Monthly Archives: April 2010

That Wicked Old Hoop Skirt

The United Brethren Church (UB), stemming from the immigration of large numbers of Swiss Anabaptists into the United States largely during the eighteenth century, was a prominent religious movement during the settlement of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and many parts of the west.  Their membership and adherents were loosely affiliated with the Mennonites, German Reformed, Shakers,  Quakers, Amish, Dunkers and Primitive Baptist movements by theology; and today are prominently represented by the Church of the Brethren, Methodist Episcopal (ME) Churches, and United Methodist congregations.  Social customs were strictly enforced, and the degree of “conservatism” demonstrated by adherents often distinguished differing congregations within each sect.

For example, many (if not most) Brethren men were required to sport full beards, but mustaches were not permitted because they represented a vain showing of personal style.  Some sects of Quakers chose not to use buttons or zippers on their clothing into the 20th century, preferring cloth ties to express piety and conservatism as an expression of their humility.

An interesting article from the The Adams Sentinel, published in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 1, 1851 provides a glimpse into their conservatism and–as so often happens even today–dissent:

“The resolutions of the Miami Conference of the Church of the United Brethren, declaring the wearing of crinoline incompatible with a true Christian profession, seems to be rigidly enforced by the authorities of that denomination. At a Camp meeting of the United Brethren Church, recently held near West Baltimore, Montgomery County. Ohio, Bishop Russell forbade any one with hoops on to partake of the sacrament, affirming that they would not be welcomed at the table of the Lord.’  If the doctrine and discipline of Bishop Russell were to be enforced here, we fear we should have but a few “Christians” among the angels in calico and crinoline. It is difficult to discover anything really irreligius or immoral in hoops, per se. If the soul or body, which are thus hooped, are what they ought to be, why exclude the outside covering from the table of the Lord? To us (miserable sinners that we are!) there is about as much unreasonableness in the proposition, as in the suggestion that women ought not to come to the Sacrament at all, because the Saviour had invited none of them to the Last Supper!”

Some things never change!