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A good wife?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Clearly, this would no longer be the right way to advertise yourself when looking for a wife, but back in the day I suppose politics weren't quite as tainted as they are now:


A young, able politician, capable of going to the United States Senate, desires a matrimonial alliance with a young, wealthy lady; a political writer preferred.  Address Preston Firman, Boston, Mass.

It sure is interesting to see that political ambition hasn't changed a whole lot.  I also like how confident Preston is.  He's young, he's able, and he's capable of going all the way to the United States Senate.  I wonder why his ambitions stop there?  Why not the governor of a state?  Why not the presidency itself?  Now, in my very cursory internet research, I cannot find a former senator named Preston Firman, but I don't even know if that information is available online, where one would search for it if not, and whether or not I care enough to try.  It really doesn't matter much anyway.  What's really more intriguing to me is how straightforward he is.

He's not looking for a loving wife, he's not looking for a pretty wife, he's just looking for a wealthy wife, presumably to fund his campaigns or to support his lavish lifestyle while living on a senator's measly salary.  (Not that he'd be the only politician to take advantage of his rich wife.)  I guess there are some women who were equally ambitious and might be willing to marry a man they expected to be politically successful - since women couldn't really run for office they couldn't become senators themselves (the first elected female senator wasn't until 1931). 

I also like that he's hoping to marry a "political writer" (does this sound more like a job application than a marriage proposal to you?).  I'm not entirely sure what that means.  A woman who writes political speeches?  Or a journalist who writes on politics for the news?  Since neither of those were jobs considered appropriate or even possible for women, I'm not sure that makes any sense.  Maybe he just wants a woman who is politically savvy, although requesting a writer specifically suggests he means something else.  In a sense this is a somewhat progressive idea: rather than just a good wife who will stand by his side smiling and raising good, moral children, he apparently wants to meet someone who would be able to participate in his career.

Or, he figures he needs to be married to become a successful politician and why not get a free secretary in the process.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2009 Pam Epstein

6 comments:

true November 9, 2009 at 3:35 PM  

Pam - I couldn't find anyone in the history of the US Congress with the last name of Firman who would have been in the right timeframe. I wonder if the bachelor had a minion who was doing his dirty work and Preston Firman was his filter person???
Working in politics...this isn't exactly far from the truth still to this day. All politician wives have a certain "look".

drwende November 9, 2009 at 6:49 PM  

Unless we're back before the earliest feminists, educated women did publish the odd political article in the editorials, albeit anonymously or under male pseudonyms. And while women couldn't speak for movements like Abolition, many kept up voluminous correspondences to get the word out. So he may mean "writer" in one of those senses. Either way, yes, he's looking for practical help as well as cash.

Bianca November 9, 2009 at 8:13 PM  

Because I am imagining how rare a female political writer might have been - do you suppose he may have been proposing to a specific person? Perhaps the senator thing was an inside joke, and the political writing something he knew personally about her?

This one seemed a little odd to be a generic ad no? I know we will never really know, but just the immediate thought I had.

Pam November 10, 2009 at 12:00 AM  

True - Or maybe Mr. Firman just never made it to Congress! And yeah, it's scary how much this could still be true today.

drwende - To be sure (and this is after the woman's rights movement had gotten its start), but there's a difference between there being educated female political commentators and an aspiring male politician wanting to marry one!

Bianca - I sometimes consider that possibility, but it seems so stilted, really. I think it is essentially what it claims to be. They're all so odd!!

mario November 17, 2009 at 2:48 AM  

Yeah, I would assume that he just never made it to the Senate--even then, we're talking quite an accomplishment.


But I don't know that he's necessarily looking for cash as much as status. I think we can assume that Preston's not a JC Fremont-type who could make it to the Senate based on his fame rather than his class and connections. If I'm correct here, I think his reading of his own, uh, "capability" is going to telegraph a number of characteristics in addition to arrogance and ambition: white (obviously), wealthy and privileged, well-bred, genteel, etc. The ad is meant to imply that he is all those things, regardless of whether that's true. It's also meant to imply that only respondents of a similar social class respond, and that the lady be "wealthy" is just to drive the point home.

Pam November 17, 2009 at 8:02 AM  

mario - good point! It's definitely true that a lot of people wanted to marry people for income/class status because it equaled their own (assuming they weren't lying about themselves). And yes, this dude is definitely very arrogant about his abilities! But it's interesting to me that his two criteria are her money and her ability to be a political writer. Seems like he wants things that are of use to him.

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