Rag Curls and Broomsticks

Portraits of well-dressed women in the late 1800s often show them in hairstyles that highlighted beautiful spiral curls, ringlets in a variety of arrangements. Because they were so popular during that period, they are often called Victorian Rag Curls.  The name also reflected how the curls were created.

The most popular way of creating these beautiful curls was by cutting soft, usually cotton, rags into strips about as long as the hair, separating the dampened strands of the hair – from 6 to 8 – and wrapping each strand around a rag. After clipping the end of the rag to the top of their head, the young ladies went to bed and unraveled the rags in the morning to reveal beautiful spiral curls.

Marie Fladvad Cottrell in about 1906 with her daughters
Marie Fladvad Cottrell in 1905 with her daughters, Marie Theresa Cottrell (Raymond), Margaret Cottrell, and Eleanor Cottrell (Kaull) (seated).  Margaret’s ringlets show nicely in this copy of a professional photo that was taken of her with her two sisters, Eleanor and Theresa, beside her mother, Marie. Interestingly, they were not “rag curls.”  The photograph was taken by a Newport, RI studio.

Perhaps Margaret didn’t like wearing her hair in rags and sleeping in them overnight in order to create the sausage ringlets we see here.

At the time Margaret was born in 1900, Victorian Rag Curls were the usual method for styling ringlets on little girl’s heads. Strips of cotton fabric were cut for wrapping hair to form ringlets overnight.

The reason we know that Margaret didn’t sleep in rags to achieve perfect sausage curls is because Grandmother Marie used another method to create Margaret’s ringlets.

All it took was a section of broomstick around which Margaret’s hair was carefully wrapped, perhaps even while her hair was still a little damp.

Margaret’s glossy, brown hair yielded willingly to being wrapped around the broomstick and resulted in forming the lovely ringlets you see here.  Marie might have helped with a curling iron since it is hard to conceive of Margaret going to bed with 4-6 pieces of broomstick on her head.

Marie’s method of creating ringlets for Margaret didn’t work for her three younger daughters. For some reason, Petie’s fly away blonde hair would not submit to the broomstick. There were to be no ringlets for Petie she told me one day as she recalled bits and pieces of her childhood.

Marie Fladvad Cottrell with daughters Margaret, Eleanor, and Cessie drying their hair on the roof of her Newport, RI home on the corner of Mill Street and Bellevue Avenue. While their hair (no more broomstick curls) is drying they are knitting. Photo by daughter “Petie” Marie Theresa Cottrell (Raymond).

Margaret’s hair as a teenager. Atop the roof of their house on Bellevue Avenue is where Marie and three of her daughters sit and knit while their hair dries in sunny, breezy Newport.

Note: Author Faith Connors tells the Marie Fladvad Cottrell story in Flavors of the Fjords, deemed by the Norwegian Embassy in Washington, Flavors of the Fjords “may be the most detailed history of a Norwegian-American family yet published. Flavors of the Fjords exemplifies what dedicated compilers and relatives can do to preserve knowledge of their family’s complex past. This one family’s legacy should inspire others as well.” – Royal Norwegian Embassy


© Copyright 2020 BelleAire Press

Other works by Faith Connors

Love, Midgie

Love, Midgie is now a digital book…only a click away.
New: A free 2018 on-line Reader’s Guide prepared by author Faith Connors for home schooling educators.
Home schooling parents and adults reading to young people will find the new Love, Midgie Reader’s Guide an important and useful resource. The new, free download was prepared by author and reading educator Faith Connors to make the LM reading experience more fun and meaningful.
Love Midgie

“Midgie is a refreshing, true story of a young Florida girl with indomitable spirit who meets each challenge as a new adventure. From the first page the reader is caught up in Midgie’s world–a combination of family and friends, as well as a haunted house. The author captures her unshakable spirit–‘Midgie’s magic’–as she moves from one adventure to another. Her postcards in each chapter help the reader visualize the fascinating story of a bright, energetic, young girl. The reader will laugh and cry with this remarkable, young girl and her brother, Henry. The book is a ‘winner.”‘

Dr. Frances Bartlett Kinne
Chancellor Emeritus
Jacksonville University

Flavors of the Fjords

History has never tasted so good! ™

“The book may be the most detailed history of a Norwegian-American family yet published. Flavors of the Fjords exemplifies what dedicated compilers and relatives can do to preserve knowledge of their family’s complex past. This one family’s legacy should inspire others as well.”
– Royal Norwegian Embassy

Revised, updated, expanded digital edition available July 2018.

Flavors of the Fjords has the largest number of traditional Norwegian holiday recipes–cakes, cookies, breads–ever put together in one book! Interwoven with fascinating bits of Norwegian social history, including explanations of Norwegian Holiday traditions and customs, many of them kept alive to this day by millions of Norwegian-American families.

Authentic Fladvad and Bjørke family recipes for over 125 holiday cookies, cakes, breads, toppings, and puddings are interwoven with fascinating bits of Norwegian and Newport, Rhode Island social history. These authentic Norwegian recipes reflect the holiday cooking, uniquely Norwegian, brought to America by nearly one million Norwegian immigrants.


Just off the download…

PeeWee, Clark's Hill Cat narrates his story as the feisty owner of the Raymond Family of Stamford, Connecticut during World War II.
PeeWee, the Clark’s Hill Cat narrates his story as the feisty owner of the Raymond Family of Stamford, Connecticut during World War II.

The BelleAire Press “Cat-itorial Review Board” recently granted its CRB Seal of Excellence to a new work of feline historic fiction by Faith R. Connors, author of Flavors of the Fjords and Love, Midgie.

Pee Wee, The Clark’s Hill Cat is a cat’s tale, as told by himself to Connors. Actually, the story was the outcome of Connor’s discovery as a young girl that she knew what her cat was thinking. The result is a gripping tale of cat life in the Raymond household in Stamford, Connecticut during World War Two. From blackouts and Victory Gardens, to Sailors “borrowing” the family car, Pee Wee shares his unique experiences and outlook.

“Why do you want to read a book by me?” Pee Wee asks. “Is it because I am a cat?”

We believe you will agree with the BP CRB that Pee Wee’s tale is not too long, not too short, but just right.


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About Tracy Connors

Tracy D. Connors graduated from Jacksonville University (AA), University of Florida (BA), the University of Rhode Island (MA), and Capella University (Ph.D. with Distinction, human services management, 2013). Ph.D. (Honorary), Leadership Excellence, Jacksonville University, December, 2013. Designated a "Distinguished Dolphin" by Jacksonville University, Feb. 2, 2010.

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