in the 1950's did police actually stop and question women wearing pants?

(background info: Professor Leonard Steinhorn has just published a book about the baby boomers and how great their generation was, and still is. He gives the usual reasons–the boomers’ parents merely fought in WWII, but then they came home to a racist society. The boomers saved us by fighting for civil rights, etc.)

Okay, I don’t want to argue philosophy–I just want to know if Steinhorn is right about this quote:

Yeah, I know that the 50’s were not good times for non-conformists. Strict social rules governed everything, including fashion. Sure, most women wore dresses, and nobody wore jeans outside the house, etc.
But was it ever true that the police would stop a women who was wearing trousers?

Sounds like exageration to me. Am I right?

(cite info–or lack therof , actually. The specific article I am quoting does not seem to be online–I read it in my local newspaper.
But a very similar article by Steinhorn ishere

Emma Snodgrass arrested in Boston for wearing pants in 1852.

Yeah, I know, “wrong 50’s.”

Sorry, I got nothing else.

He’s blowing smoke. It is certainly possible that some women in some neighborhoods may have been stopped by police to be sure that they were not prostitutes, but hardly on the mere “cause” that they were wearing pants.

Look at any 1950s movie (and some going back to the 1940sor 1930s) and you will find women (even the “good” women) wearing pants outside the home.

Slacks were certainly not considered appropriate clothing in many settings–church, some restaurants, public meetings–the same places where guys would have been expected to wear a tie and a jacket. It is hard to believe any policeman actually got caught up in enforcing fashion, however, unless he has an example from some small town that was hardly representative.

I can recall photos in Life and National Geographic in which the future Queen Elizabeth II was wearing slacks while in a war support job in the 1940s.

Women started wearing pants in the 1930s, I believe. By the 1950s, girls wearing jeans (usually rolled up to their knees with saddle shoes) was pretty common.


Some towns in the US still have ordinances against women wearing pants in public, but they haven’t been enforced in a long time.

Stone Butch Blues, the autobiographical account of a “butch” lesbian from that time period, indicates that it was illegal for women to be out and about without a finite number of “female” garments (I think she said 3). I think women were at risk of being considered transvestites (and therefore, given the lack of distinction made by society, lesbians) if they wore pants, just as males would be if they were attired in skirts. I’m having trouble coming up with 3 items of “female” apparel that would be visible to a cop without stopping you for a closer inspection and/or partial disrobing if you had pants on – ??


Development of Fashion Through the 1950’s

Purse, women’s shoes, earrings/other jewellery, woman’s hat, kerchief?

The piece is available at Washington Post

I dunno about pants per se, but it’s often held to be true that there was a trend toward conservatism in the '50s, and that behavior that might have been acceptable in the '30s and '40s wasn’t necessarily so any longer.

Katharine Hepburn must have been getting arrested a lot in the 1950s.

In the 60’s long hair on a man could result in a billy club smackdown from John Law. Doesn’t really seem anymore bizarre than busting a woman in pants to me.

Did this ever happen outside of Easy Rider?

Pants on women prior to WWII was an extreme rarity and would usually only be for practicallity such as farm work.
My mother did factory wqork during the war, but if she wore pants I never saw it. She would have worn a dress or skirt to work and changed there. I do remember her getting some blue jeans, but only to wear around the house to work in, never, ever would she go anywhere in public.
Bars were for men and any women seen in one was consider less than a lady. There were upscale bars, most who also served food, who began to advertise in their windows: “Booths for Ladies”, but even then many women were suspect of the behavior. I should point out that these were definately bars that also served food, not restuarants that served alchohol.
Of course women had driven cars before this, but it was the exception, even into the early 60’s it was unusual for a woman to drive when a man was in the car.
I attended HS in the mid 50’s and the only time girls wore anything other than dresses or skirts was for gym class.
This was in northeastern Ohio in a med. sized city.
WWII was definately the inspiration for women wearing pants, but most women, and society in general, were slow in accept the trend.
As for a cop stopping a woman for wearing pants, it sounds unusual, but I can’t say it wouldn’t draw the attention of police.

I have photos of my grandmother as a young woman wearing pants while sailing around the bay with friends and dates. (And boy, were they unflattering. I’m not sure they’d figured out tailoring pants for women yet…) I’m not sure that that counts as an ‘extreme rarity’ and ‘practical.’

Often enough.

I had several classmates who were “questioned” (with some physical inducements to say the right thing) in the late 1960s. One classmate was knocked off the base of a statue by a cop with a club for taking photos of a demonstration parade–the same statue’s base where people typically placed their kids to watch the Thanksgiving Day parade and where office workers often sat to each their lunches.

I doubt that there were hordes of cops wandering around beating kids with long hair, (aside from Chicago in the Summer of '68), but it was certainly not an incredibly rare event.

Chappachula, was Lenny Steinhorn himself a “baby-boomer”? There is a very strong tendency for people see themselves as being special, in this case by belonging to an anointed generation.

He was born in 1957. A “noob.”