“I love old maids!”

Lavinia Goodell, December 1861

William Goodell’s anti-slavery newspaper, the Principia, was published every on Saturday. The first six and a half pages of the December 28, 1861 issue were filled with Civil War news and abolitionists’ hopes for an end to the conflict and freedom for the enslaved. But the “Family Miscellany” section that occupied the last page and a half of the paper offered readers lighter fare, including a piece written by twenty-two year old Lavinia Goodell titled “Old Maids.”

Lavinia exclaimed:

I love old maids – I do! They are decidedly the most excellent portion of the community, the cream of society, the very salt of the earth! Who is the heart, and soul, and life of the Benevolent Society? – the old maid. Who makes the home circle, and her own, sunny and joyous? The old maid. Who is the oracle, the model, the joy and delight the Alpha and Omega of numberless wee ones? The old maid auntie. Who is the minister’s right-hand man? Who is ever ready to go on an errand of mercy to the suffering and afflicted? Who is to be depended upon to undertake what must be done and nobody else will do? In short, who is the most unselfish of mortals? The old maid — God bless her!


Lavinia, who never married, did not mince words when offering her opinion of people who believed that unwed maidens deserved their sympathy:

The careless, unfeeling manner in which people of coarse and degraded natures speak of old maids is beneath contempt. Must she be despised who withholds her hand because she cannot give her heart; and she esteemed who, for a home, a name, a station, weds one whom she cannot love? Rather, all honor to the woman who holds marriage as a thing too sacred for speculation or barter. Nobler ideas of life and love has she than that wedded sister who, from the imagined dignity of her station, looks down scornfully, or perchance, pityingly, upon her.

In Lavinia’s view, “Our old maids are our heroines, seldom appreciated, seldom understood, and oftentimes deeply wronged.” She closed by saying, “When the seeming shall give place to the real, when mind and soul shall be prized above name and station, gold above time! Then shall a high rank be accorded among us, to those whom we now term ‘old maids.’”

Read the entire piece here.

Sources consulted: “Old Maids,” written by Lavinia Goodell and published in the Principia, December 28, 1861.

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