Skip to main content

View Diary: History for Kossacks: American Women's History 1820-1860 (Special Guest Edition) (70 comments)

Comment Preferences

  •  Question re/ legal status of a "Mrs." (3+ / 0-)

    I have a great travelogue (pub 1920) entitled "Through British Guiana to the Summit of Roraima" by Mrs. Cecil Clement.  In it, she comes accross as an adventurous, free-thinking woman (in an upper-crust-of-an-imperial-colony kind of way), so I always wondered if her use of "Mrs." in her byline was a pretension to her hubby's office, or if it was simply the most common rendering of her legal name.  Any insights?

    (P.S. add a tag for "teaching" so that rserven will find this diary for next week's Teacher's Lounge!) :-)

    "He shall bow to no authority and acknowledge no king." - Lucian

    by Unitary Moonbat on Sun Sep 17, 2006 at 06:57:30 PM PDT

    •  The Mrs thing (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Unitary Moonbat, SeekCa, epppie

      By the time you're talking about, "Mrs" used in that fashion was the usual convention. Very few women, even independent ones, challenged it. (Note that being "Mrs. Joe Smith" was a pet peeve for Elizabeth Cady Stanton--she was fine with being "Mrs Elizabeth Stanton" but not the other. Lucy Stone and Henry Blackwell went further---Lucy kept her birth name when they were married.)

      But by the 1920s the old significnce was fading--borht Britain and the US allowed married women to have property at that point, and although married women still faced some restrictions, they were (for the most part) legal persons under the law. (Social status, work status, etc. were another matter.)

      In another note on the use of "Mrs.": In the 17th and 18th centuries it was a sign of social status, not marital status. An unmarried girl or a married woman could both be called "Mrs" (i.e., 'Mistress") if of high birth. "Goodwife" (a la the Crucible) was used for humbler married women. The shift towards making "Mrs" a separate designator from "Miss" takes place late 18th/early 19th century, and very spottily in the English-speaking world as fara s I can tell.

      Oh, and another fun fact: "Ms" is sometimes found as an abbreviation for "Mistress" in the 17th century records--really a very old abbreviation!

      "He that knew all that learning ever writ/Knew only this - that he knew nothing yet"

      by aphra behn on Sun Sep 17, 2006 at 07:05:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  puts Ms. magazine in a whole new light (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kilo50, aphra behn, epppie

        Mom had a subscription, back in the day - odd to think of its name-genesis in Puritan terms.

        Odd, too, that the Miss/Mrs distinction appears so late.  One would think - given the prevailing, folklore-based wisdom - that damsels in distress or marraigable young maidens, no matter the century, were always "Misses," not "Mrs."  Thanks for helping Martha Ballard's diary make more sense!

        "He shall bow to no authority and acknowledge no king." - Lucian

        by Unitary Moonbat on Sun Sep 17, 2006 at 07:25:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Mrs/Miss/Mris/Ms (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kilo50, Unitary Moonbat, epppie

          ...all simply meant "Mistress." "Miss" could actually be seen as a little insulting in the later 17th century. I've noticed in some English writing of the Resotation period that it is often used in writing about women of less-than-sterling reputation ("a young Miss of the Towne").

          I first noticed the pattern when reading some pamphlets about Anne Hutchinson--she is referred to as "Mris" "Ms" and "Mrs" Hutchinson, all int he same text. Gotta love those pre-standardized spelling days!

          There's a similar thing going on in early modern French, btw--I've noticed in some Canadien documents of the 17th century that "Madame" and "Mademoiselle" are used interchangably with no apparent differntiation.

          Aren't you glad you asked? LOL!!!

          "He that knew all that learning ever writ/Knew only this - that he knew nothing yet"

          by aphra behn on Sun Sep 17, 2006 at 07:38:46 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Kind of like the way (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kilo50, aphra behn, Unitary Moonbat

        we still call men 'sir' out of respect even though very few of them are actually knights.

        It might be interesting for you or UM to give us a diary on the history of terms of respect, because I think that they evolved from use describing royalty or aristocracy to the general use we have today.  What would be interesting is how that correlates with the rise of democratic government and the idea of self-governance.

        Live Free or Die-words to live by

        by ForFreedom on Sun Sep 17, 2006 at 07:44:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  evolution of respect (4+ / 0-)

          I'm not aware of any book-length studies on the matter. Most of what I've gleaned comes through tidbits in larger works or taking notes as I troll through primary sources for other things. One interesting thing I read was that Americans dropped the use of the term "master" for employers whent he British still retained it in the 19th century. That word was associated with slavery by free laborers, who preferred the word "Boss"--apprently a borrow-word from Dutch.  (I learned that from from Chris Tomlinson's  book on 19th c. labor, btw.)

          The word "Mr." evolved along with "Mrs"---in the early modern period it was reserved for people of social status, not just any man. "Goodman" would be what yeoman got; the poorest received no title of respect. (Again there is a perallel in Franch w/ the use of Bonhomme for lower-ranking men, "Monsieur" being reserved for the middling ranks.)

          You're right--this does deserve a diary! I'll shut up now!

          "He that knew all that learning ever writ/Knew only this - that he knew nothing yet"

          by aphra behn on Sun Sep 17, 2006 at 07:54:57 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

  • Recommended (170)
  • Community (76)
  • Baltimore (73)
  • Bernie Sanders (52)
  • Freddie Gray (42)
  • Civil Rights (41)
  • Elections (31)
  • Hillary Clinton (31)
  • Culture (29)
  • Racism (26)
  • Law (24)
  • Labor (23)
  • Education (22)
  • Economy (22)
  • Rescued (20)
  • Media (20)
  • Politics (19)
  • 2016 (19)
  • Environment (17)
  • Science (17)
  • Click here for the mobile view of the site