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Reflecting on her single life, Catharine Sedgwick Catharine Maria Sedgwick (December 28, 1789 – July 31, 1867), was an American novelist of what is now referred to as domestic fiction.

Born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, she was the daughter of a prosperous lawyer and successful politician, Theodore Sedgwick, who
 wrote in her diary: "I certainly think a happy marriage the happiest condition of human life ... [I]t is the high opinion of its capabilities which has perhaps kept me from adventuring in it." [1] This entry epitomizes the seemingly paradoxical connection, in practice, between the nineteenth-century idealization idealization /ide·al·iza·tion/ (i-de?il-i-za´shun) a conscious or unconscious mental mechanism in which the individual overestimates an admired aspect or attribute of another person.  of marriage and the reluctance of many women to marry. Although Nancy Cott has made passing references to this connection, it has been largely overlooked by the literature on women and the family. [2] Spinsterhood Spinsterhood
Forsyte, June

jilted by her fiance, becomes an old maid. [Br. Lit.: The Forsyte Saga]

Grundy, Miss

prim and proper schoolteacher, continually vexed by her students’ antics.
 has usually been viewed either as individual misfortune or as a manifestation of protofeminist assertion of autonomy. To be sure, the latter view has been more conducive to the exploration of spinsterhood, given the tendency in women's studies women's studies
pl.n. (used with a sing. or pl. verb)
An academic curriculum focusing on the roles and contributions of women in fields such as literature, history, and the social sciences.
 to search the past for the roots of the present. [3] Since they could be construed as pursuing autonomy and rejecting wifely dependence, spinsters are readily seen as "foremothers" by contemporary femin ists. Because a number of the women who were active in reform movements or distinguished themselves as writers or professionals were single, this interpretation has seemingly even more credence. In her monograph on nineteenth-century spinsters Lee Virginia Chambers-Schiller, for example, defines elective spinsterhood as a "dramatic new form of female independence," rooted in the "individualistic ethic of the Enlightenment and the American Revolution American Revolution, 1775–83, struggle by which the Thirteen Colonies on the Atlantic seaboard of North America won independence from Great Britain and became the United States. It is also called the American War of Independence. " and emerging in the early nineteenth century. Women's rejection of marriage was the outcome of a "rigorous assessment of the marital institution that found it wanting and in conflict with female autonomy, self-development, and achievement." [4] Carl Degler, in a chapter of At Odds on nineteenth-century women's "challenge [to] the family," attributes the increasing incidence of elective spinsterhood to a "feeling that married women lacked sufficient autonomy." Owing to owing to
Because of; on account of: I couldn't attend, owing to illness.

owing to prepdebido a, por causa de 
 women's challenge The Women's Challenge bicycle race was held annually in and around southern Idaho beginning in 1984 until its demise in 2002. During much of its 19 year history, it was the most prestigious women's cycle race in North America.  to the family, Degler claims, female autonomy had increased during the ninetee nth century. Some women "spurned spurn  
v. spurned, spurn·ing, spurns
1. To reject disdainfully or contemptuously; scorn. See Synonyms at refuse1.

2. To kick at or tread on disdainfully.

 marriage and family altogether"; others "abandoned marriage when it did not provide autonomy or satisfaction. " [5]

However, this reading of the "progressive" character of nineteenth-century spinsterhood distorts its cultural context, its meaning and significance in its own terms. In this article I will focus on the cultural milieu within which young middle-class women pondered questions of love, marriage and vocation. I will argue that middle-class spinsters, as well as their married peers, took ideals of love and marriage very seriously, and that spinsterhood was indeed often a consequence of their adherence to those ideals. Today, ideals are understood as "existing as mere mental image[s], existing in fancy or imagination alone," but in the nineteenth century an ideal meant a "patterning idea, the archetypical ar·che·type  
1. An original model or type after which other similar things are patterned; a prototype: "'Frankenstein' . . . 'Dracula' . . . 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' . . .
 idea," [6] the ultimate measure of existing things. Ideals, in this sense, were central to nineteenth-century moral experience.

As their diaries and letters show, nineteenth-century women took ideals to be an ultimate, unchanging un·chang·ing  
Remaining the same; showing or undergoing no change: unchanging weather patterns; unchanging friendliness.
, God-ordained reality, while the existing reality was seen as imperfect and transitory TRANSITORY. That which lasts but a short time, as transitory facts that which may be laid in different places, as a transitory action. . This view was in keeping with the highly voluntaristic and perfectionist per·fec·tion·ism  
1. A propensity for being displeased with anything that is not perfect or does not meet extremely high standards.

 outlook of the time. I will also argue that middle-class women's insistence on self-development was not antagonistic to marriage but, in their view, a necessary preparation for it within the larger context of a Christian life. The ideals of self-development and self-relience had a strong affinity with Evangelical Protestantism and were disseminated in the Christian culture of the 19th century, rather than having their roots in the Enlightenment.

As I will argue in more detail later, the nineteenth century saw the elevation and spiritualization spir·i·tu·al·ize  
tr.v. spir·i·tu·al·ized, spir·i·tu·al·iz·ing, spir·i·tu·al·iz·es
1. To impart a spiritual nature to.

2. To invest with or treat as having a spiritual sense or meaning.
 of love and marriage. The new understanding powerfully linked love with marriage, and linked both with the larger social and moral universe. Marriage's importance transcended the temporal happiness of the couple; yet marriage was also conceived of as an ultimately private arrangement. Thus, by the nineteenth century the ideal of marriage based on love--mysterious and unintentional love--had gained wide acceptance. At the same time a religiously grounded morality informed the ideal of character, in the sense not simply of a "complex of mental and ethical traits" but also of "moral excellence." [7] High ideals of love and marriage came together with high standards of character, and it became socially and personally acceptable not to marry if marriage involved compromizing one's moral standards. During this time there emerged a new, morally charged conceptualization con·cep·tu·al·ize  
v. con·cep·tu·al·ized, con·cep·tu·al·iz·ing, con·cep·tu·al·iz·es
To form a concept or concepts of, and especially to interpret in a conceptual way:
 of women's love and its mission which allowed f or a broader understanding of women's usefulness. As a consequence of the above developments we see a strikingly novel portrayal of spinsters and spinsterhood: the image of the spinster SPINSTER. An addition given, in legal writings, to a woman who never was married. Lovel. on Wills, 269.  as a highly moral and fully womanly wom·an·ly  
adj. wom·an·li·er, wom·an·li·est
1. Having qualities generally attributed to a woman.

2. Belonging to or representative of a woman; feminine: womanly attire.
 creature. This implied a change in the conception of the purported reasons for remaining single--that spinsters could have married if they had chosen to compromise their moral principles for the sake of matrimony MATRIMONY. See Marriage. . They remained unmarried not because of individual shortcomings A shortcoming is a character flaw.

Shortcomings may also be:
  • Shortcomings (SATC episode), an episode of the television series Sex and the City
 but because they didn't find the one "who could be all things to the heart." Spinsterhood was increasingly viewed as an outcome of intricate choices and spinsters as champions of uncompromising morality.

This study is based on the written documents--letters and diaries--of about forty Northeastern, white, Protestant, middle-class spinsters. Most of them were born in the first three decades of the nineteenth century. [8] These women remained single in spite of opportunities to marry. [9] Yet their choice was not between marrying or not marrying but whether to marry a particular man. The documents they left behind suggest a common mentality and morality characteristic of their social generation. [10] They shared a concept of self and society, and also an ethos, an underlying attitude towards their world. Their behavior makes sense in the context of the overwhelmingly Protestant culture of the nineteenth-century American Northeast in which "the ideas, the convictions, the customs, the institutions of society were so shot through with Christian presuppositions." [11]

To appreciate the novelty of the cultural context within which nineteenth-century women contemplated marriage, we need first to consider the older ideas of love and marriage. Seventeenth-century Puritans affirmed the importance of affection in marriage: to love one's spouse was a duty. However, the Puritans were distrustful dis·trust·ful  
Feeling or showing doubt.

dis·trustful·ly adv.

 of marriages founded solely on mutual affection Noun 1. mutual affection - sympathy of each person for the other
mutual understanding

sympathy - a relation of affinity or harmony between people; whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other; "the two of them were in close sympathy"
. Young people were to choose someone they could learn to love. Yet being in love was not necessary; friendship and esteem were the solid foundations of a lasting union. Love, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 Benjamin Franklin, was merely a passion and as such, "changeable, transient, and accidental. But Friendship and Esteem are derived from Principles of Reason and Thought, and ... are lasting Securities of an Attachment." [12] However, by the first decades of the nineteenth century, mutual esteem was no longer regarded as a sufficient foundation of marriage. Love, based on a strong and mystical personal attraction, came to be viewed as the only legitimate rea son for marriage. [13] Rather than marry someone they could learn to love, young people expected to marry someone they did love. [14]

The notion that marriage was to be based on romantic rather than rational love indicates a transvaluation of human sentiments. Catharine Sedgwick's reasons for breaking her engagement illustrate the changing understanding of love and marriage. She explained to her brother Robert Brother Robert was a cleric working in Norway who adapted several French literary works into Old Norse during the reign of Norwegian king Haakon IV of Norway (1217 – 1263).  that her fianc[acute{e}] "has been so generous as to relinquish the promise I then gave him and all is now ended forever ... He is very unhappy ... I am degraded in my own opinion but I cannot help it. It is strange but it is impossible for me to create a sentiment of tenderness by any process of reasoning, or any effort of gratitude." [15] Sedgwick refers to the earlier understanding of love as friendship, i.e. love as a result of esteem and gratitude, a rational sentiment. But she already believes in the new ideal, the ideal of involuntary love. A later journal entry brings this new understanding even more into focus. Sedgwick was reminiscing about her feelings toward a former suitor SUITOR. One who is a party to a suit or action in court. One who is a party to an action. In its ancient sense, suitor meant one Who was bound to attend the county court, also, one who formed part of the secta. (q.v.) : "I liked him, and not knowing quite as much of the heart (or of my heart) as I do I fancied that liking might ripen rip·en  
tr. & intr.v. rip·ened, rip·en·ing, rip·ens
To make or become ripe or riper; mature. See Synonyms at mature.

 into something warmer." [16] Knowing the human heart better--and the ideals that influence its emotions, I should add--Sedgwick came to realize that love is not simply an increase in liking but a separate emotion altogether.

The elevation of human love can be linked to the elevation of emotionality in revivalist evangelicalism evangelicalism

Protestant movement that stresses conversion experiences, the Bible as the only basis for faith, and evangelism at home and abroad. The religious revival that occurred in Europe and America during the 18th century was generally referred to as the evangelical
. Evangelicals associated spontaneity of feeling with true faith. [17] Thus spontaneous emotions in heterosexual love, although treated cautiously, were no longer discredited; now they were regarded as a sure, though mysterious, sign of Providence. The Puritan view was reversed: love came first, sympathy and understanding followed. [18]

In much of European romanticism love, an all-consuming and private sentiment, was seen as a potentially subversive emotion, with a tendency to disregard the world and a potential for disaster. Themes of love and death were intimately connected. In American advice literature, in the emergent woman's fiction, and in reformers' hopes, romantic love was metamorphosed into true love, a sentiment in harmony with the social order, conducive to the betterment bet·ter·ment  
1. An improvement over what has been the case: financial betterment.

2. Law An improvement beyond normal upkeep and repair that adds to the value of real property.
 of humanity and society. [20] The romantic notions of inexplicable attraction, oneness, forgetfulness Forgetfulness
See also Carelessness.

