“In this era of Progress, young ladies have got their eyes open.”
Lavinia Goodell, April 1860
In the spring of 1860, Lavinia Goodell wrote a six-part series titled “Chapters to Young Men, on How to Win a Wife,” which was published in her father’s anti-slavery newspaper, the Principia. (Read about the first two installments here and here.)
Lavinia’s offerings appeared in the “Family Miscellany” section at the end of the weekly paper. They provided some levity in a publication whose masthead declared itself devoted to “First Principles in Religion, Morals, Government, and the Economy of life.” The April 28, 1860 issue in which the third of Lavinia’s “Chapters to Young Men” appeared, contained a letter from Gerrit Smith’s daughter agreeing with William Goodell’s sentiment that, correctly interpreted, the United States Constitution was anti-slavery and if in fact parts of the Constitution were in favor of slavery, then those parts are “so wrong as to be altogether null and void.” Lavinia possibly felt that after reading six pages on such sobering topics, some humor was in order on pages seven and eight, and she was happy to provide it.
In part three of her series, Lavinia began by telling young men not to fall in love with every girl they meet and not to form judgments too hastily. “There are a great many girls whom you will like, with whom you will form very pleasant friendships, but only one to whom you can give your whole heart.”
As in her first two chapters, Lavinia chided young men that if they wished to win a valued partner, they had to be sure they themselves were worthy:
We don’t live in the Middle Ages, and in this era of Progress, young ladies have got their eyes open. They will know what you are about, and they will judge for themselves. How do you manage your business affairs? If you are a merchant, are you as polite and gentlemanly to the plain woman in calicos, who comes to get a spool of cotton, as to the lady in silk who comes to do her spring shopping? Do you think it very smart to use a little cunning for the sake of getting the best of a bargain? If you are a lawyer do you always plead on the right side, or do you espouse the cause which pays best? If you are a minister, are you sure that you are perfectly honest and faithful, that you declare the whole truth? Or do you compromise a little, here and there, to suit the notions of this or that man of property or influence? Are you perfectly just; perfectly honorable; perfectly manly?
She went on to advise men not to “frown and utter anathemas on ‘strong-minded women.’” She said, “Tell me you can esteem a woman who does not take an interest in the welfare of her country!” She closed by saying:
Read the entire piece here.
Sources consulted: “Chapters to Young Men, on How to Win a Wife, Chapter III – More About Manliness,” written by Lavinia Goodell and published in the Principia April 28, 1860.
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