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Etiquette for Women, c. 1902

JNL

Cyburbian
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A co-worker has unearthed a copy of 'Etiquette for Women: A Book of Modern Modes and Manners', first published 1902 in London. Thought I should share some of the words of wisdom.

Chapter XXIII: Things to Refrain From

Don't, whatever the fashion may be, wear a lot of jewellery.

Don't wear a number of diamonds or other precious stones by day; it is never in good taste.

Don't speak to attendants in shops, or to servants, or anyone else in an inferior position in life to yourself, as though they were dogs, neither gush at them nor be familiar. Maintain a genial dignity, and a gracious kindness and consideration which will win esteem and respect.

Don't eat in the street.

Don't behave in the street in a way to attract attention by rolling about, attitudinising, shrieking with laughter.

Don't wear a large number of rings; it looks vulgar, and does not show the beauty of the rings or of the hands. To wear a few rings shows the beauty of both.

Don't speak of persons by their Christian name directly you get to know them.

Don't speak of a person as "a swell"; keep the expression to apply to the ocean.

Don't cut or bite your bread at lunch or dinner, or make crumbs.

Don't ask for a second helping of soup or fish.

Don't pass up your plate for a second helping, but let the servant pass it.

Don't wear thick shoes or boots to a dinner, or any other evening party.

Don't use the word "dress" when you are speaking of a gown; say "gown" or "frock".


There's 118 pages of this stuff, including advice on how to conduct oneself at a luncheon party, how to handle a broken engagement, and how to get into a carriage!

What I want to know is, how exactly do you eat your bread?
 

SkeLeton

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JNL said:
What I want to know is, how exactly do you eat your bread?
Ever heard of Osmosis? :p

Ah... it's good that those ridiculous "rules" are gone. Either they were ridiculously things of common sense or just plain dumb. How could people like making up those dumb rules?

-Thy shalt not maketh any sound whilist walking. :p
 

JNL

Cyburbian
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SkeLeton said:
How could people like making up those dumb rules?
Apparently, SkeL, the 'Introduction which should not be Skipped' informs me that "...etiquette embraces much, and covers every year of our lives from our cradles to our graves; and so much that is essential to the pleasantness, the continuance even, of social intercourse. [Etiquette] suffers from the feeling common to many...to those who are ignorant of the meaning, the necessity, and the use of a code of manners.
They take it as a subject to be laughed at and sneered at....they forget, or have not understood, that it is just this etiquette, and the complete knowledge of it, which gives to those who observe its rules the air of easy naturalness which no non-observer of it ever attains....Supposing there were no such rules, what would a dinner party become?"


It's okay SkeL, I don't really think you're ignorant :-D
 

Zoning Goddess

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I have always heard that etiquette is a means to feel comfortable and to make others feel comfortable, in social settings.

Wish I could find one of my college yearbooks. The college was founded in 1837 and one of the yearbooks had excerpts on decorum from the student handbooks from WAY back.
 
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Heinlein said that manners were something to grease the wheels of social machinery, which didn't run too well to begin with. Doing away with them was like "throwing sand in the gears". I think he also said "an armed society is a polite society". To a large extent, I agree. People on military bases are more formal and polite -- and friendlier. I think formality makes boundaries clear and that makes it safer to be friendly. (I think there is more to it than "being armed", but this is already lenghty.)

Someone on a homeschooling list asked a question about manners some months back and I ended up writing a fairly lengthy reply, in part because I somehow brilliantly managed to teach my kids to NOT follow in their fouled-mouthed mother's footsteps. My oldest child has been trying to clean up my language since he was 2 -- because the first time I heard him swearing I realized I had a real conundrum: he was 2 and needed to repeat what I said in order to learn to talk; it was unreasonable to expect him to be able to "know" which words were "bad"; and my "swearing like a sailor" was unlikely to stop overnight. So I thought it over and brilliantly turned to him and said "You know, that's a bad word and I shouldn't use it either. I will tell you what the bad words are and remind you to not use them when you forget. And you can remind me."

This was so effective that I spent many years trying to figure out what I did right. (The long version is on my website, if you are really interested.)

In short, I ultimately concluded that good manners are about treating people with respect -- and if you value good manners, you should demand a higher standard of yourself than you do of others. Part of good manners is to overlook faux pas and attribute them to "he is just having a bad day; it was a miscommunication; etc". People who do not use good manners but get all in a huff when others do not treat them "appropriately" do not value "good manners". What they want is PRIVILEGE, not etiquette.

People often take me wrong at first. I am blunt and folks find that "confrontational" or whatever. Eventually, if they hang around, they discover I am honest and respectful -- even if I am not great with the "empty catch phrases". I don't use a lot of "polite catch phrases" in part because if I say "call me anytime" I mean it. I am not just blowing you off. Or whatever.
 

