"Hugged as a viper to the bosom": Antebellum Corset Reform and the Question of Authority
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Between 1820 and 1850, an active and robust movement to eradicate women’s corsets and the practice of tight-lacing became popular in the press. Primarily male reformers responding to forces of modernization attacked women’s corsets in newspapers with a series of arguments designed to shame, scare, and blame women. Female authors, however, challenged male reformers’ knowledge of corsets and thus their authority to speak about the garment. Without overtly challenging the prevailing gender hierarchy and through articulation of their own logic about corsets, women instead asserted their own sex’s authority to speak publicly about corsets and women’s bodies.