In an 1879 essay by Henry Ward Beecher, he persuades all to see that Old Maids may make the best of wives, for their youthful ways often pass right along with their marriageable years. Come mid-twenties, when a woman is an Old Maid, he argues she’s come into her prime of womanhood.
Beecher was, it seems, concerned about appearance.
What about those ladies who are consistently kind, gracious, and pleasant to be with? What of those good girls who finds no fault and never complains. Perhaps this Best Woman did make for the Best Victorian Wives.
Victorian-era American wisdom regarding romance, marriage, and courtship is fascinating! A collection of 19th century newspaper clippings provides a wide range of answers to the question: Who Makes the Best (Victorian) Wives? Throughout the late nineteenth century, much (conflicting) advice for the hymeneal-minded.
Note: Part of a blog series including Blondes are Favorites (Who Makes the Best (Victorian) Wives?).
A well-known New York Phrenologist gives late-Victorian-era American romance advice. “Blondes are Favorites,” he declared, backing up this observation with Phrenology. Much hymeneal wisdom packed into one interview, contained in the vintage newspaper article that sprang from a newspaperman interviewing the phrenologist. While affable blondes are best, beware of “Women of Genius” (those inclined to education and adopting “masculine” attributes such as self-protection and self-support). Victorian attitudes and perspectives circa 1890 shed much light on cultural norms.
Part of blog series: Who Makes the Best (Victorian) Wives?
I listened to The Great Course’s 12-hour production: America in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. This audio book title rates a full five stars and I recommend it to all fans of late nineteenth century American life–including those who enjoy it as a backdrop to their favorite fictional tales.
As today (July 9) is National Sugar Cookie Day, it’s a perfect opportunity to celebrate Sugar Cookies in Victorian America. Everything from sugar cookie history in a nutshell to images of vintage cookie cutters, nineteenth century recipes lifted from vintage newspapers and cookbooks (cook books = more accurate spelling). Indulge in a bit of sweet history with me. Pull up a chair and let me pour tea while we sit and visit awhile. You simply must try my special (modern) and scrumptious soft sugar cookie recipe (downloadable, savable, printable PDF).
July 6th is (United States’) National Fried Chicken Day. A perfect time to acknowledge and celebrate the love of fried chicken throughout the nineteenth century. Not only was this dish well-established in the colonies (17th and 18th centuries), it was a favorite throughout the States as the nation expanded to the California coast. Vintage newspaper clippings detail restaurant menus featuring fried chicken and provide vintage instructions for frying succulent drums, thighs, and breasts. Apparently folks said thank you with a good meal then, the same as they do now.
The Art of Courtship: Vintage wisdom relayed from the mid-nineteenth century to a newspaperman thirty years later (in 1887) sheds light on choosing a wife, beginning a courtship, different types of girls (shy, coquette [flirt], “vidders” [widows], and old maids, etc.). Victorian attitudes are prevalent, including the general idea that the sick and infirm aren’t suitable to marriage (think of the children!). Everything you wished your great-great grandpa had told you about courting… and more.
A vintage newspaper article, published in The New York Times on June 12, 1884, titled Oat-Meal. This prime example of Victorian sense of humor, calling for the legislature to protect children from the horrors of oatmeal, is a “slice of life” story that reveals much about life in that moment in American history.
Oatmeal took its place in the Victorian-American kitchen in the late 19th century. We’ve discovered oatmeal cookies (with and without raisins), oatmeal porridge, oatmeal in toiletries; now more late 19th-century recipes that call for oats. Delicious dishes like oatmeal puddings, oatmeal custards, oatmeal cream pie, oatmeal muffins, oatmeal biscuits (sweet), “parkin”… and a rather scary option– Oatmeal Soup.