This victorian fan with peacock feathers was very stylish in 1880. Fans had many purposes both being decorative and practical (non existant air conditioning) While being cinched up in a corset that made your middle two sizes smaller so that you could not breath, fans were used to help get some air and to hid your face if you blushed. Heaven forbid if you blushed and what about those poor women who had robust color in their cheeks naturally. Perhaps, they had white makeup that made them look pale.
Not only were feathers used for fans but so called "chicken skin" (skin from unborn lambs) animal skin, paper, lace and silk were all used to make folding fans. Now that I've grossed everyone out, I did learn that there were specific signals that everyone knew back in the Victorian age.
When a lady was flirting with a man, she would let her fan rest on her right cheek, meaning "yes". If the fan was on her left cheek, it was a definite "no". Twirling it in her right hand meant that "I am in love with another". While touching the lips with her fan, meant "kiss me."
The size of the fan matched the size of the dress so when the bouffant skirted dresses were in style, you needed a giant size ostrich plume fan. When dress styles were slender, dainty little fans were used.
Who would think that fans would have survived the pioneer treks. If a women weighed less than 100 pounds, she could ride in the wagon but the rest of the women had to walk across the plains.
Elizabeth Hill Jones was born in Devonshire, England in 1797. She married George Cutcliffe and they had 10 children, among them was three sets of twins who did not survive. They did raise three daughters and one son. They joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and their oldest daughter sailed to America and was supposed to get a job and send money back home so that the rest of the family could immigrate. That did not happen, Elizabeth did not realize that jobs were not there and her daughter was married to survive. When Elizabeth's son was called on a mission to the States, she could not bear to have her only son leave so asked that her husband go in his stead. Her husband left for the mission and while in Iowa, he suffered sunstroke and died in 1858.
Elizabeth and her two daughters were finally able to leave England in 1865 from Liverpool. Her son John never came to America but married a wealthy woman. He contracted pneumonia and died young. Elizabeth and her daughters joined the Willis handcart company and they walked across the plains - Elizabeth was 68. Each of her daughters married in 1866 and Elizabeth found a room to rent in downtown Salt Lake where she became a cook at the Townsend Hotel. At age 88 she had become head chef and supervisor over several cooks. In 1897 she was the oldest woman in Utah and celebrated her 100th birthday. Four months later she became ill and told her daughter that Father and John have come for me. She folded her arms across her chest and went to sleep dying in October of 1897.
Black Silk Cockade Fan
Below is a photo of the Hand Washing Machine. It even has a wringer with a handle. It can be found at the Silver Star Camp Museum in Lincoln, Wyoming.