Letter to the Editor, The Day Book, Illinois. 21 July 1915.

“WOMEN’S DRESS:- Several of the writers in this great and glorious column have made the remark that men are responsible for the prostitute women of today.

“But no, if the women and men who make this accusation would stop and figure out the reason for these steps on the part of the man. Let us start with the gowns worn by the girls of today.

“They are cut so low at the neck that it is a disgrace; their skirts are so short that their limbs are exposed nearly to their knees.

“All these things go on to irritate man into doing things which are not proper, such as making advances to these girls, and using brutal force to compel these innocent girls to do wrong.

“And in closing, may I say: Women, dress properly and you will not be subject to advances of men; decent men, but irritated by your styles.


Letter to the Editor, The Day Book, Illinois. 26 July 1915.

“CLOTHES FOR WOMEN:- If “Robert” were a bookkeeper and “figured” as well as he advises others to in his article of July 21 he wouldn’t hold a position long.

“I wonder what in “Robert’s” estimation “proper” clothes for women are. I dare say he’d advise us to wear high-collared, long-sleeved waists, clumsy, long skirts, shoes during the summer as well as winter season and opaque veils, so that our “limbs” and faces may not be exposed to tempt and “irritate” the so-called decent men “into doing things that are improper.” Did YOU ever stop and “figure” out that to the fellow who makes advances toward women at any time we are all dear, delightful fair ones, and he’d just as soon attack and insult one as the other.

“You are all wrong, “Robert,” and do an injustice to those of your sex who deserve to be called decent, as few as there are. It’s the indecent men who are always attracted to the extent of “using brutal force to compel innocent girls to do wrong,” and the most conservative dresser in the world is not exempt from such creatures’ advances.

Clara Podlevner.”

Laura, Clara, Dinah and Zelda Podlevner, c.1915Laura, Clara, Dinah and Zelda Podlevner, c.1920


I actually came across Clara”s letter via Clara’s great-nephew Max, who tells me that he remembers her being pretty much the same in old age! It’s simultaneously fantastic to read, and slightly depressing to reflect that, 100 years later, not much has changed. After reading it, I tracked down Robert’s original letter – and alarmingly, there are still people nowadays who think like this. But fortunately, these days there are more people like Clara, and less people like Robert – and long may the Claras continue outnumbering the Roberts!


The photograph of Clara with her sisters appears with many thanks to Dinah’s grandson Max who gave permission for it to be reproduced here.


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