Absent-Minded Beggar, The

ballad of forgetful soldiers who fought in the Boer War. [Br. Lit.: “The Absent-Minded Beg-gars” in Payton, 3]

absent-minded professor
 of self in the other were transformed into Christian virtues. [21] Attraction became the sign of a God-ordained union, oneness a spiritual ideal deemphasizing sensual and sexual implications, and self-forgetfulness the epitome of selflessness. True love was a stable foundation for the future family. True love, in the image of Christian love, was "not a folly; in its purity, it is a noble, unselfish thing, the inspirer and friend of moral excellence." [22] It wa s domesticated do·mes·ti·cate  
tr.v. do·mes·ti·cat·ed, do·mes·ti·cat·ing, do·mes·ti·cates
1. To cause to feel comfortable at home; make domestic.

2. To adopt or make fit for domestic use or life.

 love, whose "proper place" was the home. [23] To be sure, the true-love model absorbed important elements of romantic love: it approved, if tamed, its fervor, and acknowledged its mystery. The ideal of marriage, based on true love, was advocated by reformers and feminists alike. Gail Hamilton (pen name for Mary A. Dodge) maintained that training girls for marriage drove them into uncongenial unions, degrading both women and marrige: "depreciate depreciate v. in accounting, to reduce the value of an asset each year theoretically on the basis that the assets (such as equipment, vehicles or structures) will eventually become obsolete, worn out and of little value. (See: depreciation)  marriage? I magnify mag·ni·fy
To increase the apparent size of, especially with a lens.
 it! It is you who depreciate, by debasing de·base  
tr.v. de·based, de·bas·ing, de·bas·es
To lower in character, quality, or value; degrade. See Synonyms at adulterate, corrupt, degrade.

[de- + base2.
 it. You lower it to the level of the market. You degrade TO DEGRADE, DEGRADING. To, sink or lower a person in the estimation of the public.
     2. As a man's character is of great importance to him, and it is his interest to retain the good opinion of all mankind, when he is a witness, he cannot be compelled to disclose
 it to a question of political and domestic economy. You look upon it as an arrangement. I believe it to be a sacrament ... I see in it the type of mortal and immortal union ... All that is tender, grand, ennobling en·no·ble  
tr.v. en·no·bled, en·no·bling, en·no·bles
1. To make noble: "that chastity of honor . . .
 finds there its home, its source of sustenance Sustenance

goat who provided milk for baby Zeus. [Gk. Myth.: Leach, 41]


food of the gods; bestowed immortal youthfulness. [Gk. Myth.
, its inspiration, and its exceeding great reward." She believed that "marriage, in its truest type, is spiritualizing life; the union of the mightiest and subtlest forces working f or the noblest results." [24]

Love as spiritual union enhanced the expectation, already inherent in the ideal of romantic love, of finding completeness or wholeness through love in a perfect match of temperament and values. Lucy Larcom Lucy Larcom (March 5, 1824 - April 17, 1893) was an American poet. She was born on March 5 1824 and died on Ap­ril 17, 1893, in Bos­ton, Mass­a­chu­setts. She was the ninth of ten children.  believed that "a life of 'single blessedness'" was preferable to "'marrying and giving in a falling inwards; a collapse.

See also: Giving
 marriage' unless one is sure that the one is the one, and no other. You know that I never arrived at that certainty, but have always loved Frank as a brother." [25] In 1363 Frances Willard Frances Willard is the name of:
  • Frances Willard (suffragist) (1839–1898), an American educator, temperance reformer associated with the WCTU, and women's suffragist.
  • Frances Willard (magician) (born 1940), a stage magician.
, a year after breaking her engagement, wrote in her diary: "Oh, so much better to wait for years and years if we may hope to find at last the one who can be all things to the heart. I am glad, heartily glad, I did not perjure per·jure  
tr.v. per·jured, per·jur·ing, per·jures Law
To make (oneself) guilty of perjury by deliberately testifying falsely under oath.
 myself in 1862. [26] Neither found "the one," neither married.

Love, involuntary and mysterious, held a strong grip on the imagination. However, even in the most "untamed" versions, the tragic side of romantic love was conspicuously missing, and love had an easy affinity with domestic bliss. This quality of American romantic love accounts for its harmonious coexistence with the social institution of marriage. The lovers were not pitted against social and familial forces, as was often the case in European romanticism, but were happily planning to walk down the aisle. This easy and intimate connection between love and marriage on the one hand and marriage and society on the other made the link between love and society seem more commonsensical com·mon·sense  
Having or exhibiting native good judgment: "commonsense scholarship on the foibles and oversights of a genius" Times Literary Supplement.
, the implication being that even in their private emotions people carry the kernel of public responsibility. And we should not underestimate the attraction of the true-love ideal; it was influential beyond the realm of the advice literature. In the moralistic mor·al·is·tic  
1. Characterized by or displaying a concern with morality.

2. Marked by a narrow-minded morality.

, serious idiom that informed women's self-appraisals in letters and diaries , romantic love seemed somewhat frivolous and selfish, while true love connected the individual with the larger moral universe in a satisfying way. True love led to marriage, and marriage could not be contemplated lightly. Susan B. Anthony found a deep resonance with her own values when she read Elizabeth Oakes Smith's Bertha and Lily. Bertha's opinion of marriage is that it is very sacred, very lovely, in my eyes In My Eyes was a Boston straight edge band that spearheaded the 1997 youth crew revival along with Ten Yard Fight, Bane, The Trust, Fastbreak and Floorpunch. The band and its members were a part of the hot bed that was the Boston music scene in the late 90's and early 2000's. , and therefore, to be sustained from pure motives." Anthony sent a note of thanks to the author. "From the very depth of my heart, do I rejoice that the good Father put it into your heart to pen those noble truths." [27]

These "noble truths" about love and marriage influenced many a young woman's resolution not to marry unless she could give her whole heart to someone. As Emily Howland Emily Howland (November 20 1827 – January 29 1929) was a philanthropist and educator. An active abolitionist, Howland taught at Normal School for Colored Girls in Washington D.C. from 1857 to 1859.  recorded with pleasure: "M.H. ... will not lower her ideals to enter the state of matrimony." [28] For Lucy Larcom, "A true marriage ... is the highest state of earthly happiness--the flowing of the deepest life of the soul into a kindred KINDRED. Relations by blood.
     2. Nature has divided the kindred of every one into three principal classes. 1. His children, and their descendants. 2. His father, mother, and other ascendants. 3.
 soul, two spirits made one." [29] This formulation expresses the promise of marriage as most nineteenth-century middle-class women understood it, and for some, it also implied that extreme caution was necessary when contemplating such a union. If spiritual fusion was possible in true marriage, anything less was a compromise. The Young Lady's Friend LADY'S FRIEND. The name of a functioner in the British house of commons. When the husband sues for a divorce, or asks the passage of an act to divorce him from his wife, he is required to make a provision for her before the passage of the act; it is the duty of the lady's friend to see  (1837) urged women to remember that "the great end of existence, preparation for eternity, may be equally attained in married or single life; and that no union, but the most perfect one, is at all desirable." For this end, young women were urged to set their standa rds high: "The more perfectly you perform all your duties, the more diligently you carry on your moral and intellectual education, the higher is your standard of character, and the more spiritual are your aims, the less will be your danger from the tenderness of your heart." [30] By "tenderness of heart" the author meant an undiscriminating un·dis·crim·i·nat·ing  
1. Lacking sensitivity, taste, or judgment.

2. Indiscriminate.

Adj. 1. undiscriminating - not discriminating
 romantic sensibility. Mrs. Abell (1853) also believed that young women who did not have high standards would fall in love indiscriminately, thereby compromising the very ideal of Victorian love. [31] "Falling in love" was morally admirable only if it was accompanied by a strong conviction that the beloved was ones other half.

Influenced by romantic notions of oneness and prevailing understandings of womens supreme capacity for emotions, many women questioned their own feelings, measuring them against highly idealized i·de·al·ize  
v. i·de·al·ized, i·de·al·iz·ing, i·de·al·iz·es
1. To regard as ideal.

2. To make or envision as ideal.

 expectations and finding them wanting. One young woman wrote, "All the time I feel within me that I do not love you with that intensity of which I am capable." [32] Lucy Larcom, at thirty, wrote about her fianc[acute{e}] to a friend: "I love him warmly, but not passionately, as some do, or as perhaps I might love ... I shall refuse and defer no longer." [33] But a year later she was still hesitating: "I love him still, better than other men, but not as I could love, and he knows it," she wrote to friends. [34] A few years later, at Frank's urging, she was again scrutinizing her feelings: "I could almost believe I love him enough to go to him at once," yet "I am sure there are chambers in my heart that he could not unlock ... I do feel that it is in me to love, humanly hu·man·ly  
1. In a human way.

2. Within the scope of human means, capabilities, or powers: not humanly possible.

, as I have never loved him." [35]

Many found it difficult to imagine how their high ideals of marriage could possibly be realized. Harriot Hunt, who never married, described her ideals as "that holy union of truth and good, that sum of light and warmth,--approach it reverently rev·er·ent  
Marked by, feeling, or expressing reverence.

[Middle English, from Old French, from Latin rever
; dare not ridicule it by sneers, slights." [36] William Barton William Barton is the name of:
  • William Barton (writer), U.S. science fiction writer
  • William Barton (heraldist), designer of the Great Seal of the United States
  • William Barton (general) in the Continental Army
  • William Barton (musician), Australian Didgeridoo player
 recalled how his aunt, Clara Barton Clarissa Harlowe Barton (December 25, 1821 – April 12, 1912), better known as Clara Barton, was a pioneer American teacher, nurse, and humanitarian. She has been described as having had an "indomitable spirit" and is best remembered for organizing the American , "said she had her romances and love affairs [37] ... but ... though she thought of different men as possible lovers, no one of them measured up to her ideal of a husband." [38] These women did not define their emotional life in terms of interiority, purely personal sentiments. They constantly contrasted their own feelings with ideals that set an impersonal standard offering criteria to evaluate emotions.

Thus Ella Lyman, at twenty-seven, wrote to her suitor: "Choosing to marry is choosing to live a dual life, to bring two different lives into union and we don't do that unless the tie which unites them, the life in common, is holier, higher than the work of either apart." [39] For two years, she could not decide whether to marry Richard. In answering his marriage proposal, she assured him of their closeness, yet was unable to accept: "Marriage is so vital and earnest a responsibility that even to spare you suffering I cannot answer now." [40] Two days later she wrote in the same vein : "Dear Richard, I am glad of this deeper knowledge of you, glad in your love ... As yet I have not realized the meaning of marriage, and it is so sacred a tie that I must grow into the knowledge of it before I enter its presence. I am unworthy to share your life unless I can give myself to you with perfect oneness and I cannot now." [41] Here Ella Lyman pointed to a crucial feature of the contemporary ideal of love-marriage: "pe rfect oneness" was not only an achievable goal but the goal to achieve. Given her belief in the possibility of perfect fusion, it is no surprise that she was still hesitating a year later.

Lucy Stone Noun 1. Lucy Stone - United States feminist and suffragist (1818-1893)
 was similarly unconvinced by Henry Blackwell's ardent courtship: "You are dearest to me ... but all that you are to me, does not come near, my ideal of what is necessary, to make a marriage relation ... If there were real affinity between us--the elements by which a true marriage could be made, I do not think that I should so instinctively recoil recoil /re·coil/ (re´koil) a quick pulling back.

elastic recoil  the ability of a stretched object or organ, such as the bladder, to return to its resting position.
 from the thought of it." [42] Suffragist and women's rights The effort to secure equal rights for women and to remove gender discrimination from laws, institutions, and behavioral patterns.

