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Short Hair Was Shameful Until the 20th Century

Long

Short hair once was a sign of weakness!

I’m reading a wonderful novel,”Gilead,” winner of the Pulitzer Prize, by Marilynne Robinson. It’s a book with powerful and exceptional prose that I am coddling, savoring and enjoying immensely. “Rapturous . . . astonishing . . . Gilead is an inspired work from a writer whose sensibility seems steeped in holy fire.” — Elle

In the luminous voice of Congregationalist minister, John Ames, below he writes in his journal, how life was for the survivors after the civil war;

The neighbor women dosed his mother with tea of red clover blossoms, which probably didn’t do her any harm, my father said. They also cut off her hair, because they thought it was draining away her strength. She cried when they showed it to her, and she said it was the one thing in her life she was ever proud of . . . In those days, and even when I was a child, women kept their hair long because they felt the Bible said they should (1 Corinthians 11:15) But it would be cut off if they were sickly, and that was always a sad thing, a kind of shame for them, along with everything else they had to go through. So it was very hard for her. ,,

My Grandmother, (Nana) who was born in the 1800’s and died at the age of 88 some 30 years ago, had beautiful long hair from a young age till shortly after getting married. She decided on short hair, in her own independent way, shortly after getting married, much to my Grandfathers (Pops) frustration.

Short Hair History

My family and cousins grew up summers, with Nan and Pops, in Prior Lake, Minnesota, where we were able to play, swim, ride horses and do what kids do to enjoy those insouciant summer days. I’m blessed to have memories and stories from Nan and Pops, that make the 1800’s appear nearer than we may normally think them to be.

Pops, for instance, would often work his charms trying to convince us girls to give up our short hair.”You have beautiful long hair,” he would say to each one of us, “grow it, don’t cut it, grow it, grow it to your knees.” He should have been speaking to our mothers, Popsy’s daughters, because they had a different agenda in mind. Our mothers would haul us up to the local hair salon, kicking and screaming, to get our annual summer short hair cuts. The logic was, our mothers didn’t want to spend hours combing out, sun-dried matted hair daily, with screaming girls at every snarl. That’s understandable, but we all felt ugly and that we looked more like little boys than little girls!

So I had to laugh when reading this passage as it brought back memories of Pops and his love for the long hair. Popsy’s father was a soldier in the Civil War, so his life mirrored the times written of in the novel. And long hair for women still was the way things “should be” in Popsy’s day.

As you can see, our attachment to long hair for women . . . dates waaaay back . . . back to the Bible. It’s in our genes!

The passage in Corinthians, seems to be about as archaic as the idea that,”your strength is in your hair” and that’s all I’m going to say about that. You’ll have to read it for yourself to see how you weigh in on it.

Barb Quinn on Google+  

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