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Read moreRead moreAn article published in the March 18 issue of The Atlantic magazine featured a series of articles from the journal, titled, “How Women Built The First Shoes.”
In the piece, author and women’s studies scholar Jessica Schoenfeld explores how women built the first shoes in Europe, and how shoes and fashion began to change after women started wearing them.
The piece describes the rise of the women’s footwear industry in the 1600s, which Schoenfield said “could not have been achieved without women.”
She wrote, “The emergence of a women’s industry in Europe in the 16th century was driven by the same factors that drove the emergence of the textile industry: the availability of cheap and plentiful raw materials, the availability and demand for shoes, and the ability to control supply and demand.”
Schoenfeld continued:In the 19th century, the shoe industry would have a difficult time competing with the manufacturing of cloth, which was much more expensive, labor-intensive and difficult to export.
But women did start producing and exporting the shoes in the 1800s.
As Schoenfeld wrote, women had begun to make the shoes they needed and to sell them on to other women, and by 1900, shoes were in demand from all corners of Europe.
When Schoenfels first started researching her book, she realized that the only women’s history she knew of was in the history of women’s clothing, and it was only in the last decade or so that the shoes industry had become a major player in the European fashion industry.
Schoenfel explained, “I didn’t realize that there was this other story that was really happening.”
Schönfels continued, “This is the story of the shoes, which really did shape the European clothing industry in a way that I didn’t think they were really going to.”
Schonenfeld said the shoe-making process was a “very complicated, laborious, and expensive process.”
It took three years to complete a pair of womens shoes, she said, and they often had to be “fixed” before they could be sold.
Schönfeld said she wanted to get women’s histories “on the page” and bring women’s work into the spotlight, and so she decided to focus on the history and development of the footwear industry.
“Women’s shoe makers in Europe had the opportunity to do a lot of things that they didn’t have access to in the textile, wool, cotton, leather, and silk industries, or even in the factories,” she said.
Schonenfeld, a former graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote that there were no women’s-only shoe companies in the 1700s.
However, in 1824, a group of women took a bold step: they founded the Women’s Manufacturers Association.
Schlenghs article described the Association as the first women-only trade association, and Schoenfenfeld said, “It was an exciting time to be a woman in the shoe world.”
The association grew and began to become a powerful force in the footwear world, and women were able to “make shoes that were as strong, flexible and beautiful as the men’s, and that women could afford.”
Schlenfeld also said that the association was a significant force for the development of women-specific brands.
“In many ways, the association’s early years were very exciting for women’s fashion and the fashion industry,” she wrote.
“Its members also became a powerful voice in the fashion world, as women were no longer limited to wearing the same shoes to work, or to visit a store, or work at home.
Their voices would be heard and respected in the marketplace.”
The Association became one of the first trade associations in the United States to allow women to form associations.
Schoenstein wrote that the Association had a very strong history and was “very visible to women.”
In addition to the association, the women had a number of different businesses.
The Association was responsible for women-owned sewing shops, as well as a women-run shoe repair business.
The association was also responsible for sewing women’s skirts, and also for the women-designed clothing and accessories.
Schellenfeld said she had a lot to learn about women’s economic development in Europe and the United Kingdom, and this book helped her to understand the women behind the womens shoe industry in those places.
“I thought it was important to explore the history, history of the industry, and to look at the women who actually created and built it,” Schoenfer wrote.
“Women were part of the fabric of the European shoe industry, as they were in many of the other industries.”