Scroll down and follow the links for photographic proof.
St. Joseph’s, Ravenna, NE, early 1900’s. A pretty small picture.
St. Jarlath, Oakland, CA. Overhead picture of Mass in 1954 and church steps picture of female parishioners in 1921.
Overhead shot of a Mass in Massachusetts, 1930. Hats as far as the eye can see.
Nuptial Mass at St. John the Evangelist’s, Cambridge, MA. Pre-1956, but date unknown.
Woman in knit tam receiving Communion at the rail. Date unknown. (UPDATE: Link broken. I’ll keep this here for archival purposes.)
Church steps picture from St. Joseph’s, Sturgeon Bay WI. Women in hats.
“The Holy Communion”: Currier and Ives print. Shows French or Irish immigrants and a communion cloth. Women wearing cloaks. Another print, also called “The Holy Communion.” Looks like a nuptial Mass. Woman wearing bonnet.
I keep grinding away at this. Yes. And I will keep on, until people realize the historical facts. In Italian, Portuguese, and Hispanic ethnic parishes (and Filipino, Japanese, and Korean ones, since they were heavily influenced by Hispanic missionaries), sure the ladies wore lace veils and even real mantillas. But in most of the US, pre-Vatican II Catholic women wore a wondrous variety of Sunday hats, sometimes augmented by kerchiefs, shawls, hairbows, and the like. Lace chapel veils (what most people mean by “mantilla”) didn’t become widely popular until the beehive hairdo.
If you like ’em and wear ’em, that’s fine. If you think every Catholic woman should dress like a 1961 Jackie Kennedy reenactment society, you’re weirding me out. They are one little shard of Catholic tradition, not the Law and the Prophets.
What occurs to me is that, since people see so many fewer sisters and nuns in habits, they are unconsciously transferring some of their feeling for nuns over to lace chapel veils. The current weird iconic-ness of Amish women may be part of this also. (We’ve got tons of Mennonites and related churches living close to this neck of the woods; and they’re just normal people, not icons. Seeing them on romance novel covers not written for them is like somebody publicizing love-muffin Moravian Brethren or something.)
Bonus link: Treatise on the Catholic Mass showing Elizabethan women at Mass wearing “French hoods,” those little coif things. It’s a big church, so more than one Mass is going on at the same time.
Illustrations of Penal times Masses in Ireland held in secret. Women in shawls and kerchiefs.
UPDATE: I know it’s traditional to get testy during Lent on the Internet, folks, and I know we’re all sad and grumpy about the Pope’s resignation. But tone it down a tad. There’s nothing wrong with the whole veil thing per se. It’s the oversimplification and the misinformation I don’t like.