The women's rights movement began in the nineteenth century with the demand by some women reformers for the right to vote, known as suffrage, and
 advocate Lucy Stone, who firmly resolved never to marry, was nonetheless willing to enter such a union if, as she assured Henry, "my love for you had in it, that glad self-surrender, and boundless trust which is a wedded love ... no nothing ... should or could prevent my public recognition of it ... So now, I ... wait for full assurance." [43] Ellen Rothman has argued that in spite of culture's idealization of marriage, middle-class women did not want to marry so badly that any men would do. My argument is the opposite: it was precisely because of the idealization of marriage that middle-class wo men were severely selective in choosing husbands. [44] Ella Lyman wrote about "perfect oneness in marriage, Lucy Stone referred to the "glad self-surrender ... which is wedded love," Lucy Larcom understood matrimony as "two spirits made one." These spiritualized Spiritualized is an English rock band formed in 1990 in Rugby, Warwickshire by Jason Pierce (who often goes by the alias J. Spaceman) after the demise of his previous outfit, space-rockers Spacemen 3.  images of love and marriage were closely linked to the rise of "moral motherhood." [45] The maternal ideal emphasized women's emotional qualities, which during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries came to be more highly valued. [46] As affection took on a moral and religious connotation con·no·ta·tion  
1. The act or process of connoting.

a. An idea or meaning suggested by or associated with a word or thing:
, [47] feminine affection was conceived of as above lust, passion, or sensuality. "The higher women rise in moral and intellectual culture, the more is the sensual refined away from her nature, and the more pure and perfect and predominant becomes her motherhood." In this spiritualized understanding, feminine love was inseparable from woman's motherly moth·er·ly  
1. Of, like, or appropriate to a mother: motherly love.

2. Showing the affection of a mother.

In a manner befitting a mother.
 nature and distinctive moral qualities. [48] "Love is the very nature of woman. She may be said to possess it in a general sense, independently of individual applications. All the passions of woman relate in the last analysis to her maternal role." [49] Feminine love was caring, tender, and selfless, not only in the prescriptive literature but in women's private accounts of their aspirations.

Maternal love was defined not so much by the existence of children but by the love's selfless quality, by its ability to improve and elevate. Thus, moral motherhood, as an ideal, embraced feminine roles other than motherhood itself: wife, teacher, charity worker, writer of didactic di·dac·tic
Of or relating to medical teaching by lectures or textbooks as distinguished from clinical demonstration with patients.
 and advice literature were but expressions of woman's motherly nature. [50] This generous, motherly love was not confined to marriage. Spiritual love, a necessary ingredient in true marriage, was viable outside it and might be directed toward missions other than marriage and family. This broader understanding of women's nature and feminine love was important in elective spinsterhood and in the framing of middle-class female experience. The spiritualization of love, which gained ascendancy with the rise of "moral motherhood," was furthered in the 1830s and 1840s by sexual purity reformers, concerned with bodily control. This reform movement, addressed to young men, defined sexual self-control as a manly quality and made few distinc tions between physical, mental, and moral order. [51] Steven Seidman Steven Seidman is an American sociologist, currently professor at New York State University at Albany. "He is a world renowned social theorist working the areas of social theory, culture, sexuality, comparative sociology, theory of democracy, nationalism and globalization.  has argued that "women were a principal force behind the spiritualization of love," because it was in woman's self-interest": it allowed them to "regulate sexual expression" within marriage. [52] The spiritual understanding of love, however, was the outcome of a complex set of changes in religion, culture, and society, which cannot be reduced to the self-interest of a particular group. It also had implications beyond the regulation of sexuality and was in keeping with a broader middle-class preoccupation with self-control. Middle-class women, much like men, believed in and exercised self-mastery. Within the female sphere of responsibility, feeling, sympathy and love, their aspirations were not for emotional self-abandon but for emotional self-discipline. Ideally, feminine emotions were focused, purposful and articulated, not free-flowing and vague. Women regarded their heart as an asset, both in private and in public life; its feelings were not to be squandered squan·der  
tr.v. squan·dered, squan·der·ing, squan·ders
1. To spend wastefully or extravagantly; dissipate. See Synonyms at waste.

. A much more expressively free emotionality flourished within the context of romantic love, as Karen Lystra has documented. [53] Her argument holds for couples in romantic love: to abandon emotional self-control was a sign of true, authentic love. Those women, however, who did not find a romantic partner still firmly held onto the ideal of self-control. At the same time, the view of women s inherently spiritual nature deemphasized women's sexual nature. [54] Just as women s motherly character was decoupled from their reproductive role, female love was dissociated dis·so·ci·ate  
v. dis·so·ci·at·ed, dis·so·ci·at·ing, dis·so·ci·ates
1. To remove from association; separate:
 from female sexuality. Woman's love was seen as the primary safeguard of moral order and a powerful force in human and social progress. The nature of female love, its private and social missions, strongly shaped women s self-understanding for generations to come.

Women both benefited from and were constrained by this new understanding, which informed the doctrine of domesticity Domesticity
See also Wifeliness.

Crocker, Betty

leading brand of baking products; byword for one expert in homemaking skills. [Trademarks: Crowley Trade, 56]

Dick Van Dyke Show, The
, as Ruth Bloch has convincingly argued. [55] However, spinsters clearly benefited. The spiritual understanding of love enabled them to understand their own "purity" as in harmony with moral laws. Purity was more than simply chastity Chastity
See also Modesty, Purity, Virginity.

Agnes, St.

virgin saint and martyr. [Christian Hagiog.: Brewster, 76]


(Rom. Diana) moon goddess; virgin huntress. [Gk. Myth.
: it was also purity of motives. Although matrimony was God's design, purity of motives for marrying was essential to its dignity and sanctity. Defining women's worth in terms of morality and spirituality, rather than procreation PROCREATION. The generation of children; it is an act authorized by the law of nature: one of the principal ends of marriage is the procreation of children. Inst. tit. 2, in pr. , the new understanding made it possible for spinsterhood to be a respectable variation on motherhood rather than its antithesis.

Marriage and motherhood were women's primary private and social mission but not the only one. The changes described above, which led to the spiritualized and moralistic conception of womanhood wom·an·hood  
1. The state or time of being a woman.

2. The composite of qualities thought to be appropriate to or representative of women.

 and marriage, also opened the door to a broader understanding of women's vocation. According to Muzzey, "woman was not made for marriage; but marriage for woman. If in any instance it shall appear that her improvement will probably be retarded by her entering the state, or her usefulness less extensive, or her happiness evidently sacrificed, then ... it is her duty to continue unmarried." God designed "some of this sex to remain single." Yet "He made all for the sake of character, usefulness, and happiness." [56] The Girls' Manual (1836), quoting a religious account of world history, argued that "female nature is ... part of the divine system, that it should have its beauties and benefits distinct from those which result from its social position as a mother." Conveying the message that woman's life is valuable and can be useful under any conditions, it claimed that the "single state is no diminution Taking away; reduction; lessening; incompleteness.

The term diminution is used in law to signify that a record submitted by an inferior court to a superior court for review is not complete or not fully certified.
 of the beauties and utilities of the female character." Single women are a blessing to aging parents; they are governesses and teachers. "The single woman, therefore, [is] as important an element of social and private happiness as the married one. The utilities of each are different, but both are necessary." [57] Marriage was not woman's only mission, nor the only chance for a happy life. Women must be "taught that to be happy they must be useful in whatever sphere they might move ... [and] impressed that life had many missions of which marriage was but one." [58]

The spinsters in this study searched for their place in the world so as not to live in vain. I will argue that the search for a vocation instead of matrimony was not the expression of a wish for self-actualization, self-fulfillment and achievement, as some scholars argue. [59] It was not the expansion of autonomy in a secular, modern sense of the term; rather, it was exercising the autonomy of a moral agent, responsible to her God. The insistence on self-reliance should be placed in the evangelical tradition going back to the First Great Awakening The First Great Awakening is the name sometimes given to a period of heightened religious activity, primarily in the northeastern US during the 1730's and 1740's. Although the idea of a "great awakening" is contested, it is clear that the period was, particularly in New England, a . Young women were encouraged and expected to become their own person. This tradition emphasized the importance of self-scrutiny and self-possession, necessary for Christian life and preparation for death. [60] On this view, autonomy was a duty, not a freedom to do what one pleases. This understanding was shared by a later generation of women who, in the the softer emotional climate of nineteeth-century Protestantism, were less afraid of God's wrath. They were, howe ver, equally convinced that their lives served a higher purpose. Female self-direction, in the world of nineteenth-century spinsters, was not an ultimate good but a stepping stone to a life of usefulness and service, a life in accordance with God's purposes. The dignity of womanhood required that women think and act for themselves; as Alice Carey advocated in 1869: "to teach [women] to think for themselves ... not so much because it is their right, as because it is their duty." She also proposed to protest against "each and every thing that opposes the full development and use of the faculties conferred upon us by our Creator." [61] Self-direction and self-reliance formed the morally responsible path for a woman who "understood/Herself, her work, and God's will Noun 1. God's Will - the omnipotence of a divine being
omnipotence - the state of being omnipotent; having unlimited power
 with her." [62] The "self" was conceived of as the repository of human potential for good. Thus spinster Abigail May encouraged her niece, whom she brought up: "I think you will be better for beginning to depend more upon yourself ... What you want to do in life, is to help along the world in any little way that God permits. Another first best step towards helping others, is being able to do for yourself." [63] The English authoress Au´thor`ess

n. 1. A female author.

Noun 1. authoress - a woman author
author, writer - writes (books or stories or articles or the like) professionally (for pay)
 Dinah Maria Mulock Craik sounded a resonant chord with her appreciative American audience when she wrote: "Self-dependence ... is only real and only valuable when its root is not in self at all; when its strength is drawn not from man, but from that Higher and Diviner Source whence every individual soul proceeds, and to which alone it is accountable." [64] Myrtilla Miner Myrtilla Miner (born March 4, 1815, near Brookfield, New York; died December 17, 1864, Washington, DC) was an American educator and abolitionist whose school for African Americans, established against considerable opposition, grew to a successful and long-lived teachers institution.  shared the conviction that one was responsible only to God and should follow one's own moral conscience: "Keep your heart pure and true; that will secure you a higher, holier opinion than all the world combined could bestow be·stow  
tr.v. be·stowed, be·stow·ing, be·stows
1. To present as a gift or an honor; confer: bestowed high praise on the winners.

.... Self-consciousness of good or evil is the great law, and the only one for which you or I shall be held responsible before the Judge ... " [65] Emily Howland also wanted to live "truly and freely": true to her higher principles and free o f the world's opinion. "Never shall any amount of suffering of the earthy slough off Verb 1. slough off - discard as undesirable; "the candidate sloughed off his former campaign workers"
get rid of, remove - dispose of; "Get rid of these old shoes!"; "The company got rid of all the dead wood"

 the divine." [66] It was in this vein that Mary A. Dodge wrote: "There is nothing in life but to go on perfectly self-poised ... While we should pay proper deference to man's opinion the real dignity of life is to be independent of it.,, [67] This, however, is not proto-feminist self-assertion; to be independent of men's judgement was possible for these spinsters because they shared the conviction that "human judgement is a most fallible fal·li·ble  
1. Capable of making an error: Humans are only fallible.

