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Wife, housekeeper, same dif

Friday, August 21, 2009

Now this ad I find really intriguing for a number of reasons. Check it out:


And here's the text:

A lady of English descent, aged 19, who is highly educated in music and the English branches, having become somewhat embarrassed in circumstances, having lost her only friend and relative in this country but a short time since, solicits the acquaintance of some gentleman of sterling worth and honor with a view to matrimony. Should she prove unable to meet with a gentleman of her choice, she would be willing to accept a position as housekeeper in the family of a widower or bachelor, trusting she could suit the most fastidious in the management of their household affairs. Call on Miss BLANCH DREW, No 363 6th-av.


Where to begin?? I have so much I could say about this ad I could go on for hours! I've talked in the past a fair amount about the fact that many (if not most?) women had to marry for money, at least to some degree, and could often be quite blunt and straightforward about it. So here's another example of that; not surprising - a middle-class woman alone in the world wouldn't be able to get a job back then. Clearly Miss Drew was pretty desperate, as, sadly, many of these women were. But she takes it one step further - if she couldn't find a husband, she'd settle for being a housekeeper instead.

It is just plain fascinating to me that it's so easy to move from one to the other. Can't be a wife? How about a housekeeper? I guess my point is that for many women, I suspect, being a wife was just being a slightly glorified and more stable housekeeper. She's probably going to do the same work either way, but she's just going to get a salary and a separate bedroom in the latter case.

Yet she isn't actually saying that she'll settle for being a housekeeper - she'll take a job as a housekeeper if she can't meet a gentleman "of her choice." I love that she refuses to marry someone she doesn't care for, but then she says she'll only be a housekeeper for a bachelor or widower. Hmm. How do I put this? What if a bachelor or a widower comes along and wants to marry her, but she's not interested in him romantically, do you think she could reject him as a suitor but then offer to be his housekeeper?? Doesn't the fact that she wants to work for a single man suggest that she's kind of hoping to get involved with him anyway?

Is it me, or is there something a little shady about this. Oh wait! There is something a little shady about this. Note the address, 363 6th-av. Well, folks, we've seen this before (or at least those of you who've been here for awhile). I call foul on this address. Too many ads from young ladies seeking husbands asking men to call on them here. I said it last time, no one ever invited total strangers to just drop by and visit. No, no, no - you started a correspondence first. I said last time that I thought there was some kind of scam going on - my suspicion is that whoever was running this establishment was the one greeting them men at the door and then trying to charge them a fee to meet the "ladies" inside.

I know what you're thinking - why on earth would someone use this ad to draw men in as a scam? How many men are going to rush to marry a woman who describes herself thus? Well, my guess is that they're as intrigued by her willingness to be the housekeeper instead of the wife as I am. Why get married when you can have a live-in girlfriend?

I don't know - maybe I'm selling the proprietor of "363 6th-av" short. Maybe it's all real. But something about this ad and the others from the same address just rub me the wrong way.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein

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