Spinsters Gone Wild

Craftswomen are well known for working in groups – quilting bees, spinning retreats, knitting societies… the list goes on.  For summer fun, you may be thinking of planning such a Girls’ Night Out, or even a Girls’ Weekend Away.  But before you firm up those plans, you may want to consider this advice from the 1907 version of Manners and Social Usages, along with the illustrating images that I have thoughtfully provided.

Spinster Etiquette 1

Proper Lady

Extremely Proper Spinster – but what is that on her lap?

Imprudent Spinster

A Spinster of Questionable Repute, if you ask me

Yes, by all means, leave your white-blonde veil at home! Don’t sit on the hotel piazza!  Intentions will be misinterpreted!

After all, what would a gentleman think of such a woman?

Gentleman's Reaction 1

Gentleman's Reaction 2

Sure –  “Eccentric!  Bad style!” Of course that’s what he would be thinking.  Poll any gentleman of your acquaintance and see if that would not be his reaction too!

Well, you are thinking, what else might cause passers-by to judge me?  How can I avoid giving a bad impression?

Spinster Etiquette 2

Two Ladies of the 20s

On the left, the “naturally exuberant” spinster, and on the right, her respectable companion.

All right, you are thinking, now that I know that I am free to reveal my natural flow of spirits,  as long as I travel with a toned-down companion (although how that reflects on her, I am afraid to think), what shall we do for entertainment?

Here is a suggestion from Bright Ideas for Entertainment, a little book from 1905 that collected “200 forms of amusement or entertainment for social gatherings of all kinds,”  mainly church socials and WCTU fundraisers.

Spinster Tea

Invitation to a Spinster Tea

The book suggests decorating with old-fashioned candlesticks and china, with a centerpiece of bachelor buttons.  After all the guests had arrived, they would choose from this menu:

Spinster Tea Menu

Choose from the mysterious menu.

Hilarity ensued when the waitress returned with their choices.

Spinster Tea Key

The solutions to the menu riddles.

(The riddles continue for me – what are “jolly boys?”  “curled molasses chips?”  Would you even want to eat  mush?  spiced tongue? baked heart?  Or eat them together?  So much for that current theory of only eating things your grandmother would recognize – this menu doesn’t look balanced or healthy to me!)

After dinner the participants told stories of their suitors and how they were refused, and the winner received the prize of  a gingerbread heart.  Maybe it made up for the spiced tongue/mush combination.


I refused this suitor because he showed too much interest in the ankles of the “lady” on the hotel piazza.

So now that you have had a refresher course in Spinster Etiquette, you are ready for that Girls’ Night Out.  I hope you have some time to enjoy “the added freedom of life which comes to an elderly girl!”