How did the Millinery Guild come to be founded?

A small group of milliners banded together in the early 2000s and expanded into a national membership. We now have members across the nation and in all four corners of the U.S. Our mission is to educate and make the public aware of the traditional heritage craft of millenary art.

Can you tell me about this current virtual exhibit?

It’s the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. It was a significant step forward for women, though not all women, because Black women and Black men still did not have the right to vote—that came much later, halfway through the 20th century. As a female-majority group, we wanted to recognize this through the medium we all share, which is millinery. Hats are an expression: You lead with your head, and hats are front-and-center and the great identifying point for a person’s personality and self-expression.

Your hat honors Anna Julia Haywood Cooper—can you tell me a bit about her?

She was born into slavery shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War, and once she was emancipated with her mother, she went on to show academic promise at the age of nine and won a scholarship at St. Augustine’s. She continued to push to take classes that white males would and distinguish herself among her peers. She became the fourth African-American woman to achieve a PhD in 1924. She was a prolific author, educator, and Black liberation activist—just a very prominent scholar.

Do you remember your first hat?

When I was growing up, I watched a ton of musicals, all the old Rodgers and Hammerstein. I fell in love with Hello Dolly and Music Man and hats specifically, but I was told, “Nobody wears hats anymore. Nobody makes hats. That’s not a viable career choice.” In high school, I grabbed an old straw hat and a hot glue gun and made hats for our school production of Music Man. I don’t use the hot glue gun anymore.

Do you feel like hats are going to have another moment?

I love hats and think they’re having a moment, constantly. [Now] I would attribute it especially to the interest in the British Royal Family. We’ve become obsessed with Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton. Fashion is also cyclical: What goes around comes around.

Will you wear your hat to the polls?

I’m going to do early voting this weekend, and I plan to wear my hat! My hat is wide so if I get stuck in my cubicle, I may have to take it off. 

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