Mrs. Musterman, Milliner of Main Street: A Biography


Elizabeth Leah Reed is a nonfiction writer and author of We Come from Island People. Her work has appeared in Leaping ClearJournal of the Modoc County Historical Society, Taijiquan Journal, Inside Annapolis, and others. An award-winning corporate writer, cofounder of Annapolis Maritime Museum’s predecessor organization, and former Annapolitan, she now lives in Tucson, Arizona, where she writes, birds, and practices tai chi.

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Who Was Mrs. Musterman?

We often think of women who came of age in 1900 as submissive flowers waiting to be plucked, but not Lillian Johnson. No, this remarkable woman left her small Virginia town and headed to the big city — Baltimore — to become a milliner. She took her creativity to Annapolis, Maryland, where she created Gainsborough hats, married, and became Mrs. Musterman. When her third child was born, her husband fell ill and suddenly she became the sole breadwinner of the family. Then her employer died. What was she to do? How would she survive? If she can possibly succeed, she must have her own shop and years of crowning the heads of the women of Annapolis. She once said, “Nothing is impossible if you really want to do it.”


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