Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
College Archives and Special Collections


@ElizaBTweetin: August 16, 1872: Eliza Swims!

Posted on August 13, 2013

Bathing machines on a beach.

Bathing machines on a beach.

Can you imagine our Mrs. Wheaton in a swimsuit?  Difficult to picture, isn't it!  Chances are that no one else saw her either!  Although more popular in England than in the United States, bathing machines provided privacy for ladies who wished to swim.

A Beale bathing machine.

A Beale bathing machine.

Wheeled changing rooms, they were parked on the beach for women to change from their day clothes into their woolen bathing suits. The contraption was then pushed into the water.  Early models had a sort of umbrella that could be lowered to the water's surface, so that the lady could be entirely unseen until she entered the sea.

Bathing dresses from Godey's Lady's Book, 1868

Bathing dresses, Godey's Lady's Book, 1868

Although we may not be able to imagine swimming while swathed in wool, women of the period found an unusual amount of freedom of movement in such outfits.  After swimming in the morning, our travelers enjoyed an evening in the parlor, while the young people danced.

It is clear from her confusion about the chronology of events that Eliza was so busy enjoying her vacation that she filled in her diary entries only every few days, necessitating passages being crossed out and rewritten in their proper sequence.

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