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Look Back: Parkersburg navigates the shirtwaist controversy

Historical newspaper excerpts from the Wood County Historical Society

Shirt Waist Club now organized

Chicago, July 12 — The barring of citizens in shirt waist from a LaSalle street restaurant yesterday started the Central District Shirt Waist Club and the membership promises interesting times for any restaurant or theatre proprietor who dare say aught against the shirt waist in the future.

The first meeting will be held next Tuesday. The members will pledge themselves to stand back of every one of the club who is ejected from a restaurant or theatre on account of appearing in a shirt waist. The members are determined to assert the right of free-born citizens to wear what is comfortable in hot weather.

The Parkersburg Daily State Journal

July 12, 1901

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Shirt waists

The “shirt waist” is alright in its place. In hot weather there can be no objection to a man appearing in such a garment on the street, and in the store and office. To appear at church or in the dining room in the presence of ladies, without a coat, would be an offense against good manners.

Excerpt from The Parkersburg Daily State Journal

July 9, 1901

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Sistersville Shirtwaisters

Sistersville, W.Va. — Please tell me in your paper about shirt waist for men. Do they have tails, and how do they differ from shirts? Our crowds are going to get some if they are all right. [signed] GUY.

Some days ago our wife called us on the phone from the store, saying she would get us a couple of shirt waists. Thus it happens we can answer our Sistersville reader. The shirt waist has no tail. It would be better off if it had. It has a draw string which fastens it about the waist. There is one feature about this draw string which will forever prevent the men’s shirt waist from becoming popular in Sistersville. It has a tendency to creep up the back, thus making the wearing of an undershirt a necessity to one who goes in society. Of course around home or at the office or store it don’t make much difference, but at a picnic, for instance — even a Sistersville picnic — it would not be nice for the men to show three or four inches of raw back, when bending or stooping over the dinner on the green grass or swinging the girls in the swing. It is not nice either when rowing a boat.

The shirt waist has a fullness in the front which does not appear in the [a] shirt, but why it is built that way we cannot say. In the ladies shirt waist this fullness is a necessity, and its reason in most cases apparent, but worn by men it is a mockery concealing nothing but a vacuum and in our opinion the garment would be improved if they would take the stuff which makes the fullness in front and give it a tail. — The Wetzel Democrat

The Parkersburg Sentinel

July 15, 1901

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Bob Enoch is president of the Wood County Historical Society. Would you like to help preserve our past for future generations? The society offers informative monthly meetings and an interesting, 20-page quarterly newsletter. Dues are just $20/year. Send to: WCHPS, P.O. Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102.

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