To Whom It May Concern

19th Century Feminist Responses to "A Letter of Genteel and Moral Advice"

Book 3 of 8:

Old maids: their varieties, characters, and conditions.

Pages 30-31

New York: C. Shepard, 189, Broadway; Providence: C. Shepard & Co., 1835.

180 pages, 19 cm (12mo) -- Originally published in London. -- Signatures: [1]8 2-106 138 -- Green cloth covers. -- Lovejoy Library catalog record.

In this satirical work, the anonymous author appoints himself the defender of old maids. He adopts a tone that parodies the delicacy of expression appropriated to perpetual virgins. Pages 30-31 show his taxonomy of Old Maids: Voluntary, Involuntary, By Accident, Inexplicable, and Literary.

The chapter on Literary Old Maids is especially interesting in the context of this exhibit. The author compares marrying a "bluestocking" (a derogatory term for an intellectual woman) to marrying an "Ethiop" (a black woman):

They [literary old maids] are eyed suspiciously by their own sex, and avoided by the majority of ours; amongst whom the pedants and the fools would as soon think of marrying an Ethiop, as a blue; ... while the more sensible and rational have a lurking fear, that women ... may forget the necessary household drudgery of domestic life ... (p. 138-139)

This statement demonstrates the racial attitudes of the time that the author relies on to make his point. He is confident that his simile will effectively evoke in the reader the horror with which intellectually limited men view intelligent women. Women were becoming more literate and literary, and at least some men found this foreign and frightening.

Pages 138-139