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Newspaper Advises Women on Crossing Muddy Streets

About the time when the first Anglo-American settlers and miners were struggling to survive in the wilderness of Southern Oregon and Northern California, Portland was dealing with more urbane issues.

For example, the Oregon almanac for 1940 referred to a Morning Oregonian article in 1852 that addressed the subject, “Should a Woman Hold Up Her Dress in the Street?”

The article offered, perhaps with tongue in cheek, step-by-step instructions for crossing muddy streets.  Pioneer women to the south were a few years away from confronting that dilemma.

“In the first place,” the article began, “a lady should never be seen in the streets in rainy or muddy weather.  Then, to lift a skirt gracefully is a great art, and done ungracefully, make a woman ridiculous; but if she could, when (she) comes to a puddle just gather the flowing skirts in one hand, revealing nothing beyond the top of a well-laced boot, and then spring over; we should opine that it were more graceful than to dabble with mud both boot and stocking.”

Having given the advice, the article warned its readers, “Still, to lift the robe in public is a dangerous experiment.”

Source:  An Oregon Almanac for 1940/Oregon Writers Project/Works Progress Administration. Portland, Ore.: Joaquin Miller Associates/Dr. Ralph I. Shadduck, chairman, 1939. 18. Web. 20 July 2016. .

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.