I had no idea that the words “feminism” and “feminist” first came into use in the early 1900s. (I was aware of suffragettes and such movements, I just didn’t know that the word itself was that old.)
But a newspaper column in 1914 related feminism to our favorite subject: barefooting.
This appeared in some Kansas newspapers in July of 1914.
Girls used to go barefoot because they had to, and when they went to Sunday School they carried their shoes until they came to the last turn in the road and there they put them on. Others went barefoot because they wanted to, and they wore their shoes well out of sight of mother and then took them off and hid them under the bushes at the side of the road, says the Indianapolis News.
And girls still do go barefoot. Many girls are feminists. They are called “Tom boys,” but they are really feminists. They are like all feminists in that they never get exactly what they want and even if they do they immediately begin to want something else which they cannot get the News says further. But going barefoot has always been a great comfort to these young feminists. It is almost as good as going in swimming. It is the thing you are not supposed to do which you can still do with a certain amount of propriety. And, of course, it feels just as good to girls’ feet as it does to boys’ feet. Girls like to paddle in the dust, too, and to make volcanoes between, their toes. They like to wade in the creek even where it is pebbly and they get a certain heroic joy out of following their callous-footed brother through the stubby fields. They like to go to bed without washing their feel, too, and they do it whenever they get a chance.
Above all, they like t o feel that independence of the conventional which going barefoot never fails to give even the smallest girl. That is one joy of going barefoot which a boy cannot possess. A girl is told that it is not nice to go barefoot and she is told that it will spoil her feet, and she knows a lot of girls who wouldn’t for anything and that is just why she wants to. She can’t go in swimming the real way, and she can’t carry water to the elephants at the circus, and she can’t do a lot of things that boys can “do,” but she can go barefoot and she does. Then, some day, some awful day, somebody says, “My, what a big girl you are getting to be.” She faces the dreadful truth that she is growing up and that no amount of going barefoot in going to make her a boy. Sadly and wisely she puts on her shoes and stockings and grows up to be a big feminist.