2. Tending or likely to be erroneous: fallible hypotheses.
 tribunal; that if there is no higher and wiser power to decide the standard, we are at the mercy of unreason. [68]

A crucial link between Christian morality and worldly work was the notion of usefulness. The ethos of service and usefulness that permeated the vocational concept of wifehood and motherhood similarly motivated single woman: to be useful in the world, to provide help and guidance to those who need it. As profit and wealth came to be associated with men's worldly pursuits in the market economy, for women vocation retained the service element of the original concept. Vocation was closely linked to fulfilling one's God-given potentials in the service of community; this ethos of service went hand in hand with a vision of social perfectabiliy. Thus from the viewpoint of the vocational understanding of women's work, home and the world, marriage and singehood were not polar opposites but rather a continuum where the same ethos applied. Extending the values of the home into the world was, after all, at the heart of all 19th-century reform endeavors.

The moral emphasis on usefulness motivated single women to find their vocation. The spinsters in my sample embarked upon their voction after they decided not to marry, although most of them strove strove  
Past tense of strive.


the past tense of strive

strove strive
 to live up to their ideal of usefulness from early on. Catharine Sedgwick was in her thirties when she began writing. Elizabeth Blackwell Elizabeth Blackwell is the name of:
  • Elizabeth Blackwell (illustrator) (1700–1758), English botanical illustrator
  • Elizabeth Blackwell (doctor) (1821–1910), American abolitionist, women's rights activist, first female doctor in the United States
 took up medical studies as a result of the strong attraction she felt for a man whom she considered below her standards. The "felt need of engrossing engrossing, in English law, practice of acquiring a monopoly of goods in order to sell them at an inflated price. The offense was ordinarily limited to monopolies of foods. Related practices were forestalling, i.e.  occupation" was "one of the chief reasons which finally decided my occupation." [69] By devoting herself to medicine, she was hoping to place an "insuperable barrier" between herself and the "disturbing influences" of her attraction which she "could not wisely yield to, but could not otherwise stifle." [70] Susan B. Anthony and Emily Howland embarked upon their life's work Life's Work is a sitcom that aired from 1996 to 1997 on the American Broadcasting Company channel that starred Lisa Ann Walter as Lisa Ann Minardi Hunter, the assistant district attorney who had a husband named Kevin Hunter , women s rights and work with freed slaves respectively, beyond the age when most women married. Both Lucy Larcom and Frances Willard rejected suitors for reasons of the heart, and both found their calling later on in life, Larcom as a poet and educator, Willard as a temperance Temperance
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

organization founded to help alcoholics (1934). [Am. Culture: EB, I: 448]


provides protection against drunkenness; February birthstone.
 leader. To be sure, some of these women showed a fairly strong disinclination dis·in·cli·na·tion  
A lack of inclination; a mild aversion or reluctance.

Noun 1. disinclination - that toward which you are inclined to feel dislike; "his disinclination for modesty is well known"
 to marry, for a number of reasons. Fear of sexuality and very strong familial attachment influenced some women's capacity for "glad self-surrender." Ironically, however, among the women I studied, the only ones who opposed marriage on principled feminist grounds, because it interfered with their women's rights advocacy, were the ones who actually married. [71]

Alice James Alice James (August 7, 1848 – March 6, 1892), U.S. diarist, only daughter of Henry James, Sr. and sister of philosopher William James and novelist Henry James, is known primarily for the posthumously published diary she kept in the last years of her life. , an invalid spinster, who was well only for short periods, recorded in her diary the striking change in her attitude after settling in England in 1884. She felt liberated from the oppressive American cultural imperative of justifying one's existence by being useful. In England, alongside the ethos of the middle class, an aristocratic attitude was very much alive, disdaining usefulness and regarding superfluousness as the mark of the lady and gentleman. "It is rather strange that here, among the robust and sanguine sanguine /san·guine/ (sang´gwin)
1. plethoric.

2. ardent or hopeful.

1. Of a healthy, reddish color; ruddy.

 people, I feel not the least shame or degradation at being ill, as I used to at home among the anemic and fagged ... What need to justify one's existence when one is simply one more amid a million of the superfluous." [72]

But in the New World being "superfluous" was a sin. Many a young woman was troubled by a sense of uselessness. Frances Willard was shocked into thinking about being useful while recovering from typhoid fever typhoid fever acute, generalized infection caused by Salmonella typhi. The main sources of infection are contaminated water or milk and, especially in urban communities, food handlers who are carriers. : "I shall be twenty years TWENTY YEARS. The lapse of twenty years raises a presumption of certain facts, and after such a time, the party against whom the presumption has been raised, will be required to prove a negative to establish his rights.
 old in September, and I have as yet been of no use in the world. When I recover ... I will earn my own living ... , and try to be of use in the world." [73] A year later she was still dissatisfied with herself: "What am I doing? Whose cares do I relieve? Who is wiser, better, or happier because I live? Nothing would go on differently without me, unless ... the front stairs might not be swept so often! ... Nobody seems to need me ... I see so plainly how well the world can spare me. But perhaps I may be needed some day and am only waiting for the crisis." [74]

Emily Howland, at twenty-one, was greatly troubled by not having found her vocation. She wondered: "why a life so useless should ever have been granted or why perpetuated ... is the most unaccountable of our Creator's providences." [75] In her late twenties, she was still "waiting for something to turn up." Her friend Carrie A. Rowland understood and encouraged Howland: "Thou art to be a worker in the vast arena of the world, it is no light task--can we devote so many years to worldly education and shall we be impatient because our spiritual training demands equal time for its completion?" She urged Emily to be patient: "I know thy spirit craves a high and holy life beyond that this outward world can give, and I would strengthen thee. I would encourage thee, not to sink down helpless and desponding, but work steadily onward and though thy advancement may seem slow to thee and the time cometh and the word goeth unto thee, 'come for all things are now ready,' thou shall find thyself thy·self  
pron. Archaic
Yourself. Used as the reflexive or emphatic form of thee or thou.


Archaic the reflexive form of thou1
 possessed of powers of which thou has taken no account, they have grown so silently." [76] Rowland was encouraging Emily by suggesting that God would appoint the proper task at the proper time, and Emily's duty was to patiently prepare for some future calling.

When thirty-year old Emily Howland thought she found her calling she asked her mother's permission: "May I give a little of my life to degraded humanity? ... May I try if I really can to make the world a little better for having lived in it? Can't thee spare me a while to do what I think of my portion? I want to do something which seems to me worth of life, and if all my life is to go on as have the last ten years, I know I shall feel at the end of it as tho' tho also tho'  
conj. & adv. Informal

tho' or tho
conj, adv

US or poetic same as though

 I had lived in vain." [77] Others contributed to the world by raising "noble, worthy families"; Emily Howland wanted to do her "share to the world" [78] by being useful in other ways.

Catharine Sedgwick also "wanted some pursuit." She found that writing "relieved me from the danger of ennui." [79] But more than that, writing was her calling: "When I feel that my writings have made any one happier or better, I feel an emotion of gratitude to Him who has made me the medium of any blessing to my fellow creatures. And I do feel that I am but the instrument." [80] Acknowledging the compliments of Rev. Ellery Channing, she wrote, "I thank Heaven that I am not now working for the poor and perishing per·ish  
v. per·ished, per·ish·ing, per·ish·es

1. To die or be destroyed, especially in a violent or untimely manner:
 rewards of literary ambition ... they are not my object... There is an immense moral field opening, demanding laborers of every class... Neither pride nor humility should withhold us from the work to which we are clearly 'sent.'" [81]

Lucy Larcom was desolate when she felt not needed: "It is a matter of fact life, with scarcely anything of hope or aspiration. Those that care for me, or that I care for, are not necessary to me, nor I to them," she complained to her friend. [82] In another letter the theme came up again: "I do like to feel that others, that is, certain others, need me; and my life seems drying up when I may not do something for them." [83] Life seemed worth living only when she felt that she was doing something for others: "I am very thankful for the few talents I have, not because they are mine, but because they can be given to God, to receive His inspiration, and to be worth something to others besides myself--Ah! living is not mere existence, when God breathes into [it] the breath of life!" [84]

Harriot Hunt, one of the very few female physicians, wrote in her memoirs that as a young woman "the felt necessities of my soul urged me to open for myself some path of usefulness." [85] She setup a school in the family's house. Although she loved her school, "I never felt it my true vocation. It seemed to be preparing for me something higher and more permanent." [86] Her sister's long illness awakened a·wak·en  
tr. & intr.v. a·wak·ened, a·wak·en·ing, a·wak·ens
To awake; waken. See Usage Note at wake1.

[Middle English awakenen, from Old English
 in her an "absorbing interest" in medicine, and she believed "that this experience was given to me for a purpose!" [87] Hunt saw "Divine Providence In theology, Divine Providence, or simply Providence, is the sovereignty, superintendence, or agency of God over events in people's lives and throughout history. Etymology
This word comes from Latin providentia "foresight, precaution", from pro-
" in directing her attention to medicine through the experience of her sister's illness. Looking back on her life, she saw that "God's appointed designs wonderfully worked out" in her life. [88]

As these spinsters exemplify, for some women the vocational understanding of work implied waiting for some sign, some opportunity, some "crisis." They were yearning to be useful, to be needed, yet were waiting for some clear signal to indicate their path. Others were more active in looking for Looking for

In the context of general equities, this describing a buy interest in which a dealer is asked to offer stock, often involving a capital commitment. Antithesis of in touch with.
 their field of usefulness, although they were not necessarily more satisfied with themselves. Louisa May Alcott recorded her discontent in her journal: "Seventeen years have I lived, and yet so little do I know, and so much remains to be done before I begin to be what I desire,--a truly good and useful woman." [89] Catharine Beecher Catharine Esther Beecher (September 6, 1800 – May 12, 1878) was a noted educator, renowned for her forthright opinions on women’s education as well as her vehement support of the many benefits of the incorporation of a kindergarten into children’s education.  was twenty-three years old when, after the death of her fianc[acute{e}], she was considering her future employment. She asked her father's advice: "My employments this winter have led to the inquiry whether there is not a course that might be pursued leading to a more extended usefulness." [90] But either way, these spinsters clearly equated vocation with usefulness, with living and working for others. They saw usefulness as a universally applicable concept. As Catharine Sedgwick wrote to her statesman father: "A life dignified by usefulness, of which it has been the object and delight to do good ... does furnish some points of imitation for the most limiting routine of domestic life.... You may benefit a nation, my dear Papa, I may improve the condition of a fellow being." [91]

Finding their life-work filled spinsters with a sense of God-given purpose, with the satisfaction of working for others. Myrtilla Miner wrote about the satisfaction resulting from having found the work that was useful and beneficial for others: "I have never before felt myself exactly in my own 'niche,' fully satisfied with the work I had to do; because never before realized all the benefits resulting to the world from my labors." [92] Mary Lyon This article is about the 19th century American educator. For the 20th century British geneticist, see Mary F. Lyon.

