To Die Dying Your Hair

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In 1898 the Almonte Gazette reported that a local resident died from dying her hair and this just the week before it had happened in Buffalo.

Edwardian women washed their hair infrequently (by today’s standards) and brushed their hair with with real boar bristle brushes. They put just as much stuff in their hair as we do but they also did things to their hair that we would never do. In the Victorian era hair was considered an important part of her appearance. On both sides of the Atlantic, it marked her status and her femininity.

An important rite of passage for an adolescent girl during this time was the moment she began to wear her hair up. Previously it would have been worn loose or in braids and tied up with a ribbon. The hair was not cut unless absolutely necessary.

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As in many societies, religious doctrine was a factor in the policing of Victorian women’s hair, mandating that it be covered or done up, particularly if the woman was married. Letting one’s hair down was commonly seen as brazen and immodest, even sinful. To a Victorian observer, photographs of women with long, loose hair would be particularly titillating. Pornographic even.

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Among the fashionable middle and upper classes of Victorian society, a lady’s hair became the focal point of sexual interest, the primary expression of her femininity. For the poorer classes, maintaining long tresses amid the disease and poor hygiene of the time was highly impractical. Many women resorted to selling their hair for cash — not a problem if they typically wore it short or covered anyway.

But, was none other than toxic ingredients the ladies mixed that sometimes created a fatality in the life of those trying to stay beautiful.

 

Read the Almonte Gazette here.

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About lindaseccaspina

Linda Knight Seccaspina was born in Cowansville, Quebec about the same time as the wheel was invented and the first time she realized she could tell a tale was when she got caught passing her smutty stories around in Grade 7 at CHS by Mrs. Blinn. When Derek "Wheels" Wheeler from Degrassi Jr. High died in 2010, Linda wrote her own obituary. Some people said she should think about a career in writing obituaries. Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa from 1976-1996. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off she finally found her calling. Is it sex drugs and rock n' roll you might ask? No, it is history. Seeing that her very first boyfriend in Grade 5 (who she won a Twist contest with in the 60s) is the head of the Brome Misissiquoi Historical Society and also specializes in local history back in Quebec, she finds that quite funny. She writes every single day and is also a columnist for Hometown News and Screamin's Mamas. She is a volunteer for the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum, an admin for the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page, and a local guest speaker. She has been now labelled an historian by the locals which in her mind is wrong. You see she will never be like the iconic local Lanark County historian Howard Morton Brown, nor like famed local writer Mary Cook. She proudly calls herself The National Enquirer Historical writer of Lanark County, and that she can live with. Linda has been called the most stubborn woman in Lanark County, and has requested her ashes to be distributed in any Casino parking lot as close to any Wheel of Fortune machine as you can get. But since she wrote her obituary, most people assume she's already dead. Linda has published six books, "Menopausal Woman From the Corn," "Cowansville High Misremembered," "Naked Yoga, Twinkies and Celebrities," "Cancer Calls Collect," "The Tilted Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place," and "Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac." All are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Linda's books are for sale on Amazon or at Wisteria · 62 Bridge Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada, and at the Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum · 267 Edmund Street · Carleton Place, Ottawa, Canada--Appleton Museum-Mississippi Textile Mill and Mill Street Books and Heritage House Museum and The Artists Loft in Smith Falls.

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