Tuesday, July 6, 2010
I guess I appreciate this guy's forthrightness...although that's pretty much the only thing I appreciate...
A gentleman, 32 years of age, well educated and of favorable appearance, and possessed of some means, but a stranger in the city, wishes to make the acquaintance of a young lady or widow, not over 25 years of age, with a view to matrimony. She must be educated, amiable, tolerably good looking, and also be possessed of some property of her own (not less than $15,000), which shall remain under her control. All communications will be honorably treated. Address Richard, box 13 Herald office.
Wow. You know, this ad looks so nice and typical when it starts out, and then veers hard right into slimy, gold-digging territory. His perfect wife must have at least $15,000 worth of property! But not to fear, it shall remain under her control. Really, Richard? Because if you don't want to touch her property, why do you care how much she has? Now, there were definitely a lot of men who wanted to marry women with property because (or at least so they claimed) they didn't want to wonder if their wives only married them for their money, or because they didn't think they'd have enough on their own to support their wives comfortably. I can kind of get that, a little, though it'd be a lot more fair to have that attitude if women were actually able to get jobs of their own. (I mean, it's hardly reasonable to say you don't want to support a wife while living in a society that actively discourages women from getting any reasonably well-paying job, or any job at all, if she's middle class.) Okay, so, fine, there are semi-understandable reasons why men would not want to marry a poor woman.
But no less than $15,000? That is not a small sum back in the day! Heck, that's not a small sum even now! Why the large number, Richard? You think that's what she'll need to support herself comfortably so that you don't have to? Because if she has less she might actually have to (gasp!) rely on her own husband to help her? Which, again, was the expectation of society at this time? I don't know, Richard. I think you're being a little greedy here. Not to mention super sketchy. It's all well and good to say the money would remain under her own control, but there were lots of laws which automatically granted husbands control over their wives property, and I wonder if, after they were married, Richard would keep the promises he made in his matrimonial ad. Color me skeptical.
Oh well. It is over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in New York City today, and even with the AC on full blast I'm hot and lethargic. And then I think about what it must have been like 150 years ago, before AC - before rotary fans - before refrigeration or even easy access to ice. Not to mention the clothes you had to wear. This picture to the right was summer wear in the decade when this ad was printed. Can you imagine? I can't imagine. I don't care how lightweight the material was, there is no way that could have been cool or comfortable.
Glad it ain't me.
Having trouble reading the ads? Click one to enlarge!
©2010 Pam Epstein