The Library of Congress > Wise Guide > November 2011 > Unwed and Loving It!
Unwed and Loving It!

Before there were Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte, there were bachelor maids – turn-of-the-century single gals opting to play by their own rules of the time. Not to be confused with spinsters, these women of the late 19th and early 20th centuries had acceptable ways to earn money and no longer regarded marriage as necessary for financial stability or for self-respect. Social groups, known as Bachelor Maids' Clubs, began in cities such as New York and Washington, D.C. Soon thereafter, smaller clubs began forming in cities and towns around the country.

The Merry Maidens Burlesquers. 1898. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZC2-1396 (color film copy slide); Call No.: POS - TH - BUR .M47, no. 2 (C size) <P&P> [P&P] Old maids show, Brightwood, Maine. May 24, 1920. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-DIG-npcc-29136 (digital file from original); Call No.: LC-F82- 4262 [P&P]

That's not to say that all women were against the idea of matrimony, but rather they set standards for suitors to meet and waited to marry, if they married at all.

"The Bachelor Girl does generally marry. However, I have noticed that the marriages of girls who have followed some useful and interesting business before they married turn out happiest," said Ellen Adair in her article in the Jan. 26, 1915, issue of Philadelphia's Evening Public Ledger.

Naturally, bachelor maids had their critics. A reverend in Colorado delivered a sermon calling the group of women "waste humanity." Even a bachelor maid lamented her position in an article from the April 4, 1909, issue of the New York Tribune.

"It is my misfortune to be a spinster – I mean bachelor girl," she confesses. "I use that word advisaedly; for, though for all the world I would not say it out loud, to be it has been, and is, a misfortune."

However, according to newspaper articles of the era, these "not spinsters" were usually regarded with much aplomb.

Bachelor maid are just "links" to one of the featured Topics in Chronicling America. Presented are several newspaper articles on the subject along with suggested search terms to use in the Chronicling America database. Other interesting subjects include Nikola Tesla, building of the Titanic and the 1906 train wreck in Washington, D.C.

Chronicling America provides free access to more than 2.3 million historic American newspaper pages. To find out what's new, sign up for Chronicling America's RSS Feed or email update, which highlights interesting content on the site and notifies when new newspapers and topics are added.