Mary Mason Lyon (28 February 1797 - 5 March 1849) was the founder of the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in South Hadley, (now Mount Holyoke
 wrote to a friend who asked Lyon to work with her in the new Londonderry female academy, that her present work made it difficult for her to consider anything else, because "This school has so far been a silent, retired, and powerful means of doing good [ldots] my usefulness might be more extensive here than in almost any other place." And as she was longing to work with this friend, she added, "May the Lord direct our course. I cannot, I would not, choose for myself." [93] She, like many others, perceived her calling as God-given: "I have felt more than ever before, that my field of labor was among the most desirable. I have felt that I could thank Him who has given me my work to do." [94] Myrtilla Miner thought that "If God hath not sent me to do this work, I hope he will raise up means to defeat me in all my purposes; and if it is his work, and he has permitted me to be the instrument of its commencement, no man or men can frustrate the design." [95] Mary Lyon contemplated that "the whole great business of life" was "to know and understand our relations to God, and to perform the duties arising from those relations." [96] The most important purpose of her Mount Holyoke Mount Holyoke (elevation 940'/286m) is the western-most peak of the Mount Holyoke Range located in the Connecticut River Valley of western Massachusetts and is the namesake of nearby Mount Holyoke College. Origin of name
The mountain was named after Elizur Holyoke.
 Seminary was that "the cause of Christ will be advanced by the influences that go forth from it." [97] Her own ambition was to "labor with God as children with a father, to walk by his side, to unite with him in his great work." [98] Dorothea Dix Noun 1. Dorothea Dix - United States social reformer who pioneered in the reform of prisons and in the treatment of the mentally ill; superintended women army nurses during the American Civil War (1802-1887)
Dix, Dorothea Lynde Dix
 wrote to her friend after her bill regarding the reform of insane asylums passed the Senate: "Congratulations flow in [ldots] as I rejoice quietly and silently, I feel that it is 'the Lord who has made my mountain to stand strong.'" [99] Like educators and reformers, the authors of domestic novels saw themselves as preachers of morality, as dependent upon, and guided by God's beneficence beneficence (b·neˑ·fi·s . [100] When Dorothea Dix praised The Wide, Wide World, Susan Warner Susan Bogert Warner (July 11, 1819 – March 17, 1885), was an American evangelical writer of religious fiction, children's fiction, and theological works.

Born in New York City, she wrote, under the name of "Elizabeth Wetherell," thirty novels, many of which went into
 rejected any credit for her book: "You say 'God bless me' for what I have done,--nay but I say 'Thank him for it.'" [101]

Lee Virginia Chambers-Schiller regards these aspirations to do God's work in the world, as "justifications" for individual ambitions and aspirations for fame and influence. She claims that the "adoption of a religious identity allowed women to assert themselves in both public and private ways" and that "women's vocational identities were significant because they enabled individuals to detach de·tach
1. To separate or unfasten; disconnect.

2. To remove from association or union with something.
 themselves from the limitations of their immediate environment." She also argues that the "assumption of a new identity prepared women to embark upon new, vocational lives." [102] But from the point of view of the spinsters in question, their "vocational lives" were not new lives at all. Most strove toward finding their vocation and expressed the belief that their whole previous life was but a preparation for it. They saw life as a continuous stream, leading towards ever fuller employment of their potentials, the realization and perfection of their abilities, and, eventually, to the perfect life beyond the earthly one. I n their view, vocation was a God-appointed task, not a chosen career.

Chambers-Schiller finds that in public spinsters used the language of the "Cult of Single Blessedness the unmarried state.
- Shak.

See also: Blessedness
," while in private they acknowledged their strivings, their "ambition and desire for recognition." Contrary to this interpretation, I see a striking consistency in the writings of these spinsters. In letters to friends, publishers, parents as well as in diary entries one encounters the same concerns: to be useful, always to do more and better. Some were almost chronically dissatisfied with themselves; however, this was not a sign of personal ambition for fame. Rather, it was the sign of frustration that one was falling short of fulfilling ones spiritual mission and potential. Similarly, expressions of a desire for perfection, for eminence eminence /em·i·nence/ (em´i-nens) a projection or boss.

caudal eminence  a taillike eminence in the early embryo, the remnant of the primitive node and the precursor of hindgut, adjacent
 are in harmony with Christian perfectionism per·fec·tion·ism
A tendency to set rigid high standards of personal performance.

per·fection·ist adj. & n.
, and were publicly encouraged in nineteenth-century society. When Chambers-Schiller argues that by "justifying" their lives in religious terms, "women placed their work within an appropriate, socially acceptable context," [103] sh e implicitly treats culture as imposition. [104] This interpretation is more explicit in statements like the following: "although their culture demanded the subservience sub·ser·vi·ent  
1. Subordinate in capacity or function.

2. Obsequious; servile.

3. Useful as a means or an instrument; serving to promote an end.
 of the female self, some women asserted their independence; they remained single and undertook their callings in an effort to achieve autonomy and experience self-actualization." [105] However, culture is not a set of restrictions that some manage to circumvent. These spinsters did nor "assert their independence" and "achieve autonomy" in opposition to their culture; rather, their culture was constitutive constitutive /con·sti·tu·tive/ (kon-stich´u-tiv) produced constantly or in fixed amounts, regardless of environmental conditions or demand.  of the meanings directing their actions. They were agents nor against their culture but within it. Agency was only possible for them in culturally defined terms. The "Cult of True Womanhood" celebrated women as morally superior; it bestowed upon them a special sense of duty, mission, and responsibility in the world. Thus within Victorian culture the propagation of the values of the home and the extension of female influence were desirable. I t was within the context of this culture that specifically female social action became possible. It permitted spinsters to construe construe v. to determine the meaning of the words of a written document, statute or legal decision, based upon rules of legal interpretation as well as normal meanings.  plausible and possible forms of agency by including new areas in their female sphere. [106] Much of the literature emphasizes the restricted nature of the female sphere, stressing the limitations of woman's existence. While acknowledging the presence of limitations, I wish to stress the new possibilities for the extension of the domestic model into new areas. [107]

Since my focus is on the meaning spinsters derived from their culture and attached to their actions, the language of the spinsters' documents is revealing. Language was not a veil or a justification. The experience of these nineteenth-century spinsters cannot be divorced from their language because it structured their experience, indeed, it made their experience possible. [108] The use of religious language, as an expression of a religiously grounded culture, was not a disguise of pre-existing intentions. Thus, to say that nineteenth-century spinsters adopted a "religious identity," as does Chambers-Schiller, suggests that they chose themselves the way present-day Americans are supposed to, or aspire to aspire to
verb aim for, desire, pursue, hope for, long for, crave, seek out, wish for, dream about, yearn for, hunger for, hanker after, be eager for, set your heart on, set your sights on, be ambitious for
 do. It implies that in the pursuit of their own interests, spinsters used religion to cloak their goals, to make them socially acceptable. However, what is distinctive about a religious perspective, as opposed to a secular one, is that belief itself is not a matter of choice: it comes first and shapes and str uctures other choices; it provides an idiom in which choices are conceived, framed, and pondered. [109] The acceptance of a higher authority is the basis of a religious world view. This way of interpreting the world was certainly nor something chosen as a matter of personal choice, nor an adaptive response The adaptive response is a form of direct DNA repair in E. coli that is initiated against alkylation, particularly methylation, of guanine or thymine nucleotides or phosphate groups on the sugar-phosphate backbone of DNA.  to cultural and social expectations. Thus, spinsters were not "engaged in making a female self, in pursuing autonomy ... in the world." [110] They could not usurp u·surp  
v. u·surped, u·surp·ing, u·surps
1. To seize and hold (the power or rights of another, for example) by force and without legal authority. See Synonyms at appropriate.

 God's prerogative: creation. In this context it was not a "justification," but rather a shared assumption that one's work was part of a larger "design," that the details made sense on a higher level of existence, and that the ultimate goal was not self-actualization, but salvation.

A conditional endorsement of spinsterhood followed from an insistence on uncompromising behavior as well as a continued emphasis on otherworldly goals. Spinsterhood was not the opposite but the complement of true marriage. The idealization and elevation of marriage and wifehood brought with it an emphasis on pure motives for marrying, resulting, in turn, in the elevation of spinsterhood and a more dignified view of single women. [111] The advice literature reiterated this view in the 1830s, '40s, and '50s, and the theme of true marriage and moral spinsters persisted into the last decades of the century. "True marriage is the holiest of all possible relationships," being of "God's own ordaining." To contract such true marriage one should accept only the best mate Best Mate (bay gelding, 28 January, 1995 - 1 November, 2005. Sire: Un Desperado, Dam: Katday) was a famous English trained racehorse and three-time winner of the Cheltenham Gold Cup. ; "old maids" deserve "honor for living up to the principle, 'The best, or none!'" If the "true wife and mother is the queen among women," second to her is "she who has had the courage to remain single because the right man never came." [112] Mrs. Abe ll insisted that "circumstances ought never to be such as to justify an illassorted or repugnant REPUGNANT. That which is contrary to something else; a repugnant condition is one contrary to the contract itself; as, if I grant you a house and lot in fee, upon condition that you shall not aliens, the condition is repugnant and void. Bac. Ab. Conditions, L.  marriage. If indifference of heart be felt, better remain single." [113] Muzzey (1840) also advocated the view that young women should have the moral courage to wait for one who matched their standards, rather than throw themselves away. [114] Well-known and respected writers, like Louisa Alcott, advised in the same vein: "If love comes as it should come, accept it in God's name and be worthy of His best blessing. If it never comes, then in God's name reject the shadow of it ..." [115] In 1868, the Nation asked "Why Is Single Life Becoming More General?" and saw the explanation in the "process of civilization": "Men and women can less easily find any one whom they are willing to take as a partner for life; their requirements are more exacting; their standards of excellence higher; they are less able to find any who can satisfy their own ideal and less able to satisfy anybody else's ideal." [116]

Even though "no single life[l.dots]ever fulfills its Creator's whole design," the single life is "supremely happy in comparison with her who... rushed headlong into the matrimonial mat·ri·mo·ny  
n. pl. mat·ri·mo·nies
The act or state of being married; marriage.

[Middle English, from Old French matrimoine, from Latin m
 flame and been singed for life ... There cannot, by any possibility of accumulation of misery, come into your life so terrible a woe as that which results from a hasty, precipitate and rash marriage." Singlehood sin·gle·hood  
The state of being unmarried.
 was advocated as preferable to marriage contracted for reasons other than love. Marrying for a home was called "servitude servitude

In property law, a right by which property owned by one person is subject to a specified use or enjoyment by another. Servitudes allow people to create stable long-term arrangements for a wide variety of purposes, including shared land uses; maintaining the
," marrying for money "bargain and sale BARGAIN AND SALE, conveyancing, contracts. A contract in writing to convey lands to another person; or rather it is the sale of a use therein. In strictness it is not an absolute conveyance of the seisin, as a feoffment. Watk. Prin. Conv. by Preston, 190, 191. " by Muzzey. Love was the only legitimate reason for marriage. "I would rather a young lady should be guilty of this imprudence im·pru·dence  
1. The quality or condition of being unwise or indiscreet.

