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Mary Van Riper Hopper (1886-1947)

Mame Hopper -front of Van Riper-Hopper House.jpg

Mame Hopper, photographed with a family dog in front of the Van Riper-Hopper House, ca. 1900.

Mary Hopper may have been named after her mother, Mary Ann Van Riper (1849-1922). She and her oldest brother, Uriah, were the only Hopper siblings to be baptized with the middle name 'Van Riper', in honor of their mother's family. Mary Van Riper Hopper, however, was most often shortened to 'Mame'.

Though Mame grew up on the same property as her mother, she experienced a changing world. As the effects of industrialization made their mark on the United States, women in the 1890s were pushing for an increasingly public role in society. Though traditional expectations of marriage and motherhood still guided many women's lives, the end of the 19th century saw the rise of the 'New Woman' ideal- a woman who remained unmarried for longer, who could pursue higher education and seek a professional career. She might even ride a bike. Mame's role models could now include suffragettes fighting for women's political rights, urban activists, and leaders of charitable organizations, and college-educated women seeking professional careers.

Many of these broader themes can be found in Mame's life. She and her sisters had a more regular, in-classroom education, likely attending the Upper Preakness School on Hamburg Turnpike. Their lessons including spelling, grammar, history, geography, and mathematics. She never married. She may have traveled abroad, since a "Miss Mamie Hopper of Preakness" took an 18 day cruise to South America in 1934. She also was one of the first Van Riper-Hopper women with a specifically listed occupation. Mame's obituary stated that she was employed by the Quackenbush Department Store in Paterson for 30 years.

Rather than making clothes at home (as her Van Riper ancestors might have), Mame now helped women buy clothes off a rack. Shirtwaists, like the two examples from the Wayne Museum's collection seen below, are button-down shirts modeled on menswear. Ranging from frilly and fancy to more casual, they were relatively inexpensive and made fashion more accessible. In the late 19th century, they became symbols of female independence and working women, like Mame, who had their own occupations and their own wages.

Click on any image below to learn more!

Department stores, like Quackenbuck & Co., took advantage of local newspapers to advertise their large variety of products, including shirtwaists. Besides Mame's hands-on knowledge of the store, she and her sisters probably browsed these papers.

Below: Shirtwaists and women's clothing sold by Adams Dry Goods Co. in NYC. From The Morning Call, October 24th, 1902.

Right: A Quackenbush advertisement from The Paterson Evening News, April 5th, 1897.

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