I have laughed all week as I prepared this article; however, I don’t know that it was funny to readers a century ago. More than likely, numerous eyebrows were raised. But I hope you enjoy.
Just before the start of the 1916 school year in Commerce, Mrs. “Etta” Booth-Mayo chaperoned nine Boys Scouts and two of her children on a hike that ended up in Dallas. What began as a walk to Greenville to visit the Hunt County Fair, became so much fun Mrs. Mayo and her group decided to just hike over to Dallas. Remember, this was before any Interstate highway. The route they took went through Josephine, Lavon and Wiley and across numerous streams and creeks before arriving in downtown Dallas.
Each person came equipped with blankets and cooking utensils. They cooked and slept outdoors “wherever meal time or night overtook them.” No clue to where they found food was noted. But the nine boy scouts proudly wore their Scout uniforms, as did Mrs. Mayo’s two daughters, ages 11 and 14. The girls donned trousers and shirts, just like the boys. And was there ever such uproar when they arrived.
After attending the Fair here in Greenville, the group took a close to nature walk. From all reports the trek was most fun until they encountered a probation officer who objected to fourteen-year-old Aileen Mayo appearing in a Boy Scout uniform. At the time there was a state law against girls being on public streets wearing male attire.
According to the article in the Commerce Journal, the “provincial” officer and his female assistant did not seem to know there was a difference between a woman masquerading as a man in men’s clothing, and a woman appearing in a regulation uniform under the supervision of a responsible party of authority. Miss Aileen was indignant that young women in Dallas did not wear trousers. After all, she had recently returned from Girls Honor Guard in Washington, D. C. where such attire was normal.
Mrs. Etta Booth-Mayo happened to be the wife of Professor W. Leonidas Mayo, president of Mayo College in Commerce. Mrs. Mayo was a feminist who believed in woman’s suffrage and advanced ideas in dress. She stated, “that men and women should be on an absolutely equal basis. Intellect, capacity for work and play and the right to do as one pleases is a thing absolutely without sex. It used to be that man’s ideal of a woman was a languishing coquette with an 18-inch waist. They have been brought to admit the fact of waists and it won’t be long until they have to confess that women have legs and shoulders.”
How Professor Mayo reacted was not mentioned.