Courting gave women power; it was their decision whether to accept or reject a suitor. “You know I have never with all my faults betrayed one symptom of vanity, but now if you should discover a little spice of it can you Wonder—just at this moment are at my entire disposal two of the Very Smartest Beaux this country can boast of—what think you of G & B both at my feet at one. The choice of a husband was very important since, once made, only death could undo a marriage. It meant leaving childhood behind, taking on adult responsibilities, and forming a new family.
There is much speculation going on as to the preference I shall give & tho I do not intend to practice one Coquettish air as you are pleased to call my little innocent gaieties yet for my own amusement do I intend to leave these speculating geniuss to their own conjectures for some time at least till I have made up my mind as to the time—for you must know I know I mean make one Surprize do for all by being married off hand—believe me it is impossible for me to think too long on the subject lest I should in truth be whimsical.” (Eliza Ambler to Mildred Smith, February 1785.)“It has ever been my wish to keep my Daughters single ‘till they were old enough to form a proper judgment of Mankind; well knowing that a Woman’s happiness depends entirely on the Husband she is united to; it is a step that requires more deliberation than girls generally take, or even Mothers seem to think necessary; the risk tho always great, is doubled when they marry very young; it is impossible for them to know each others disposition; for at sixteen and nineteen we think everybody perfect that we take a fancy to . With the rise of the affectionate family, arranged marriages became a thing of the past.
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The wedding was the culmination of years of planning, preparation, and effort. Courting allowed young men and women to meet and socialize largely unchaperoned, at a variety of entertainments.
"You know what to expect from me, as you have seen my character of a good wife.
Suppose I tell you now, what I, in my turn, expect, and how you may best please me and make me happy.—Thus then I begin—Let me ever have the sweet consiousness of knowing myself the best beloved of your heart—I do not always require a lover’s attention—that wou’d be impossible, but let it never appear by your conduct that I am indifferent to you." Margaret Davenport Coulter to John Coulter, May 10, 1795.
When men and women did meet, they obviously enjoyed each other’s company. After dinner we assemble in the hall where the sweet Judah favored us with a good deal of her incomparable music.” (Peter S. ] Carr, July 28, 1787.) Young white men began courting in their late teens.
“After an agreeable ride we at length reached the house about two o’clock, just about the time when Miss J’s beauty was in its meridian splendor. The average man in Virginia married in his mid-twenties.
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