Editor's Note: This article is from June 5, 1887 Washington Post.
Belledoni’s Latest Fad. New York Girls Now Make Trips In Canoes and Become Heroines.
Special Correspondence of The Post.
New York, June 3. – The canoe threatens to become femininely fashionable. A woman and a canoe – the two ought to go well together, for ever since there were women and canoes they have both had the reputation of being cranky.
“The fact of the matter is, the canoe has been slandered,” said a belle, in talking about canoing for women, “until it has got the reputation of being unsafe. That is what makes it popular among the more dashing of our girls.” She and her brother have made the trip up the Hudson to Albany and back, camping out on the way, and otherwise taking advantage of all the opportunities for roughing it.
“What did you wear? And what did you do with your clothes?” I asked. “You surely didn’t take Sunday bonnet along.”
“I wore a blue flannel dress made all in one piece, with a blouse waist, no drapery, the skirt reaching to the tops of a pair of extra high boots. It weighed a pound and a half. I wore a sailor hat and carried a light jacket, to be ready for changes of weather. Our canoe is rather small to be used as a tandem – it measures fourteen feet by thirty inches – so that one could not have taken much luggage if we had wished. All that we carried weighed only about thirty pounds, and of this our photographic materials, plates, camera, etc., weighed between fifteen and twenty pounds.”
“What did you do at night, sleep on the ground and cover with your canoe, or go to a hotel?”
“We started with the intention of camping out every night, but camping places between here and Albany are not numerous and we sometimes had to stop at a hotel. But we did camp out about two-thirds of the time. We carried a small tent – made of sheeting, so that it would be of less weight than one of canvas – a blanket apiece and a rubber blanket to spread on the ground. We had a tin pail apiece, and a tin cup, tin plate and a knife each, and a few other primitive and strictly necessary articles. Then we carried a few canned meats, but not much in that line, as we expected to be able to buy most of what we would want at our camping places. In that we were sometimes badly disappointed. One evening we camped near Esopus, tired and hungry after paddling all day, and walked over the hill to the country store to find something to eat. But all that was to be had was a loaf of baker’s bread and a bundle of wilted beets. On another occasion all that we could get was some bread and milk and green plums. But usually we fared reasonably well. Then the numerous ice houses along the Hudson and the ice barges constantly going up and down made it easy to keep a tin pail full of ice chips, which seemed quite a luxury.”
“You did not feel afraid tossing about in all that wind and water in such a tiny shell of a boat?”
“Not in the least. I knew the canoe, and I felt just as safe there as I would on dry land. If the persons in a canoe know how to handle it and are reasonably prudent in their actions there is absolutely no danger. If they only sit still in the bottom of the boat they can’t overturn it if they try. One day we went aboard a brick barge, and the astonishment the men who ran the big, clumsy thing showed over our tiny craft was quite amusing. They considered us miracles, of course, because we were willing to go on the water in such a cockle shell and were absolutely sure that we would be upset in less than half an hour. And as for me, they could hardly believe the evidence of their eyes that I had been aboard the canoe, and nothing could have convinced them that there was another woman on the face of the earth who would dare venture in on the water.”
So the belle in a canoe is something of a proud heroine. – Clara Belle
Thank you to HRMM volunteer George Thompson, retired New York University reference librarian, for sharing these glimpses into early life in the Hudson Valley. And to the dedicated HRMM volunteers who transcribe these articles.
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