2. An unwise or indiscreet act.

Noun 1.
 [elopement Elopement
Carker, James

with Dombey’s wife. [Br. Lit.: Dombey and Son]


with Alvaro, rejected as suitor by her father. [Ital.
], if she sincerely loves her companion, than that she marry one she does not love." [117] The marriage ideal was upheld by the editor of Peterson's Magazine (1858): "Marry for a home! ... How dare you, then, pervert the most sacred institution of the Almighty, by becoming the wife of a man for whom you can feel no emotions of love, or respect even?" [118] The best-selling Titcomb's Letters (1858) was equally adamant: "All this marrying for money, or for position, or for any other consideration, when genuine love is absent, is essential prostitution." [119] Louisa Alcott berated young women for recklessly rushing into matrimony for fear of remaining "old maids." "Fortunately, this foolish prejudice is fast disappearing," she continued, because of the example of an increasing number of happy, useful spinsters. She urged her fellow spinsters to use whatever talents they had "for the good of others" and in that work find their happiness. [120]

Others, too, argued for the dignity and usefulness of singlehood. Catharine Sedgwick, attacking the common prejudice that the single life was aimless, useless, and undignified, wrote that "we raise our voice with all our might against the miserable cant that matrimony is essential to the feebler sex--that a woman's single life must be useless and undignified--that she is but an adjunct to man [ldots] we believe she has an independent power to shape her own course, and to force her own separate sovereign way." This oft-quoted passage seems to suggest a strikingly modern conception of elective spinsterhood. However, Sedgwick went on, in a passage usually not cited: "we speak especially to those of our maidens whose modesty confines their efficiency to the circle which radiates from their home. We pray such to remember that their sex's share of the sterner sacrifices, as well as the softer graces of Christian love, does not belong alone to the noble Florence Nightingales For the bird, see .
Not to be confused with the 1989 American series about student nurses

Nightingales is a British Situation comedy set around the antics of three security guards working the night shift.
 of our day." She advocated, as well as p racticed in her own life, the "natural circle of duties." "[l]t is not in the broad and noisy fields sought by the apostles of 'Woman's Rights,' that sisterly love and maidenly maid·en·ly  
Of, relating to, or suitable for a maiden.

maiden·li·ness n.

Adj. 1.
 charity best diffuse their native sweetness." [121] George Burnap (1841), too, criticized the "tone of ridicule adopted by the world when speaking of this most respectable and deserving class." Unmarried women "have their full share of the labors of life" and are "especially set apart to good works." "Being less closely connected with the world, their labors are more disinterested [ldots] They are in fact the sisters of charity to the whole species. While the thoughts of others are shut up in themselves and their families, theirs go abroad to seek out the helpless and unfortunate." [122] His portrayal of spinsters as more disinterested than married women was resonant in nineteenth-century culture, where the theological connotation of disinterested love was commonly understood. It was akin to God's agape agape

In the New Testament, the fatherly love of God for humans and their reciprocal love for God. The term extends to the love of one's fellow humans. The Church Fathers used the Greek term to designate both a rite using bread and wine and a meal of fellowship that included
, a sentiment without reference t o self. Only through disinterested love, love that "seeketh not its own," could humans live in God. And in practice disinterested love, love that extended beyond the bounds of the family, informed female charity organizations and benevolent societies.

Fiction and poetry also portrayed spinsters as dignified, benevolent persons and models of unselfish behavior. Disappointment in love, far from making fictional spinsters bitter, led to a life of benevolence BENEVOLENCE, duty. The doing a kind action to another, from mere good will, without any legal obligation. It is a moral duty only, and it cannot be enforced by law. A good wan is benevolent to the poor, but no law can compel him to be so.

BENEVOLENCE, English law.
. [123] Quite a number of these fictional spinsters adopted and brought up children [124] (who called them 'auntie'),not infrequently the child of the man who betrayed them. [125] The theme of spinsters bringing up children is significant because it points to unmarried women's inherently motherly nature and their disinterested love, [126] as well as to their ability to forgive. These qualities placed spinsters high on the moral scale. Lucy Larcom's good friend, the poet John Greenleaf Whittier, also immortalized the selfless, charitable spinster, who "found peace in love's unselfishness Unselfishness
See also Dedication.

Arden, Enoch

returned castaway; keeps identity secret from wife to preserve her “new life” happiness. [Br. Lit.: Enoch Arden]

Bartholomea Capitanio and Vincentia Gerosa, Sts.
," and who

Through years of toil and soil and care, From glossy tress to thin, grey hair, All unprofaned she held apart The virgin fancies of her heart [127]

On the whole, the advice literature and the general discourse on marriage were more concerned about the danger of young women marrying in order to avoid working and being self-reliant than about the possibility of women avoiding marriage in order to find "self-fulfillment" in work. [128] Much of the advice literature as well as women's fiction Women's fiction is an umbrella term for a wide-ranging collection of literary sub-genres that are marketed to female readers, including many mainstream novels, romantic fiction, "chick lit," and other sub genres.  advocated the view that only a strong, principled woman, capable of supporting herself, was qualified to look for love and not merely support in a husband. Woman's dependence, when it sprang from resourcelessness, idleness, social pretensions, lack of education, and the like, was widely conceived as personally demoralizing de·mor·al·ize  
tr.v. de·mor·al·ized, de·mor·al·iz·ing, de·mor·al·iz·es
1. To undermine the confidence or morale of; dishearten: an inconsistent policy that demoralized the staff.
 and socially dangerous because it compromised the purity of motives for marriage. (The dependence of a strong, able woman after marriage was a different matter: it was in harmony with the God-ordained institution of marriage.) Thus the same course was advocated for single women by many authors: accord priority to being useful, not to marriage; find y our duty wherever you are, educate yourself and perfect your potentials, rely on God. If the right man comes along, you will be worthy of him, and he will be attracted to a woman who has integrity and dignity. And if he does not, the "world has plenty of work for you, as single women, after you have fitted yourselves to be perfect women." [129]

Some of the women who had doubts either about the strength of their own emotions or about the other ingredients necessary for true marriage--oneness, affinity, sympathy--were eventually convinced and married. Others never did. Their very doubts were a result of the high ideals of love and marriage. The ideals of love and marriage supplied the models for their aspirations, as well as the language for articulating their experience. Both these ideals and the ideal of character represented standards of perfection which were consequential in the most private domains of life. Clara Barton, Mary Abigail Dodge Mary Abigail Dodge (March 31, 1833 - August 17, 1896) was an American writer and essayist, she wrote under pseudonym Gail Hamilton. Her writing is noted for its wit and promotion of equality of education and occupation for women. , Catharine Sedgwick, Harriot Hunt, Lucy Larcom, Emily Howland, Frances Willard, and others subscribed to these high ideals, and with many others of their contemporaries, refused to compromise. In their cultural milieu the behavior of nineteenth-century-middle class spinsters can be interpreted for what it was: an answer to their highly charged moral quest concerning duty, usefulness, and love rather than to ou r concerns about self-fulfillment and female autonomy.


(1.) Journal, 1849-1854, undated un·dat·ed  
1. Not marked with or showing a date: an undated letter; an undated portrait.

 entry, CMS (1) See content management system and color management system.

(2) (Conversational Monitor System) Software that provides interactive communications for IBM's VM operating system.
 papers, Massachusetts Historical Society The Massachusetts Historical Society is a major historical archive specializing in early American, Massachusetts, and New England history. It is located at 1154 Boylston Street, Boston, Massachusetts and is the oldest historical society in the United States. , Boston (MHS (1) (Message Handling Service) An earlier messaging system from Novell that supported multiple operating systems and other messaging protocols, including SMTP, SNADS and X.400. It used the SMF-71 messaging format. ). Catharine Maria Sedgwick (1789-1867) was a well-known writer.

(2.) Nancy Cott refers to the connection between the idealization of marriage and spinsterhood without developing this theme. She claims that "some young women expressed a preference for 'single blessedness' above a less than ideal marriage. Some spinsters attributed their lifelong singleness to their high romantic ideals, which no man could actually approximate" (Cott, "Young Women in the Second Great Awakening The Second Great Awakening  (1800–1830s) was the second great religious revival in United States  history and consisted of renewed personal salvation experienced in revival meetings.  in New England New England, name applied to the region comprising six states of the NE United States—Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The region is thought to have been so named by Capt. ," Feminist Studies, 32 [Fall 1975]: 15-29, quoted at 18). Elsewhere she argues that some women, when confronted with the reality of imperfect marriages, resolved to live up to their ideals of a perfect marriage rather than abandon the ideal. Also, "women who sincerely envisioned beaux beaux  
A plural of beau.
 ideals and neither found them in reality nor would settle for less refused ever to marry"; see Cott, The Bonds of Womanhood: "Woman's Sphere" in New England, 1780-1835 (New Haven New Haven, city (1990 pop. 130,474), New Haven co., S Conn., a port of entry where the Quinnipiac and other small rivers enter Long Island Sound; inc. 1784. Firearms and ammunition, clocks and watches, tools, rubber and paper products, and textiles are among the many , 1977), 76, 80. Lee Virginia Chambers-Schiller also mentions the existence of romantic ideals and high standards but does not gi ve this line of argument much weight in her analysis. Chambers-Schiller, Liberty, A Better Husband. Single Women in America: The Generations of 1780-1840 (New Haven. 1984). 38.

(3.) As historian Carroll Smith-Rosenbergzzzzzzzzzzzz asserted: "As political feminists and historians we searched history for political 'foremothers.'" Smith-Rosenberg, "Hearing Women's Words," in Disorderly Conduct disorderly conduct

Conduct likely to lead to a disturbance of the public peace or that offends public decency. It has been held to include the use of obscene language in public, fighting in a public place, blocking public ways, and making threats.
: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
, 1985), 14.

(4.) Chambers-Schiller, Liberty, A Better Husband, 4, 1, 2.

(5.) Carl Degler, At Odds: Women and Family in America from the Revolution to the Present (New York, 1980), 162, 144.

(6.) Webster's New International Dictionary, Second edition (1953).

(7.) Webster's, second ed.

(8.) Most of my sources are from the antebellum period; some, however, are from later. Toward the end of the century a slow and complex change led to a more secular culture which in turn had implications for the understanding of women's nature and for spinsterhood. In this study I use "nineteenth-century" to refer to much of that century, saturated as it was by a pervasive and influential Christian culture. On the changing conceptualization of women's nature, see Rosalind Rosenberg, Beyond Separate Spheres: Intellectual Roots of Modern Feminism (New Haven, 1982).

(9.) Since these women were elective spinsters, I will focus on the cultural, and not the demographic context of spinsterhood. However, I am not suggesting that the higher instances of spinsterhood in the Northeast was the outcome of purely cultural factors. (In Massachusetts 14.6% of women were unmarried in the 1830s as opposed to 7.3% nationally; 16.9% to 7.7% in the 1850s; and 22.6% to 10.9% in the 1870s; Yasukchi Yasuba, "Birth Rates of the White Population in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  , 1800-1860," The Johns Hopkins University Johns Hopkins University, mainly at Baltimore, Md. Johns Hopkins in 1867 had a group of his associates incorporated as the trustees of a university and a hospital, endowing each with $3.5 million. Daniel C.  Studies in Historical and Political Science 79, no. 2 [1961]:109; Peter R. Uhlenberg, "A Study of Cohort Life Cycles: Cohorts of Native Born Massachusetts Women, 1830-1920," Population Studies 23 [19691: 420.) In the following, I am offering a corrective to the often one-sided treatment of nineteenth-century single women by concentrating on their motivations.

(10.) On social generations and social character, see Philip Abrams, Historical Sociology Historical sociology is a branch of sociology focusing on how societies develop through history. It's looks at how social structure that many regard as natural are in fact shaped by complex social processes.  (Ithaca, NY, 1982), 241-258.

(11.) Winthrop S. Hudson, The Great Tradition of the American Churches, (New York, 1953), 108.

(12.) Franklin, Two Letters to a Friend (Philadelphia, 1746), 23.

