The Scent of a Woman With One Dress




Almonte Gazette September 26 1884


“ Are you as happy now as you were before yon were married?” asked Mrs. Burns of a young new bride named Mrs. Johnson.

“ Yes, indeed,” replied the Mrs. Johnson; “and a great deal happier!”

“That is strange,” suggested Mrs. Burns. “Not at all strange,” came from the young married woman.

“ You see, before I was married I used to spend half my time worrying about what dress I should wear, when my suitor called.”

“But don’t you try just as hard to look well when your husband returns home at night?” informed Mrs. Burns.

“Well, you see,” went on the bride of two summers, “ I don’t worry any about it now as I have only one dress to my name.”


The McNeely Sisters of Lanark County Ontario–


Women spun and wove their own cloth and a popular cloth was linsey-woolsey, made by weaving linen and wool together. This cloth was less expensive than pure wool but still warm and strong. Women also dyed the clothing they produced. They used some local materials, such as alder bark and black oak bark, to produce browns and yellows. Imported woad and indigo (both for blues) and madder (for reds) were also popular. Women made much of the family’s clothing from these homemade fabrics although they might also buy calico or gingham cloth for special occasions.


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Reverend James Robertson of Sherbrooke, Quebec and family-University of Winnipeg Library


To be honest women wore simple, slip-on dresses. Dresses might be made in one piece or might consist of a sacque and overskirt. The sacque was a long dress with a full skirt that hung loosely to the floor or the ankle. In a culture that highly valued female modesty women’s long skirts were useful as curtains. So simple a matter as bodily functions on a terrain that provided no shelter could make daily life an agony of embarrassment when there was no other woman to make of her extended skirt a curtain.


Image result for mum deodorant 1880s


So one can assume that we women were “rank in smell” –only owning only one or two dresses. Put simply, all humans stunk. Anthropologists now believe that our funky selves helped keep us from being some predator’s dinner. Our scent was so rank that the animal about to eat us would actually recoil in horror at the smell and would move on to eat something less repulsive. Now that’s a defence mechanism.

The first trademarked deodorant  “Mum” came out in 1888. Created by an unknown Philadelphia inventor, Mum was a paste applied to the underarms. It was soon followed by Everdry, the first effective antiperspirant. Everdry was an aluminum chloride solution that was dabbed on with a cotton swab to less than desirable results. Everdry took forever to dry, was messy, and had a nasty habit of stinging the user and eating through clothes. But hey, at least you weren’t sweating.



Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.

Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun




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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