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A letter from Rosa Sprig advising Mary Walker on manners.

Why It Matters

Mary Edwards Walker's style of dress was unusual for the time--she preferred pants to dresses--and was very involved with the women’s dress reform movement. While many women may have agreed with her ideas, Walker's strong personality and sometimes impolite manner made people hesitant to work with her. In her letter, Rosa Sprig, a British admirer of Walker's dress reform ideas, advises Walker to clean up her appearance so that others will take her ideas seriously.

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Analyze this evidence

  • Compare this letter to the one written to Lida Poynter by Elizabeth Stack. How do Sprig and Stack describe Mary Walker? What does this tell you about her?
  • Why do you think the author of this letter feels it is necessary to tell Walker what people were saying about her habits?

Listen to this document read aloud

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Madam, I very much like your style of dress and would be glad to see it generally adopted. You have done a great deal to bring it before the attention of the ladies, but excuse my frankness - you have in some respects injured the reform cause. Shall I be candid? You have done harm by some of your habits which are not considered proper, at least in England. It is painful to enter into particulars but it will be serving you by telling you plainly. Perhaps you are not aware that your untidy hair, unwashed face, and dirty hands are more frequently noticed than is pleasant. Nose picking and nail biting are more objectionable still. This and other things are said of you without your knowing it and you would do well to avoid it. Faithfully yours, Rosa Sprig