(13.) In 1831 The Lady's Book, the magazine that became very popular under the editorship of Sarah J. Hale a few years later, denounced the notions that "'love' is but a fancyful term for the feeling of esteem beyond which ... [everything is] empty nonsense as very erroneous." Instead of regarding mutual esteem as a stable foundation of marriage, the article found it degrading: "the husband taking the wife just as he would a piece of furniture for the decoration of his house, and, very likely, with just about as much regard!" See "Happiness in the Marriage state," The Lady's Book (June 1831), 289-290.

(14.) For an especially sensitive treatment of romantic love in Victorian America see Karen Lystra, Seraching the Heart. Women, Men, and Romantic Love in Nineteenth-Century America (New York, 1989).

(15.) CMS to Robert Sedgwick Robert Sedgwick (c. 1611-1656) was an English colonist, born in Woburn, Bedfordshire, England, and baptised on May 6, 1613.[1]

He settled at Charlestown, Mass.
, Albany, March 24, 1819, CMS Papers, MHS.

(16.) Journal, 12 October 1836, CMS papers, MHS.

(17.) One of the most successful revivalists, Charles G. Finney
See also: Charles Grandison Finney, American evangelist

Charles G. Finney (December 1, 1905 – April 16, 1984) was an American newspaperman, story writer, and fantastical novelist, and part time night club owner, whose full name was Charles
, repeatedly described revivalist emotions as "spontaneous" and "overwhelming." See for example Memoirs of Rev. Charles G. Finney, (New York, 1876), 161, 163. The adjectives most often used in his memoirs to describe meetings and conversions were "powerful," "overflowing," "overwhelming," "spontaneous." People responded to the experience by "pouring out all their hearts"; the narratives of Christian experience were "overflowing with love" (e.g. ibid., 161,163, 77). On the connection between evangelical Protestantism and romantic emotions, see Ruth H. Block, "The Gendered Meaning of Virtue in Revolutionary America," Signs, vol. 13, no. 1(1987): 57; also Lystra, Searching the Heart, chap. 2.

(18.) Lystra calls this process the development of the lovers' "shared identity" in Searching the Heart, chapter 2. Also, she places romantic love in the context of religious sensibility and shows very convincingly the progress of the "new theology of the romantic self" in ch. 8.

(19.) Nina Baym shows how nineteenth century woman's fiction, defined as written by, for, and about women, advocated the true marriage ideal for its heroines: sincere and deep love was not blind in these novels and united the heroine with a worthy, strong, loving man; see Baym, Woman's Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and about Women in America, 1820-1870 (Ithaca, NY, 1978), chap. 2.

(20.) As Elizabeth Cady Stanton put it: "It is a sin, an outrage to our liberal feelings, to pretend that anything but deep fervent love and sympathy constitute marriage. The right idea of marriage is the foundation of all reforms." (Letter to Susan B. Anthony, 1853, quoted in Degler, At Odds, 175.)

Elizabeth Blackwell, spinster and doctor, also held that "the early and faithful union of one man with one woman is the true ideal of society. It ... is the foundation of social and national welfare." Quoted in Ronald G. Walters, Primers for Prudery Prudery
Grundy, Mrs. Ashfields’

straitlaced neighbor whose propriety hinders them. [Br. Lit.: Speed the Plough]


Nelly excessively modest or prudish woman. [Am. Usage: Misc.
: Sexual Advice to Victorian America. (Englewood Cliffs, N.J., 1974), 156.

(21.) A good example of this transformation can be found in the courtship correspondence of Angelina Grimk[acute{e}] and Theodore Weld, both noted abolitionists. "I have gone to my Heavenly Father ... and asked Him if it was wrong to love you as I did; WHY He had constituted me a being imperfect a half only of myself as it were ... Do you believe that our Father ever begets pure and holy feelings in one heart without touching the other? I feel my Theodore that we are the two halves of one whole, a twain one, two bodies animated by one soul and that the Lord has given us to each other," Grimk[acute{e}] to Weld, Brookline, February 11, 1838, in Letters of Theodore Dwight Weld Noun 1. Theodore Dwight Weld - United States abolitionist (1803-1895)
, Angelina Grimk[acute{e}] and Sarah Grimk[acute{e}] 1822-1844, ed. by Gilbert H. Barnes and Dwight L. Dumond. (New York, 1934), vol. II, 537, 538. Weld's feelings were reciprocal: "I felt you to be a constituent half of my being somehow mysteriously sundered from me and as tho during all my previous life 1 had been a lone exile wandering a nd seeking you ... " (ibid., Feb. 18, '38, 562).

(22.) Arthemus B. Muzzey, The Young Maiden (Boston, 1840), 136.

(23.) Jesse F. Peck, The True Woman; or, Life and Happiness at Home and Abroad (New York, 1857), 214.

(24.) Gail Hamilton, A New Atmosphere (Boston, 1877 [1864]), 15, 20, 93. Mary Abigail Dodge (1833-96) was a writer and journalist.

(25.) 23 Sept. 1853, in Shirley Marchelonis, The Worlds of Lucy Larcom, 1824-1893 (Athens, Ga., 1989), 91. Lucy Larcom (1824-93) was a teacher and a poet.

(26.) Quoted in Mary Earhart, Frances Willard. From Prayers to Politics. (Chicago, 1944), 75. Frances E. Willard (1839-89) was a moral reformer and founder of Women's Christian Temperance Union.

(27.) Kathleen Barry, Susan B. Anthony: A Biography of a Singular Feminist (New York, 1988), 84-85. Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) was a reformer and women's rights activist.

(28.) Quoted in Judith Colucci Breault, The World of Emily Howland: Odyssey of a Humanitarian (Millbrae, Ca., 1976), 119. Emily Howland (1827-1929) was a teacher and reformer.

(29.) Lucy Larcom to Esther S. Humiston, Norton, June 1,1858, Addison Papers, MHS.

(30.) The Young Lady's Friend, by a Lady [Eliza Ware Farrar] (Boston, 1837), 288, 312.

(31.) Mrs. L. G. Abell, Women in Her Various Relations (New York, 1853), 262.

(32.) Maud Maud: see Matilda, queen of England.  Rittenhouse, Oct. 4, 1883, in Maud. ed. by Richard Lee Richard Lee may refer to:
  • Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794), President of the United States in Congress Assembled, 1784 to 1785
  • Sir Richard Lee (engineer) (1513–1575), Elizabethan engineer
  • Col. Richard Lee I, Esq.
 Strout. (New York, 1939), 229.

(33.) 15 May, 1854, in Marchalonis, Lucy Larcom, 92.

(34.) 11 May 1855, In Marchalonis, Lucy Larcom, 97.

(35.) Lucy Larcom to Esther Humiston, Beverly, Dec. 2, 1858, Addison Papers, MHS.

(36.) Harriot K. Hunt, Glances and Glimpses (Boston, 1856), 406. Harriot K. Hunt (1805-75) was one of the first female physicians.

(37.) "Love affairs" refers to romantic, not physical love.

(38.) William E. Barton, The Life of Clara Barton, Founder of American Red Cross American Red Cross: see Red Cross.  (Boston, 1922), 77. Clara Barton (1821-1912), nurse and reformer, founder of the American Red Cross.

(39.) Ella Lyman to Richard Cabot, June 12th, 1893, Ella Lyman Cabot Papers, Schlesinger Library The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America is a research library at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. According to Nancy F. , Radcliffe institute, Harvard University Harvard University, mainly at Cambridge, Mass., including Harvard College, the oldest American college. Harvard College

Harvard College, originally for men, was founded in 1636 with a grant from the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

(40.) Ella Lyman to Richard Cabot, August 15, 1892, Ella Lyman Cabot Papers, SL. (41.) Ella Lyman to Richard Cabot, August 17th [1892], Ella Lyman Cabot Papers, SL

(42.) Lucy Stone to Henry Blackwell, December 30, 1853, in Leslie Wheeler, ed. Loving Warriors: Selected Letters of Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell 1853-1893 (New York, 1981), 67.

(43.) Lucy Stone to Henry Blackwell, Sept. 3,1854, in: Loving Warriors, 96-97.

(44.) Rothman, "Intimate Acquaintance: Courtship and Transition to Marriage." Ph. D. Dissertation, Brandeis University Brandeis University, at Waltham, Mass.; coeducational; chartered and opened 1948. Although Brandeis was founded by members of the American Jewish community, the university operates as an independent, nonsectarian institution. , 1980, 253.

(45.) On the change in the cultural understanding of motherhood, see Ruth H. Bloch, "American Feminine Ideals in Transition: The Rise of the Moral Mother, 1785-1815," Feminist Studies 4 (2) (June 1978): 102-1 26.

(46.) Bloch, "American Feminine Ideals," 116.

(47.) "Christianity is preeminently the religion of affection," wrote Chapin, simplifying and popularizing Protestant theological thinking on the subject, reaching back to Jonathan Edwards; see Jonathan Edwards, Ethical Writings, ed. Paul Ramsey Paul Christopher Ramsey (born 3 September 1962 in Derry, Northern Ireland) is a former Northern Irish footballer who played in a defensive midfield role. Ramsey, who measured 5' 10" in height, began his playing career at Derry City FC. . (New Haven, 1989); Chapin, Duties of Young Women, 17.

(48.) Nancy F. Cott explored the connection between conceptualizations of sexuality, morality, and the spiritualization of love in her classic essay "Passionlessness: An Interpretation of Victorian Sexual Ideology, 1790-1850," in: Signs 4 (1978): 219-236.

(49.) Satan in Society, by a Physician (Nicholas Francis Cooke
For the American composer, see Francis Judd Cooke.

Francis Cooke (1583 – 7 April 1663 Plymouth, Massachusetts) was one of the 102 passengers on the Mayflower.
) (Cincinnati, 1876), 380.

(50.) Bloch, "American Feminine Ideals," 102.

(51.) Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, "Sex as Symbol in Victorian Purity: An Ethnohistorical Analysis of Jacksonian America," American Journal of Sociology Established in 1895, the American Journal of Sociology (AJS) is the oldest scholarly journal of sociology in the United States. It is published bimonthly by The University of Chicago Press.

AJS is edited by Andrew Abbott of the University of Chicago.
 84, Supplement (1979): S212-S247, quoted at S223.

(52.) Steven Seidman, Romantic Longings: Love in America, 1830-1980 (New York, 1991), 55.

(53.) Lystra, Searching the Heart, esp. chap. 2.

(54.) See, for instance, Cott, "Passionlessness."

(55.) Bloch, "American Feminine Ideals," 120.

(56.) Muzzey, The Young Maiden, 148.

(57.) The Girls' Manual. Anonymous (New York, 1836), 78, 278,279, 280.

(58.) Advocate, 1858, quoted in Barbara J. Berg, The Remembered Gate: Origins of American Feminism. The Woman and the City, 1800-1860 (New York 1978), 247.

(59.) See, for instance, Carl Degler, At Odds; Mabel Collins Donelly; The American Victorian Woman; Lee Virginia Chambers-Schiller, Liberty, A Better Husband.

(60.) See Irene Quenzler Brown, "Death, Friendship, and Female Identity During New England's Second Great Awakening," Journal of Family History 12, no. 4 (October 1987): 367-387. Charles Taylor
Charlie and Chuck are common familiar or shortened forms for Charles.

