Archive for Wednesday, January 3, 2007

McLouth women bring historic group to life

January 3, 2007

When these women say they're going to dress up for an evening out, they're not kidding.

It's the Petticoat Council, a loosely knit Jefferson County organization representing America's first all-women city council.

The organization reflects a historical event. In 1888 in Oskaloosa, six women ran against men for city council seats. And all six of the women won. It was the nation's first all-woman city council.

A century later, in 1988, the Petticoat Council was formed in Oskaloosa to commemorate that all-woman city council. And today the group is still going strong.

At last month's unveiling of three new historic murals at the Leavenworth County Courthouse, members of the Petticoat Council greeted guests. The women wore their finery -- 1880's-style floor-length dresses, shawls and hats. Tasteful broaches, lace, fur trim and beads trimmed their gowns.

Candy Braksick, dressed in a dark green velvet gown, grew up in Oskaloosa and was one of the founders of the commemorative Petticoat Council. Though it's not plastered on billboards in Oskaloosa, Braksick said that when younger she was aware the city had been known for having the first all-woman council.

And though the women dress to the hilt for special events, Braksick said the organization itself is informal.

Those who participate live in area towns. And often the events take the

women far from the parlor.

Once a year they sponsor a benefit trail ride at Circle S Ranch.

When area parades come about the women dress in costume and ride on horses.

"A lot of us in our group have ridden horses," Braksick said. "It's our common interest. We've done parades for years and we like to dress up."

Other times they're more genteel, such as the fundraisers in which they hold Victorian teas in some of the area's larger homes.

But Braksick said one of her favorite events occurred before Christmas, when the women, and Father Christmas, visited a Veterans Administration nursing home in Leavenworth. The women brought 37 bags of goodies they'd prepared for the residents.

Another Petticoat Council member is Beverly Muzzy, who also is a columnist for The Mirror.

Muzzy said she was pleased to see a recent picture of the Petticoat Council.

"It's funny," Muzzy said. "We never get to see what we look like. We see each other, but we dress in rooms without mirrors."

Muzzy said it's Braksick's skills as a seamstress -- and her willingness to loan the gowns she makes to Muzzy -- that add to her fun of dressing up. Muzzy noted some of the other members also sew their own dresses.

"Candy Braksick made her outfit and the one I was wearing," Muzzy said. "She has a beautiful wardrobe of vintage clothing. I never know what she'll dress me in. She brings me an outfit and I put it on. Lots of fun."

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