This cute picture of a toddler in a dress dates from 1884 and is featured in a Smithsonian magazine article.
According to the article, children at that time typically dressed in what was considered a “gender-neutral” outfit—frilly white dress, patent-leather shoes, and a feathery hat. Their hair was left long and uncut until age 6 or 7, the time of their first haircut.
Similarly, a Ladies’ Home Journal from June 1918 states, “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason being that pink, a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”
These references are compiled in the book Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America by historian Jo B. Paoletti, associate professor of American studies at the University of Maryland.
According to Paoletti, pink and blue were not promoted as gender signifiers for girl and boy babies until just before World War I, a process Paoletti calls “pinkification.”
She says resisting the phenomenon matters because, “pinkification goes beyond the use of pink for girls’ things; it also narrows the choices and excludes gender-neutral options…..It teaches and reinforces stereotypes and limits the way children perceive themselves and others.” Worst of all, it excludes children who don’t fit society’s gender molds. (Source: Parent Map)
And who’s the little toddler in the picture above?
Franklin Delano Roosevelt.