19 August 2009

Etiquette Wednesday

Marion Harland was the pen name of Mary Virginia Hawes Terhune. In the late 1800’s and into the 20th Century she was force to be reckoned with. Long before the crass notion of “branding” Harland was just that – a brand. When she was growing up, her father instructed her tutor to: “Educate them as if they were boys and preparing for college,” At 23 she published her first novel, a book that sold over 100,000 copies.

In 1882, Harland wrote Eve’s Daughters or Common Sense for the Maid, Wife and Mother. It was a detailed tome on raising a daughter from her birth to the death of her husband. Presumably, if she had a husband, she would by now have children, so her life was mapped out from her birth till his death. In 1882, that was the only chosen course, lest, as one young woman put it, "Think of the disgrace of having one's maiden name inscribed upon her tomb-stone!"

“Your career is mapped out for you by Sex and Circumstance.”

Mrs. Harlan does not mince her words.

At birth we hear the popular refrain, "It's nuffin but a girl-baby! It ought to be drowneded." And you thought this utterance was only heard in India and not from the mouths of good Christian husbands in Pennsylvania! Yet, there it is. The awful truth.

Once you have this child you must remember to feed it carefully, lest you turn it into an idiot or worse a copse. A woman comes for a ball-room and gives her breast to a 3 month old. The child is taken with spasms and in two hours, "is a confirmed idiot and epileptic." So much for Dancing With the Stars!

Follow these steps and you will be fine as will your daughters.

About Hygiene:

" Every girl and every woman should wash thoroughly, down to the waist, at least once a day."

"There are seasons when, as every old woman knows, the cold bath must be omitted."

About Food:

"Salt is a sovereign styptic that, if taken in large quantities, can dry up the blood."

"Black pepper is highly inflammatory. Cancers have been formed in the coat of the stomach by lavish and continued use of black pepper."

About Clothing:

"We wear flannel next to the skin, plenty of loose undergarments in winter ...and educated women no linger lace tightly."

She should...wear black or sober colors, and shun the, to some people, easily-besetting sin of gaudy trimmings."

Mrs. Harland's book was a success, prompting Oliver Wendel Homes to write,:

"I am glad to see that your counsel to your sex so marked by discretion and based on knowledge of the complex elements of the problem you have to deal with. It is needed and will be very useful, especially coming from a woman who knows what she is talking about."

It is easy to find humor in such a book on a morning that most women got up, washed above and BELOW the waist, headed off to work in a brightly colored shirt and in some cases sign in with their maiden name, even though they are married.

So take pause today, and thank that woman who burned her bra so others could rest happily under a tombstone bearing her own name.

Check out Marion Harland's cookbook at Coobookoftheday.

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