Week 2 The Spinster (1 of 8)

The Freewoman Issue I Volume I, page 10. By One. 

The Freewoman, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Nov. 23, 1911). (brown.edu)

This article really set me to thinking about the idea of the unmarried woman with no children during magazine’s time and the present. Some ideals about this subject have changed, and some have not. The word Spinster was meant to be negative, but more morally acceptable than having a child out of wedlock or having casual relations. Single men were called bachelors, and it was more accepted for them to have no family or wife. But then, as now, there is a smaller form of stigma about a woman living unattached for too long unless she is a widow. Society then, as now, pushes the idea of women falling in love and getting married. There is the growing idea of a woman being strong and independent, but I believe there is also a silent clash with the idea of marriage, as if a woman can’t be both strong and independent if she’s alone for too long, or loses that strength when she gets married, as if sharing responsibility with her husband somehow makes her weaker. 

The article pushes the idea that a ‘Spinster’ must expend her extra energy and be a workaholic to make up to society for her lack of producing a family. I find that interesting, because while it can be taken as offensive, that is what many women do when they do not have a family to also take care of. But now, women do not do it to ‘make amends,’ but for their own satisfaction in being allowed to have a career and control over their reproduction cycle. The author thinks this will be Puritanical, as it will also take her away from her sex drive. 

The author believes that women are trapped and must go along with conventions of the time, and is well meaning and piteous. But they do not consider alternatives like adoption, or helping out with relative’s families, which often happens. Nor do they seem to try to understand the woman’s point of view and what she wants in each situation, how much money they have, age, health, all may be factors. I also find the term ‘social slaughter,’ interesting. Women in the article were compared to a butchered animal because of how vulnerable they are during this time. The idea of the lone vulnerable woman is not totally vanished even in this time, but options are more plentiful now. 


Thanks for this writeup, Marianna. Maybe we can look at some of these double standards with respect to advertising tomorrow. Please be sure to quote from any texts that you are addressing and analyze the language in those quotes, as you would do in a the body paragraph of an essay. It doesn't need to be formal, just engaged with ideas and the specifics of the text. Also, please remember to include relevant bibliographic information--magazine title, date, piece title, author, page numbers--and link to the magazine issue you're writing about. Thanks again for bringing this to our attention -- let's see what we can do with it tomorrow!

Thank you. Fixing this from now on.