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.
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?
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?
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.
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:
Hilarity ensued when the waitress returned with their choices.
(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.
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!”
Goodness! There is no hope for some of us. Maybe at least I can learn to make curled molasses chips and be of some service to a better lady than myself.
Further on, the etiquette book did suggest that if a spinster was seen “sitting on the sands, looking at the sea, or attending to an invalid or younger friend,” the gentlemen might form a more favorable opinion of her. Just in case the molasses chips don’t turn out! 🙂
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