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You tell 'em!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Check it out - I love this one!

It reads: "'Harry.' - Saturday evening before New Year's, also New Year's day, I have told them all since I saw you last that a 'woman's nature and her heart are not commodities.' Address me now, giving me some cognomen that will reach you. Omega, 831 Broadway."

I'm not sure exactly what this ad is all about - or rather, I'm not sure what the story behind it is (as if I'm ever sure!). Since "Harry" is obviously a pseudonym, the person addressed could be a man or woman, and "Omega" is even more ambiguous. Was Omega a woman telling her suitor/lover/whatever that she wasn't going to give him up and marry whose money or connections would serve her family's interests? Was it a man telling "Harriet," perhaps, that he shared her liberal beliefs? There are so many different scenarios on this, I could go on forever.

It's not that feminism was anything new in the mid-nineteenth century. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, just to name two obvious examples, were raising women's rights hell about twenty years before this ad was published. But it's still a unique tidbit in the midst of these personal ads that I wouldn't have expected to see, especially given that the personals (or at least, the matrimonials) were all about commodification of women, and the fact that so many of them had to marry for money. So it's great to see recognition of what was going on amongst ordinary people. And it makes me happy.

See you next week!

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein


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