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Widower seeks a wife

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

This ad struck my eye today; I see lots of ads from young widows, but not so many from widowers. I don't think that's particularly meaningful, but it's rare enough that when I do see them, I take note. I have no real theories on why this might be the case; I suspect widowed women are generally left in much more dire circumstances than men so are in need of a new husband much more quickly than widowers need a new wife. But that's total conjecture.


A gentleman desirous of again entering the holy state of matrimony, would be glad to become acquainted with a lady of similar desire.  The advertiser is a widower, 35 years of age; has two little girls, 7 and 9 years old, and is in comfortable circumstance, being worth over $50,000.  A lady (widow or maiden) of amiable disposition and respectably connected, would find in the advertisers the qualifications necessary to a good husband; and this advertisements being put forth in good faith, all communications addressed to Theodor Velatko, Union square Post Office, will be treated as confidential and with respect.

I'm not sure saying you're worth over $50,000 is a great idea in a matrimonial; I don't mean to malign my own sex, but there were a lot of women who probably answered this ad for that reason only.  Not because I think women are so avaricious, but because - as I've said many times before - women just don't have any way of supporting themselves comfortably, without an inheritance or a male breadwinner.  And at the time this ad was written, $50,000 was a whole heck of a lot of money, so he probably got a lot of letters from women who were not necessarily "respectably connected."  Or who were just desperate.

But you do notice that he is "desirous of again entering the holy state of matrimony."  The way that's phrased is interesting to me.  First, it goes back to my original statement that I think widowers were more capable of taking their time to remarry.  It's like, hmm, you know, I've been alone long enough - maybe I should try again!  It has a very leisurely feel to it, for me at least.  I wonder how long it's been since his wife died.  One thing that's so sad about the nineteenth century (and earlier, of course) is that the natural life expectancy of people wasn't so much shorter than it is today - or to put it more accurately, it wasn't impossible or extraordinary for people to live well into their seventies and eighties.  But death from disease was just so monumentally high that, on average, people lived much, much shorter lives.  So it was really common for kids to grow up without at least one parent.  That's why you hear all those slightly mawkish stories about little orphan boys and girls from this era.  I can't find a stat on this so I could be wrong, but although today women have longer life expectancies than men, it used to be the opposite just because women died in much larger numbers in childbirth than they do now.  Which is another reason I find it interesting that I don't see more ads from widowers.  But I just tend to think they'd be more self-sufficient.

Oy.  I'm being depressing.  Sorry!  Please go about your day and I'll have more entertaining ads for Thursday.

Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!

©2010 Pam Epstein

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