Follow the Thread

a textile & costume history blog from the Design Center at Thomas Jefferson University

Student Project: Swimwear Ensemble (1910-1930), by Emily Radomski (part 3 of 3)


Maggie Kuhn on the cover of Network, the newsletter of the Gray Panthers, Vol. 24 Extra, April 1995

As the final part of her blog series about our early 20th century swimwear ensemble, Emily writes about the amazing Margaret Kuhn, who donated the swimwear, as well as several other objects, to the Textile & Costume Collection.   

Maggie Kuhn and the Gray Panthers

Maggie Kuhn, the owner of the estate from which the 1910-1930s woolen swimsuit was donated, was a sprightly old woman who dedicated her elderly years to fighting against age discrimination, as told by The New York Times obituary in her honor (Thomas).

Maggie Kuhn, born Margaret Kuhn in 1905, dedicated her life to defying social norms that would have restricted her from doing what she wanted, and being what she wanted. She lived her life without a husband or children, and remained active until the day she peacefully passed away in her sleep at the age of 89 (Thomas). The obituary recounts that Maggie Kuhn, when forced to retire at the age of 65, began a group called the Gray Panthers, which would encompass a population of elderly people who didn’t want to slow down their lives simply because their bodies are aging. She was a remarkable “tiny woman” who contributed so much to others like her (Thomas).

You can learn more about the life of Maggie Kuhn here:

National Women’s Hall of Fame: Maggie Kuhn

The Gray Panthers: Maggie Kuhn

Other objects donated by the estate of Margaret Kuhn:

T&CC 1996.124.6a,b, shoes by California Cobblers, 1955-1975
T&CC 1996.124.1, straw cap with berries, John Wanamaker, Philadelphia, mid-20th century
T&CC 1996.124.5, felt hat, Wm. Filene’s Sons Co., 1930-1960

Work Cited:

Thomas, Robert McG. “Maggie Kuhn, 89, the Founder Of the Gray Panthers, Is Dead.” The New York Times, 23 Apr. 1995.

Collection Intern, Textile & Costume Collection, The Design Center, Thomas Jefferson University

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