I’ve shared a bit about Pattie Lundy Phipps, my third great-aunt, in a previous post about the Lundy family.
The eldest daughter of Emeline Potts Eppes, my maternal fourth great-grandmother, Pattie was a dressmaker in Greensville County, Virginia.
During the early 1880s, Pattie received schooling at Saint Augustine’s Normal School and Collegiate Institute in Raleigh, NC.
Perhaps Pattie and the other students at Saint Augustine’s learned some of their lessons out of a book such as this:
In the 1900 U.S. Census, Pattie’s occupation was noted as dressmaker:
What might Pattie’s designs have looked like? Maybe something like these triumphs?
From The Fashion Institute of Technology’s (FIT) Fashion Timeline website: “Fig. 1 – Thomas E. Askew (American, 1850?-1914). Four African American women seated on steps of building at Atlanta University, Georgia, ca. 1895-1900. Gelatin silver photographic print. Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, LOT 11930, no. 362. Source: Library of Congress”
For historical context in dressmaking among African-American women, I share this:
From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, here are excerpts from entry: African American Dressmakers, 1900 U.S. Census, Kentucky By Reinette F. Jones|May 5, 2019
“There was quite a bit not mentioned in Bulletin no.8, Negroes in the United States. For starters, the 12,569 Negro dressmakers had a second or third paying job. Or, dressmaking may not have been a job, but rather, it was part of the family upkeep because the making of clothing for family members did not generate money-in-hand income but made it possible for the family to save money. Home-made clothes were much cheaper than ready-made clothes from factories. The majority of those enumerated in the 1900 Census as Negro dressmakers did not have the luxury of earning their sole income from making dresses.”
“In 1900, 96 out of every 100 Negro women were employed as field workers, house servants, waitresses, and laundresses [source: The Negro Wage Earner, by L. J. Greene and C. G. Woodson. Chapter V. “Domestic and Personal Service Up to 1917”].”
“The overall number of dressmakers were few among the 74,000 Negroes affiliated with textile and garment operations, of which about 8,000 were working in clothing factories throughout the U.S. in 1900 [source: The Negro Wage Earner, p.307].”
A butcher, a baker, a candlestick, and a dressmaker. These are but some of the occupations that we may find which our ancestors made a living doing.
While it’s possible, if not probable, that Pattie styled some of the leading ladies of Greensville County, Virginia, more than likely she was not featured in Vogue.
Yet and still, her trade took skills. She and many other women of color successfully took care of their families by “threading the needle” 🪡 of time, chance, and opportunity. Aeternae gratiae…
This is our situation.
The Genealogy Situation Room