics

    One Parlour Maid did not.
    They both were the same in every photo I've seen taken of them in their youth. One with a hat and one with out.

    Also World War I might of had something to do with the economy, Kyrila.

  30. #30
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    I had considered the possibility of WW1 being a factor, however this is an American catalog and America didn't enter the war until 1917. In fact, as the catalogs carry on into 1920, it is interesting to see how women's dresses change from frilly, bright and gay fashions prior to 1917, once you enter the pages for 1917 to 1918 (when the armistice was signed) the catalog featured "mourning dresses."

  31. #31
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    Well, I don't know what you think Kyrila, but secondary research usually precedes primary research, doesn't it? So I think Bob should get out there in the field and interrogate a few sprightly centenarians about their underwear in the years before Jane Russell hit the hayloft in The Outlaw.

  32. #32
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    Certainly the working classes could be well turned out when dressed in their best. Here's my great great aunt Louisa some time in the 1880s. Her husband was a casual labourer, so there wasn't much money to spare. But Louisa worked as a seamstress, so her outfit was probably home made.



  33. #33
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    Kyrila, the US hadn't entered the war by 1915 but your export markets would have been disrupted, so maybe the garment industry had stocks to clear. Just guessing!

    "Bob should get out there in the field and interrogate a few sprightly centenarians about their underwear."
    Right, Mon. See you next Thursday.

  34. #34
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    Yes, that's the logical conclusion. But I'm wondering if the war had impact on the tremendous increase in 1913, one year prior to the war, and then the prices dropped to near 1912 prices in 1915. That makes me wonder if there weren't other economic factors besides the war.

  35. #35
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    Well, I walked into that one!

    Your Great Aunt Louisa was one mean seamstress if she made that lovely outfit at home.

  36. #36
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    Yes, Great Aunt Louisa's dress is absolutely gorgeous. I wish I could sew like that.

  37. #37
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    Whoops! It's Bob's Great great Aunt Louisa, Kyrila ... I don't want to give him any more age-related ammunition.

    But to think, you and I have sewing machines and, although I know you do much better, the most I can produce is a few T-shirts. But they didn't squander hours in front of the TV or at the computer, did they? But if they could have, I bet they would have.

  38. #38
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    And I'd venture to say they did most of their sewing by hand and not by machine. Well done, Great GREAT Aunt Louisa!

  39. #39
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    Back then of course there were two main options for working women - domestic service or whatever local industry was available. In the north that would have been the cotton or woollen mills, but here in Colchester it was garment making, so a great many local women acquired tailoring skills. Here's a small Colchester garment factory (making mens' suiting) around 1910. The cutters in the foreground were always men; the women are at their sewing machines in the background. In Louisa's time they certainly were using machines, and possibly there was no objection to the girls making use of them for their own purposes during their dinner breaks.



  40. #40
    Alyson Jones
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    Bob- I love you're grand mothers dress,defferenlty the top half.Miner adjustments and i would wear it.
    Bob you mention jobs that women had back in 1910,how about nurses? were women in the nursing profession?

  41. #41
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    Most nurses were women. And some doctors too. My great grandmother worked as an army nurse in the 1890s and volunteered to serve again throughout the 1914-18 Great War. She found time to raise seven children too.

    PS: Kyrila and Mon, looks like there's a new player in the game! My age has now advanced to 100 plus.

  42. #42
    Alyson Jones
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    Women Doctors? I thought doctor was a mans profession,i learnt something new!
    It seems wowmen had more guts back then compare to us today!I don't think i can go though war then having 7 babies or i probelry can't hack having just one.
    Are you 100 years old?

  43. #43
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    No, I'm not quite 100 years old but I'm working on it. A lot more than half way there.

  44. #44
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    Alyson, you might be interested in reading the biography of Dr. Alice Leader who was a passenger on Titanic.

    http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org...ce-leader.html

  45. #45
    Alyson Jones
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    Hi there.Thanks for that information, much appercaited.
    Iv'e got one question-It says this lady was married but in those days,women were not aloud to work if married,maybe it was only her husband was a doctor.
    Or does that law only exsist in England and not America?If so it's great to know there was women docs out there in those days.

    Bob-nothing wrong with that age,mature people are the best to talk too.

  46. #46
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    Women doctors, oh dear. Well, it depends where you live. Most doctors in the former USSR are women, and so it is a lower-paid profession, despite the training required. Generally speaking, if a profession is dominated by men, it is highly paid. If it's dominated by women, it is not. People might think I'm just a feminist grouch here, but all I'd say is just check it out.