Charles Taylor may refer to: Political figures
  • Charles G.
 also talks about the "American 'tradition' of leaving home, encouraging young people to become independent. The young person learns the independent stance, but this stance is also something expected of him other. Moreover, what an independent stance involves is defined by the culture ... (in which the meaning of independence can also alter with time)"; see Taylor, Sources of the Self (Cambridge, MA., 1989), 39. For a sensitive and lucid discussion of the Evangelical understanding of "autonomy" and "selfhood self·hood  
1. The state of having a distinct identity; individuality.

2. The fully developed self; an achieved personality.

," see Ann Taves, "Self and God in the Early Published Memoirs of New England Women," in American Women's Autobiography, ed. Margo Culley (Madison, Wisconsin Madison is the capital of the U.S. state of Wisconsin and the county seat of Dane County. It is also home to the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

The 2006 population estimate of Madison was 223,389, making it the second largest city in Wisconsin, after Milwaukee, and
, 1992).

(61.) Mary Clemmer Ames, A Memorial of Alice and Phoebe Cary Phoebe Cary (September 4, 1824 - July 31, 1871) with her older sister Alice Cary co-published poems in 1849. They lived on the Clovernook farm in North College Hill, Ohio. The sisters were raised in a Universalist household, their political and religious views were liberal and  (New York, 1873), 79-80.

(62.) Lucy Larcom, "Unwedded," in: Old Maids (Boston, 1984): 232-234.

(63.) A. W. May to niece Nelly nel·ly or nel·lie  
n. pl. nel·lies Offensive Slang
Used as a disparaging term for an effeminate homosexual man.

[Probably from the name Nelly, nickname for Helen.]
, Sept. 14 '64. May-Goddard Papers, SL. Abigail Williams Abigail Williams was one of the original and foremost accusers in the Salem witch trials of 1692. Williams was eleven years old at the time and living with her uncle Samuel Parris in Salem Village (now Danvers).  May (1829-88) teacher and educator. Chambers-Schiller quotes this as proof of the ultimate importance these spinsters attached to independence (Liberty, A Better Husband, 81).

(64.) Dinah Maria Mulock Craik, A Woman's Thoughts about Women (New York, 1856), 41-42.

(65.) Quted in O'Connor, Myrtilla Miner, 113-A.

(66.) Quoted in Breault, Emily Howland, 46.

(67.) Dodge to John G. Whittier, 1878, in Gail Hamilton's Life in Letters, vol. 2, 801.

(68.) Ibid.

(69.) Blackwell, Reminiscences, 16, Blackwell Family Papers, SL.

(70.) Ibid., 18-19.

(71.) Lucy Stone eventually married Henry Blackwell; her friend Antoinette Brown married his brother, Samuel Blackwell.

(72.) Jean Strouse, Alice James: A Biography (Boston, 1980), 233-4.

(73.) Frances Willard, Glimpses of Fifty Years: The Autobiography of an American Woman (Chicago, 1889), 114.

(74.) Ibid., 129.

(75.) Quoted in Chambers-Schiller, Liberty, a Better Husband, 94.

(76.) Ibid.

(77.) Quoted in Judith Colucci Breault, The World of Emily Howland: Odyssey of a Humanitarian (Millbrae, 1976), 4.

(78.) Ibid., 5.

(79.) Mary Dewey, ed., Life and Letters of Catharine Sedgwick (New York, 1871) 153, 249.

(80.) Quoted in Chambers-Schiller, Liberty: A Better Husband, 62.

(81.) Ibid., 63.

(82.) LL to Esther Humiston, Norton, Nov. 14, 1858. D. D. Addison Papers, MRS.

(83.) LL to Esther Humiston, Norton, Feb. 28. 1859, ibid.

(84.) Quoted in Chambers-Schiller, Liberty: A Better Husband, 62.

(85.) Harriot Hunt, Glances and Glimpses (Boston, 1865), 54.

(86.) Ibid., 81.

(87.) Ibid., 85.

(88.) Ibid., 126.

(89.) May 1850, in the Journal of Louisa May Alcott, ed. by Joel Myerson and Daniel Shealy (Athens, GA, 1989), 61.

(90.) The Autobiography of Lyman Beecher Lyman Beecher (October 12, 1775 – January 10, 1863) was a Presbyterian clergyman, temperance movement leader, and the father of several noted leaders, including Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Ward Beecher, Charles Beecher, Edward Beecher, Isabella Beecher Hooker, and Catharine , vol. 1, 378.

(91.) Quoted in Cott, Bonds of Womanhood, 23.

(92.) Ellen M. O'Connor, Myrtilla Miner, a Memoir (Boston, 1885), 41.

(93.) ML To Zilpah Grant, December 1,1823, quoted in Marion Lansing, Mary Lyon Through Her Letters (Boston 1937), 42-43.

(94.) ML to her mother, May 12, 1834, quoted in Lansing, Mary Lyon, 134. Mary Kelley describes how nineteenth-century women writers perceived themselves as following God's appointed path even when financial strains prompted them to write, in Private Woman Public Stage: Literary Domesticity in Nineteenth-Century America (New York, 1984), 294

(95.) Quoted in O'Connor, Myrtilla Miner, 39

(96.) Fisk Fisk   , James 1834-1872.

American railroad financier and speculator who attempted in 1869 to corner the gold market with Jay Gould, leading to Black Friday, a day of nationwide financial panic.
, Mary Lyon, 224.

(97.) Ibid., 102.

(98.) Quoted in Beth Bradford Gilchrist, The Life of Mary Lyon (Boston, 1910), 131.

(99.) Francis Tiffany, Life of Dorothea Lynde Dix Noun 1. Dorothea Lynde Dix - United States social reformer who pioneered in the reform of prisons and in the treatment of the mentally ill; superintended women army nurses during the American Civil War (1802-1887)
Dix, Dorothea Dix
 (Boston, 1891), 188.

(100.) Mary Kelley, "The Sentimentalists: Promise and Betrayal in the Home," Signs, 4, no. 3 (Spring 1979): 438-9.

(101.) Ibid., 439.

(102.) Chambers-Schiller, Liberty, A Better Husband, 62, 88, 84.

(103.) Chambers-Schiller, Liberty, A Better Husband, 62.

(104.) For a discussion of alternative ways of conceiving culture, see Michael Schudson Michael Schudson is an American academic sociologist working in the fields of journalism and its history, and public culture.

He was brought up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
, "How Culture Works," Theory and Society 18 (1989): 153-180.

(105.) Chambers-Schiller, Liberty: A Better Husband, 66.

(106.) Rosalind Rosenberg makes a similar point, arguing that those women who sought to expand women's role did so by stressing female uniqueness and society's need for feminine skills. See Rosenberg, "In Search of Woman's Nature, 1850-1920," Feminist Studies, 3, nos. 1-2 (Fall 1975): 142-143.

(107.) Cott, Degler, and Daniel Scott Daniel Scott is probably best known for his role as Adam/Felicia in the musical adaptation of ''.

He was born and raised in the Western suburbs of Sydney and by age fourteen, he was an accomplished pianist and had appeared in productions of
 Smith were among the first to emphasize various enabling aspects of domesticity, and Mary Kelley called attention to the unparalleled new possibilities that opened for "literary domestics" from the 1820s on. See Cott, Bonds of Womanhood, 200-201; Degler, At Odds, 27-29; Daniel Scott Smith, "Family Limitation, Sexual Control, and Domestic Feminism in Victorian America," in Hartman and Banner, eds., Clio's Consciousness Raised (New York, 1974); Kelley, Private Woman, Chapter 1.

(108.) See for example Edward Sapir Noun 1. Edward Sapir - anthropologist and linguist; studied languages of North American Indians (1884-1939)
, "Language," in B. G. Blout, ed., Language, Culture and Society (Cambridge, 1974).

(109.) Clifford Geertz Clifford James Geertz (August 23 1926, San Francisco – October 30 2006, Philadelphia) was an American anthropologist and served until his death as professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey.  defines "religious perspective" as a mode of seeing, in the broadest sense, meaning "apprehending," "understanding," and "grasping," Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York, 1973),110.

(110.) Chambers-Schiller, Liberty, A Better Husband, 117-118.

(111.) Much of the literature on nineteenth-century women offers an unexamined stereotypical treatment of contemporary views of spinsterhood. However, Chambers-Schiller gives an exceptionally good account of the increasingly favorable portrayal of spinsters in Liberty, a Better Husband, Chapter 1.

(112.) Mary J. Studley, What Our Girls Ought to Know (New York, 1885), 200, 201.

(113.) Abell, Women in Her Various Relations, 209.

(114.) Muzzey, The Young Maiden, 165.

(115.) Alcott, "Happy Women," The New York Ledger 24, no. 7 (April 11,1868).

(116.) Nation, March 5,1868, quoted in Frances B. Cogan, All-American Girl: The Ideal of Real Womanhood in Mid-Nineteenth Century America (Athens, GA, 1989), 172.

(117.) Muzzey, The Young Maiden, 189-190, 192.

(118.) "Honorable Often to Be an Old Maid," May 1858, quoted in Cogan, All-American Girl, 107. Barbara Welter found that "women's magazines this is a list of women's magazines, magazines that have been published primarily for a readership of women. Currently published

  • ''Alice
  • ''Allure
  • Bibi
  • Bis
  • Bitch
  • Blood & Thunder Magazine
  • BUST
 tried to remove the stigma from being an 'Old Maid.' They advised no marriage at all rather than an unhappy one contracted out of selfish motives" (Welter, "The Cult of True Womanhood," 169). Similarly, Degler claims that "in the first half of the nineteenth century, advice books were beginning to rise to the support of young women who did not marry" (Degler, At Odds, 161).

(119.) Timothy Titcomb [pseud.], Titcomb's Letters To Young People Single Or Married, Twenty-sixth edition (New York, 1863), 127.

(120.) Alcott, "Happy Women."

(121.) Sedgwick, Married or Single? (New York, 1857), vi-vii).

(122.) George W. Burnap, Lectures on the Sphere and Duties of Woman and Other Subjects (Baltimore, 1841), 125-126.

(123.) See for example "Fruits of Sorrow, or an Old Maid's Story," by Mary C. Vaughan, in Old Maids: Short Stories by Nineteenth Century US Women Writers, compiled and edited with an introduction by Susan Koppelman (Boston, 1984), 89-96; "Old Maids," by Catharine Maria Sedgwick, in Old Maids, 11-28. This lifelong commitment to benevolence included such acts of forgiveness and sympathy as attending in their illness the men who betrayed them. See, for example, "The Romance of an Old Maid," by Clara Augusta, The Lady's Friend, vol. V, no. 2 (April 1869): 93-95.

(124.) See for example "A Spinster's Story," The Lady's Friend, vol 1, no. 9 (September 1864): 630-635.

(125.) See for example "Aunt Hester's Story," by Berthold Selden, The Lady's Friend, vol. 2, no. 3 (Match 1865): 171-174; and "Aunt Mable's Love Story," by Susan Pindar, in Old Maids, 53-61.

(126.) As Burnap wrote of spinsters: "They have women's hearts ... the mother's feelings become developed without the mother's relation ... She is pointed to a mother's toils and self sacrifice without the certainty of... return of gratitude and affection" (Burnap, Lectures on the Sphere and Duties of Woman, 126-127).

(127.) Quoted in Studley, What Our Girls Ought to Know, 249-250.

(128.) See for example Croly, For Better or Worse, 109-112; Studley, What Our Girls Ought to Know, 206.

(129.) Studley, What Our Girls Ought to Know, 248-249.
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Author:Berend, Zsuzsa
Publication:Journal of Social History
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Date:Jun 22, 2000

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