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Women in America; Being an Examination into the Moral and Intellectual Condition of American Female Society, by Mrs. A. J. Graves (New York:1844)

Look round upon the groups of young females who crowd our private parties or public balls; who lounge upon the sofa receiving visits, or throng the city promenades to exhibit their decorated persons or to make morning calls, and how many can you point out among them who have fulfilled one useful purpose of existence to themselves, to their families, or to society? And all this waste of time and energy in the pursuit of folly is in the hope of becoming thereby candidates for matrimony, while by this very means they are seeking to attain. Nor is this all: their efforts defeat the wished for end, inasmuch as the habits of indolence and extravagance in which so many young women are brought up, deter a multitude of young men from becoming husbands, lest they should involve themselves in pecuniary embarrassment; and as wealthy young men are extremely rare, we see marriages in fashionable life every day becoming fewer; thus leaving in our cities a numerous class of finely-dressed, pretty, and accomplished young ladies, doomed to become disappointed “establishment-seekers,” and to fade into fretful and repining “’old maids.” An intelligent, useful woman, who continues in a state of celibacy from choice or from disappointed affection, is an honoured and valuable member of society, but she whose youth has been spent in idleness and folly, and is seeking for a husband in crowded scenes of amusement, becomes a pitiable object – a burden to herself, and the jest and by-word of her acquaintance. (p52-53)

Among the many causes that are tending to deaden in the heart of woman a sense of her appropriate obligations, is the fatal notion that there is something servile in labour. It is, indeed, much to be lamented, that in the praiseworthy effort to redeem herself from the life of slavery and degradation to which past ages doomed her, so many of her sex should have passed to the other extreme – a life of indolence and uselessness Nor is this notion that there is gentility in idleness, confined to females alone: we find it widely and deeply cherished by society at large. Hence we see that the aristocratic titles of “lady” and “gentleman” are by common consent thought to be applicable only to those who hold it beneath their fancied dignity to toil with their hands. The farmer who guides his own plough, and the mechanic who still plies his tools, are thus considered as belonging to a lower caste than the “gentleman” farmer who lives solely upon the toil of his dependant[sic] labourers, or the retired mechanic who has thrown aside his implements, and employs the capital amassed by their use in extensive speculations in lands or stocks. (p25-26)

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Published in: on January 30, 2014 at 4:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. I like the first except, especially. Thanks for sharing these.

    Best,
    Quinn


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