JNL

Cyburbian
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MZ, my original post was just meant to point out changes in expectations about acceptable 'comportment' for ladies in public. I think that's a slightly different thing than general good manners.
 
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I would actually follow a lot of the rules in that list and some of it is backed up by research. My mom is German and I have a lot of multicultural friends. People often mistake me for a European. I was recently asked if I was British. A guy who is clearly ethnically Native American asked me if I had ever been to a powwow based on my jewelry, never mind my extremely pale complection (and I am part Cherokee, in spite of the pale Irish skin and I may yet go to that local powwow this July).

A lot of other cultures are still more formal than American culture and I think there are good reasons for it. I have studied women's issues a good bit and I was a homemaker for a long time and very much "invisible" and "second class" because of it. I have some definite views on this stuff but they might not be appreciated here.
 

Zoning Goddess

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Michele Zone said:
Heinlein said that manners were something to grease the wheels of social machinery, which didn't run too well to begin with.OK, there's one of my favorite authors, I think he's said it succinctly. I think he also said "an armed society is a polite society". Uh-oh, has EG read this??
(In bold by ZG)

I used to run a bookstore and we sold a lot of "Miss Manners" books so the etiquette thing has always intrigued me.
 

Cardinal

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One of my favorite finds when working on the house was a 1954 newspaper from Janesville, Wisconsin. The city council was taking up a repeal of an ordinance that prohibited taverns from serving alcohol to a woman seated at the bar. Women had to be seated at a table in order to be served.

I can't remember where I heard it, but apparently at one time, married women were not allowed to teach school.
 
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Cardinal, those aren't really about "etiquette" but about women's rights. I find it interesting that ZG kind of seems to agree with me -- and we are both from the deep south, where "genteel" behavior still seems to have some foothold. There *is* some relationship between "etiquette for women" and issues of women's rights. But it isn't straight forward or direct, exactly.
 

JNL

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jordanb said:
Honestly, most of those make sense.
But I might want to have a second helping of fish without disturbing my servant, while wearing a dress and boots at the dinner table and making crumbs :p


(I don't really have any servants)
 

Cardinal

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Michele Zone said:
Cardinal, those aren't really about "etiquette" but about women's rights. I find it interesting that ZG kind of seems to agree with me -- and we are both from the deep south, where "genteel" behavior still seems to have some foothold. There *is* some relationship between "etiquette for women" and issues of women's rights. But it isn't straight forward or direct, exactly.
Does the issue of women's rights have something to do with these laws? Yes. But they were enacted out of a desire to legislate "proper" behaviour for women. It would be unseamly for a woman to drink at a bar, perhaps even in the company of men to whom she had not been properly introduced. Why, such a woman might be taken for a prostitute! Should a woman vote? No! She should defer to her husband on such things, and it isn't fit for a woman to engage in political discourse. Work? It is the job for the men of the household. These are no different, really, than the societal mores of how to dress, how to interact with other people of the same or different classes, or generally how to behave. These laws came out of the social and moral standards of the times. The women's rights movement certainly targeted them, just as targeted the informal rules of society such as those in the book of etiquette.
 
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I do understand your point but I see big differences between legislation or practices which curtail your rights based on gender and a book which suggests you treat servants like human beings and don't wear excessive jewelry. Yes, there is a connection between the "etiquette" thing and serious limitations on women's rights. The subtle things makes the hardest chains to cut sometimes. But ... I am not sure I really want to go there. Sigh.
 

jmf

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JNL said:
What I want to know is, how exactly do you eat your bread?
The correct way to eat bread is to tear off a bite sized piece. If you want butter (or subsitute) you take a small amount of butter from the butter dish using the the knife in the butter dish and put it on the side of the the butter plate. You then put butter on the small piece of bread/roll with your butter knife, while it is on the butter plate not holding it up in the air. The crumbs part is a little more difficut but I think as long as you try to keep them on the butter plate.

I think the bit about soup and fish refers to a meal where these are just courses of a larger meal. ie soup, salad, fish course; meat course, dessert, cheese plate, coffee.

Any other questions? Etiquette was HUGE in our house growing up.
 

Tom R

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manners

I remember an issue in the National Lampoon in the 1970's where they listed a number of etiquette dos and don'ts. Very funny. The only one I recall was "don't f**t in the presence of a [Black} Panther. Good advice.
 

Rumpy Tunanator

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JNL said:
But I might want to have a second helping of fish without disturbing my servant, while wearing a dress and boots at the dinner table and making crumbs :p
Have, all the second helpings, you want.

-Another etiquette dos and dont's- Never refuse a shot of liquor when visiting a friend. This may be insulting to the host, as well as a recipe for bad blood...
 

Tom R

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-Another etiquette dos and dont's- Never refuse a shot of liquor when visiting a friend. This may be insulting to the host, as well as a recipe for bad blood... [/QUOTE]

Oooooh....Brings back painful memories of near lethal hangovers. Danger Will Robinson, DANGER!
 
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