For as long as history has been recorded, courtship has been the formal manner in which relationships begin and develop. That is not meaning to say that the behavioral manner in which this courtship is conducted has remained the same, however.
Let’s take a quick glance at courting in 1900 versus present day, and see some of the main differences.In movies like Anne of Green Gables, we get a sense of what it must have been like to date at the turn of the century. Courtship played a major role in the set-up of common society. Above all else, it was seen as a means in which to provide a family to do all the work required. It was a formal process not to be rushed, requiring parental permission. Young women were brought up learning domestic and culinary duties that would train them to be good mothers, and young men were brought up to value chivalry and responsibility. Marriage rings were introduced in the 1800s as a formal way of asking for a woman’s hand, as well as the process of asking for parents’ permission.
What was different between 1900, versus 50 years earlier?Love mattered. Around the turn of the century, it was becoming more important to feel romantic feelings towards one’s partner. Typically, courtship would take place in the highly decorated home of the woman in the company of her family (very different to today…). Couples often would meet in the parlor, a central room easily visible elsewhere in the home. Public courtings also began to gain popularity, and this process earned the name – “dating”. Sitting on a porch swing or in the tea house was very common. A tea house is a rectangular outdoor structure (much like a gazebo), which usually housed a double bench or style swing. The closest example to a tea house in Anne of Green Gables is where Anne and Gilbert meet during a storm, where Gilbert gives her a letter of congratulations. A very romantic scene, if you ask me.
Official Courtship Rules (Circa 1900)
- Young men interested in dating a young woman would present a calling card at the door and the young woman could either receive him or not. Both men and women could exchange calling cards at social events.
- Social events (ie. outdoor sports, hiking, biking, piano playing, and singing) allowed men and women to mingle in an acceptable fashion. It also allowed them to show off their talents and intellectual accomplishments.
- Flirting was a socially appropriate method for women to show they were interested and available.
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- Once a couple began courting, there were many formal ways to show their affection to each other at parties or other activities. Kissing was NOT one of them.
- A man must only marry when he is able to support a family with his income and possessions.
- Women were encouraged to test their suitors to see if they would remain loyal to them. For example, they would feign illness, family disapproval, and possibly even breaking off the relationship.
- Purity, during this time, was considered of the utmost importance. A female who had been previously involved romantically was considered a tainted, fallen woman.
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Differences Between Dating Then versus Now
|Courtship Rules in 1900||Dating in Present Day (21st Century)|
|One had to commit to an appropriate time between invitation and actual visit.||“Maybe I’ll drop by later.”|
|First courtship calls had to be made with the girl’s mother present at all times. It was appropriate to bring a small box of chocolates or flowers for the daughter.||Smart boys know to bring the mom and girlfriend a box of their favorite candy.|
|Proper discussion had to be conducted on only the small topics, all of which covered the man’s interests – but nothing too personal.||“Pass me the television remote please, babe.”|
|Men sent romantic love letters gushing their emotions through poetry, beautiful sonnets and stories.||“I just texted you.”|
|Men would arrive with a calling card for consideration.||“I poked you on Facebook…did you poke me back?”|
|It was customary for local older women to serve as matchmakers in their village, and they garnered much social respect.||www.eharmony.com|
|Chaperones were required on dates to ensure that the dating conduct between the two young lovers was appropriate.||“I’ll meet you there.”|