    Nurses in the UK have traditionally been female. But over the last 3 decades men have moved into the profession - and I have nothing against that in principle. Except that they have taken charge. And I still wouldn't have anything against that, except for the fact that nurses don't actually nurse these days - too busy doing courses, in-putting repetitive data to computers, filling in forms which tick political boxes. Doctors don't get you better, they just diagnose (which nurses can anyway) and prescribe and operate, which is a good thing. But nurses get you better, and out of the hospital. Or should be able to.

  47. #47
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    It's not true that married women could not work. Traditionally the middle and upper class married women did not work--let's face it--upper class women only worked at charities as volunteers to appease their ambitions. Middle class women might have held prestigious employment as nurses and teachers, clerks, secretaries or such as that, which would not damage their reputations and were held to very high standards of morality.

    Lower class women worked in factories, as servants, and other menial jobs whether they were married or not. It's true that jobs were fewer for women than men, and a man would certainly be hired before a woman would--it being a man's world back then.

    Society expected the man to be the breadwinner and the woman to stay home and keep house and children in order, however for many, this was not practical. Particularly in America, women struggled to be financially secure from their own labor. Even if their husbands were gainfully employed, women would find some way to make extra money, whether by selling produce from their gardens, eggs from their chickens, handiwork from their sewing/knitting/crocheting--you get the picture? We even have an expression for money earned on the side--we call it "egg money."

    Southern women in America particularly learned to "fend for themselves" during and after the Civil War because they had learned true hardship and starvation. The film, COLD MOUNTAIN, accurately depicts pretty much what my great-great grandparents endured in Kentucky. Women had to figure out how to make money and get food without their menfolk--or else they and their children would starve. They did not abandon these newly developed skills when the war ended and their men came home--if they came home at all.

    I think I'm resourceful because of my ancestors' passing down the gumption to be resourceful from one generation to the next. And because of their pluck, my parents and grandparents survived the Great Depression, and I have no doubt I will survive this Depression.

  48. #48
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    I should add that during the Victorian and Edwardian "Industrial" era, many children from impoverished areas were employed in dangerous factories. In 1834, a woman named Harriet Martineau investigated the Waltham Mills and wrote about what she saw there. Little girls were earning a dollar a week working at machines. Older girls received two to three dollars a week. The author was led to believe that these girls helped their families with their earnings--paying off mortgages or sending brothers to college--not the reality of their lives. These children and teenagers were not only subject to injury and death on the job, they were also subjected to more sinister designs by their employers and managers. This is the seamier side of the age we all fondly admire.

  49. #49
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    Alyson, there never was any law that prevented married women from working. But hospital nurses worked long hours and often were required to live virtually on the premises, which ruled out any family life. The same applied to maids and other domestic servants (male or female) who were required to 'live in' as members of their employer's household and so were almost always unmarried.

  50. #50
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    Actually, Alyson has a half-truth about married women not being allowed to work.

    In South Australia, until about 1970, when a female teacher married she was required to resign from her job. She was usually reinstated but with a break in her service record. I think this probably happened in other occupations, such as nursing.

    If this could happen in the very liberal state of SA things might have been rather dire elsewhere.
    Dave Gittins
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    http://titanicebook.com/Book.html

  51. #51
    George L. Lorton
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    My Great Grandmother kept her teaching job while getting married. Because of the Great War and the shortage of Male teachers. But by 1918 the men were coming back including her husband. Plus she was going to be a mother. Grandma came just in time for tea on a cold February afternoon in 1919 and stayed for 17 years.

  52. #52
    Alyson Jones
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    Hi Ladies and Gents,Wo i was not expectitng al of this info,it's blowing my mine.so many input!
    Thanks for clearing things up for me.
    You know ill be back with more questions lol.

  53. #53
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    Always here to help!

  54. #54
    Alyson Jones
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    Dave. What you mention i heard from my mum.My mum's mum had to quit work when she got married,they said it was the law to quit work?
    Maybe it was only in Australia that had that law and not in America and England?

  55. #55
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    There is nothing in common law (as I understand it) that has ever said that married women could not work but, as others have pointed out, there may be restrictions under certain contracts of employment, particularly in occupations such as nursing.

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    View Image

    ladies underwear winter fall 1911-1912

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    mens underwear

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    Haaaaaaaaahahahaha

 

 

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