Women You’ve Never Heard Of: Part IV

Tired of the torture chambers that masqueraded as women’s undergarments at the turn of the 20th century, Mary Phelps Jacob armed herself with two bits of silk and a pink ribbon, and set out to crush the corset.  In 1914, she patented the “backless brassiere,”  setting  new standards for comfort and style in women’s clothing.  The invention was especially popular among female laborers in the factories of World War I, who needed undergarments that were light, comfortable and practical.  It was also a big hit with the U.S. Government, who needed the metal used in corsets to construct battleships.

Mary was a pioneer in literature as well as fashion.  While living in Paris in the 1920s, she founded The Black Sun Press with husband Harry Crosby.  Together, they published the works of such up-and-coming luminaries as Ernest Hemingway, Kay Boyle, and James Joyce.  After Crosby’s death in 1929, she expanded Black Sun, and continued publishing until she herself died in 1970.

For her tenacity, refinement, and ingenuity we salute Mary Phelps Jacob: today’s Proud Kate.


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