Hat honor and Quaker women
November 29, 2010 § 7 Comments
I have been editing the section of my book on Quakers and Capitalism dealing with hat honor and plain speech and was reminded of some questions about Quaker history that perhaps my readers can answer.
In all the discussions I’ve read of hat honor, I have never read a discussion of the corresponding obligations encumbent upon women. Does anyone know anything about this?
We know that a man was obliged to doff his hat to someone of higher rank and presumably, one could tell someone’s social class by his dress, specifically, I think, the style of his hat. My first questions are, can anyone confirm that hat style signified social rank, and does anyone know more about which hat styles went with which rank? Finally, as regards men’s hat styles, was the distinctive style of the Quaker hat modeled on any of the hat styles prevalent at the time, so that it would have suggested a Friend’s rank, or was it specifically designed to avoid this kind of association?
And what about women? Did bonnet style also signify rank? Since they could not doff their bonnets, were women obliged to curtsy before people of senior rank? Traditionally, I believe, women also curtsied to men and even boys as people of senior rank, at least when they were of the same rank or higher. Were women obliged to curtsy even to men of lower rank? Did female Quakers refuse to curtsy to men, or to anyone, regardless of rank?
Does anyone know of any first-hand accounts of female “hat honor,” however it was expressed, or of the forms that the inevitable social outrage took?