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Cool Things - Women's Hats

Hat made by  Sarah McWilliams

Until fairly recently, hats were an essential part of every woman's wardrobe. These examples were made by a Kansas milliner.

The hats pictured here were made by Sarah Pettigrew McWilliams (1872-1958), who in her late teens operated her own dressmaking and millinery (hat-making) business in Washington, Kansas.

Born in Illinois to parents who had emigrated from Ireland to the United States, McWilliams grew up on the family farm in Washington County, Kansas.  She helped her mother manage a large household that included seven brothers. Family stories have it that Sarah got tired of pulling off her brothers' boots when they came in from the field and determined to move out on her own.

Hat made by Sarah McWilliamsMaking a Living

At that time, producing custom-made clothing and hats for a local clientele was one of the few socially acceptable ways for a woman to make a living. Sarah's business proved successful, but in 1903 she gave up the shop to wed Charles Hawes, a widower and prosperous merchant in nearby Morrowville. Sarah, of course, made the hat she wore for her wedding.

A selection of McWilliams' hats are now in the collections of the Kansas Museum of History.


Entry: Cool Things - Women's Hats

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: November 1998

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.