Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Whoops! Almost forgot to blog two days in a row! How would you people survive without frequent doses of nineteenth-century personal ads to keep you entertained? That could have been a real crisis...Or I could be kidding myself. Anyway, nothing really inspired me today so I'm just posting two matrimonials that were right next to each other, both of which I find interesting for different reasons.
A young lady, about twenty years of age, desires to correspond with some young gentleman with a view to marriage; he must be pretty good looking, amiable, of an affectionate disposition, and have enough money to support a wife in good style, and must be fond of society. Address, confidentially, Millie, Union square Post office.
I'm not sure I got that name right - but Millie is as good as anything. She reminds me a little of the young woman whose ad was in my New York Times op-ed, who wanted to meet a man who was wealthy, stylish, and fascinating. I read an ad like this, and I think when she says she's "about twenty," she's really, like, 18. And full of romantic notions about rich and handsome young men who are going to come along and sweep her off her feet. Maybe a little foolish, but maybe it worked out for her - who knows!
To the Jews. - A young man, in favorable circumstances, lately arrived in this country, would be glad to make acquaintance with a lady of the Jewish religion, with the view of marriage. Address Silence, Herald office.
Now I find this personally interesting; being Jewish myself, I always like it when I see a little bit of history tangentially related to myself (though my family wasn't even in the United States when this ad was printed, but that's another story). This guy might have even been at the Purim ball! But from a historical standpoint it's got some broader interest than just to myself. If you look back at most of the matrimonials I've blogged about, and this is the case of most of the ones that I've found, I would guess that the vast majority don't mention religious affiliation - or if they refer to religion, the advertisers will say "Christian," or just that they're religious at all. Most of the time, though, nothing.
I think (I've written this before, but I don't remember when) that this is because being a white, middle-class Protestant was "normative" in America, so if you were that, you never had to specify it. I am not casting aspersions; this is the case everywhere throughout history: the majority group sets the standard of what's "normal." So what's interesting to me is when I see an ad like this, the writer is implicitly recognizing that he does have to specify that he is an "other." Not just because he only wants to meet a Jewish woman, but because I don't think a Jewish woman would respond to an ad that wasn't clearly from someone of her own religion, and vice versa. Whereas it's okay for, say, the girl in the first ad not to mention that she's Methodist or Presbyterian or Congregationalist, because she doesn't have to (it also never in her wildest imagination would occur to her that anyone not like herself would answer). In other words, you're a Protestant unless stated otherwise.
Or I could be way overanalyzing this!!
Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge! ©2010 Pam Epstein