A brief history of courtship and dating in america
“Frances Donovan, a University of Chicago–trained sociologist who taught at Calumet High School on the city’s South Side in the 1920s, interviewed senior girls about their plans after graduation,” Weigel writes.“‘I would like to be a stenographer,’ one announced.In a column about “working class lives,” he told of a clerk named Artie whose girlfriend was losing interest in him and beginning to see other men socially.When Artie confronts his fading love, he says, “I s’pose the other boy’s fillin’ all my dates?In Chicago, single women were known as “women adrift.” These circumstances gave birth to dating rituals and other unfortunate traditions that still remain — or, at least, still cause confusion as mores change — today.
According to “Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a sprawling new history by Moira Weigel, the first female daters faced exactly that — mistaken, in their quest for love, for prostitutes.
“This was an asset whether you were selling handkerchiefs or selling yourself.” Elinor Glyn, writing for Cosmopolitan in 1926, referred to personality simply as “It,” which was, according to Weigel, “a mysterious kind of animal magnetism.” “With ‘It,’ ” Glyn wrote, “you win all men if you are a woman — and all women if you are a man.” Glyn’s article was adapted for a movie starring Clara Bow as “a shopgirl who has ‘it,’ ” and the concept of the It Girl was born.
Bow’s It Girl, of course, sought to marry the boss — in this case, the son of the store’s owner.
In 1900, the average female worker earned less than half of what a man would earn in the same position.” If you’ve ever wondered how it developed that men were expected to treat their dates, that’s how.
“‘If I had to buy all my meals I’d never get along,’ a young woman living in a boardinghouse in Hell’s Kitchen told a social worker in 1915.” But as these women were courted in public, efforts were undertaken to curb what authorities viewed as a potential public menace.