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The Christian Woman's Head Covering Through the Centuries

This article and all pictures are reprinted here with kind permission from the author and Scroll Publishing.

The Christian Woman’s Head Covering Through the Centuries

Christian Women’s Head Coverings When I first saw some Mennonite women with their head coverings, I couldn’t imagine why they were wearing those things on their heads. I figured it was simply some type of quaint costume.

But then I read the writings of the early Christians. And then I understood why Mennonite and Amish women wear prayer veils or head coverings. I realized that it was in obedience to 1 Corinthians 11:5, which says, “Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved.” The early Christian women veiled their heads not only in church, but also anytime they were in public.

From my later study of church history, I discovered that Christian women continued to maintain this practice through the all centuries up to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. During the nineteenth century, many Christians in the United States and western Europe began arguing that long hair constituted the only covering women needed. Others said that women only needed to wear a covering when in church. The middle class and wealthy women switched from veils and caps to ornate bonnets—if they wore a covering at all. Bonnets became more a matter of fashion than of modesty or obedience to 1 Corinthians 11.

By the turn of the twentieth century, the ornate bonnets of the nineteenth century had given way to ladies’ hats. Until the mid-century, women in Europe and America typically wore a hat or scarf in public, but they were simply following tradition and fashion—without realizing that there was originally a spiritual reason behind the practice. Similarly, until about 1960, western women wore hats when in church. But the meaning behind the hat was lost.

Today, Christian women in eastern churches still cover their heads in church. Some of them cover their heads all of the time. In the west, some Plymouth Brethren women still wear the prayer veil in church, as do many black women. But usually these sisters do not wear a head covering at other times.

Generally speaking, in the west today, only the Mennonite, Amish, Brethren and Hutterite women still practice wearing a head covering at all times. However, in recent years, they have been joined by thousands of Christian women from house churches and other independent congregations who have re-discovered this New Testament practice.

But, as it has been said, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” So I have set forth below pictures of the Christian woman’s head covering from the early Christian era to the present day.

David Bercot

Early Christian head covering-01
200's: Catacombs-Rome

Early Christian head covering-03
200's: Catacombs-Rome

Early Christian head covering-04
200's: Catacombs-Rome

Early Christian head covering-05
200's: Catacombs-Rome

Early Christian head covering-06
300's: Catacombs-Rome

Middle Ages
During the Middle Ages, Christian women continued to wear head coverings for modesty and prayer. These coverings were quite substantial. In fact, the traditional veil worn by Roman Catholic nuns until recent times were based on the coverings that most Christian women wore in medieval Europe.

Medieval woman’s head covering-01
800's: England

Medieval woman’s head covering-02
1100's: Europe

Medieval woman’s head covering-03
1200's: Europe

Medieval woman’s head covering-04
1300's: England

Medieval woman’s head covering-05
1400's: England

Medieval woman’s head covering-06
1400: Germany

Medieval woman’s head covering-07
1400's: Europe

Medieval woman’s head covering-08
1450: Italy

Reformation Era

Around the time of the Reformation, the cap form of head covering became popular in northern Europe in place of a hanging veil.
woman’s head covering-Reformation-01
1500's: Europe

woman’s head covering-Reformation-02
1500's: Europe

woman’s head covering-Reformation-03
1520: Germany

woman’s head covering-Reformation-04
1525: Lutheran Church Service

woman’s head covering-Reformation-05
1530: England

woman’s head covering-Reformation-06
1530: German Anabaptist

woman’s head covering-Reformation-07
1535: Belgium

woman’s head covering-Reformation-09
1560: France

woman’s head covering-Reformation-10
1567: Belgium

woman’s head covering-Reformation-11
1580: Netherlands

1600's and 1700's

In the sixteenth century, the cap type of covering replaced the hanging veil in western Europe and in the newly discovered Americas.

woman’s prayer veil-1600s-01
1600's: Europe

woman’s prayer veil-1600s-02
1600's: Netherlands

woman’s prayer veil-1600s-03
1620: France

woman’s prayer veil-1600s-04
1620: New England

woman’s prayer veil-1600s-05
1625: France

woman’s prayer veil-1600s-06
1600's: Netherlands - Anabaptists
woman’s prayer veil-1600s-07
1650: England

woman’s prayer veil-1600s-08
1650: Netherlands

woman’s prayer veil-1600s-09
1655: Netherlands

woman’s prayer veil-1600s-10
1660: England

woman’s prayer veil-1600s-11
1670: Europe

woman’s prayer veil-1700s-02
1750: Europe

The 1800's
During the 1800's, middle and upper class women generally wore bonnets for head coverings. Sometimes these were more a matter of fashion than of modesty. However, among the common people, caps and veils were still quite common.

Christian head covering-1800s-01
1800's: England

Christian head covering-1800s-02
1800's: England

Christian head covering-1800s-03
1800's: England

Christian head covering-1800s-04
1800's: England

Christian head covering-1800s-05
1800's: England

Christian head covering-1800s-06
1800's: England

Christian head covering-1800s-07
1800's: England

Christian head covering-1800s-09
1800's: United States

Christian head covering-1800s-10
1820: United States

Christian head covering-1800s-11
1825: United States

Christian head covering-1800s-12
1850: France

Christian head covering-1800s-13
1870: England

Christian head covering-1800s-14
1880: United States-Black Woman

Christian head covering-1800s-16
1888: Brittany

Christian head covering-1800s-17
1890: England

The Twentieth Century
Christian woman’s head covering-1900s-01
1900: United States

Christian woman’s head covering-1900s-02
1920: New York - Russian Immigrant

Christian woman’s head covering-1900s-03
1929: United States

Christian woman’s head covering-1900s-04
1940: Christian Women in India

Christian woman’s head covering-1900s-05
1943: Lutherans

Christian woman’s head covering-1900s-06
1945: Episcopalians

1948: United States - Roman Catholic Confirmation

Christian woman’s head covering-1900s-08
1948: Presbyterians

Christian woman’s head covering-1900s-09
1950: Canada - Hutterites

Christian woman’s head covering-1900s-10
1950: Episcopalian Confirmation

Christian woman’s head covering-1900s-11
1953: Black Baptists - Baptism

Christian woman’s head covering-1900s-12
1954: Roman Catholic baptism (U. S.)

Christian woman’s head covering-1900s-13
1955: Congregationalists

Christian woman’s head covering-1900s-14
1960: Nuns

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