I absolutely loved hearing my grandma talk about what it was like when she was dating. Her stories always started with the same refrain: “Well, back in my day we did things a little differently…”
What understatement, right? Today, people meet on the street, online, at social gatherings and in school. But when I got to researching the dating scene of the Victorians, well meeting your match wasn’t even in the same ballpark.
Back then, women were just starting to break stereotypes and go off on their own to become “New Women.” This label instilled fear in many during that time period. There were certain rules women had to follow and paths they were expected to take from childhood through to adulthood and marriage--and they were sticking to them. For one, women were to live at home with their parents until a well-suited gentleman asked for their hand in marriage. Then, and only then, would women move out of the house and in with their man. Daughters were raised to be excellent housewives, so that when the time came they would be ready to step up to the plate.
So how did these women meet their gentlemen suitors?
“Mother knows best”
Now that I’m a mother, I have much more appreciation for the saying “Mother knows best.” But even still, I’m not sure I’d want the responsibility of choosing my daughter’s spouse. At the turn of the century, though, many women met and chose their future husbands through the the recommendations of their parents. And if mom and dad didn’t approve, both the suitor and the daughter were out of luck.
Balls & Parties
Today, we have homecoming and prom. At the turn of the century, they had formal balls. But the purposes of ours and theirs were very different. Women in Victorian times attended balls in hopes of snagging a husband. Not exactly what were are shooting for at the homecoming dance--thank goodness!
As for the church, it wouldn’t be too far fetched to run into a very Victorian-like practice today. At the turn of the century, many women decked themselves out in their “Sunday’s best” and were on the constant lookout for men in their congregations who would make worthy suitors. A match chosen from within a girl’s church was almost guaranteed to get a stamp of approval from her family. Not so different from today, right? Not that all girls who go to church are on a man hunt. I’m just sayin’ that while they’re there, it’s not outside the realm of possibilities that they might take a gander of the guys in the pews around them and, well … you get the picture.
So, which of these three ways would you prefer to have met a man if you were a woman at the turn of the century?