November 1, 2009

What is a Mantua Maker?



     A newspaper article about skillfully creating imaginative Halloween costumes reminded me of past days when I made our family’s Trick or Treat and Halloween parade outfits. It also reminded me of the hours I spent sewing clothes for my family—I believe the “hat” I wore back then was known as “seamstress.” Tailor might have been an appropriate title also, since I made suits for my husband and son, and coats for myself.

To view a couple of photographs taken at the time I wore the hat “mantua maker,” click on: &

     These memories came to mind when I came across the term “mantuamaker” in the book A Midwife’s Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard Based on Her Diary,  1785-1812*. Just what was a mantuamaker, I wondered, as I moved myself over to the Internet to find out.

     Mantuas, a loose gown worn by women, in the 17th and 18th century, were called a mantie or mantua, from the French word manteau.***

     Mantua makers are found on the United States census between 1790 and 1910. However, their history evolves much earlier, according to one web site***. The very last Boston woman to claim the title of mantuamaker (more…)

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