Tag Archives: historical fiction

1890s Courtship Etiquette

by Kathy Owen

Among the rewarding perks of historical novel writing are the cool bits of info that I find along the way.

While researching the topic of courtship for the fifth book of the Concordia Wells Mysteries – a series set in a fictitious 1890s women’s college – I came upon a fascinating self-help etiquette book by Mrs. John Sherwood, entitled Manners  and Social Usages (1884, revised 1901). I thought I’d share it with you today, focusing on what was expected of men and women in their journey to the altar.

etiquette-manual-title-pg

 

At the time of its original publication, the United States was barely 100 years old. The author (an American woman who had read and traveled widely) was very much aware of the need for a guide. She says in her Preface:

The newness of our country is perpetually renewed by the sudden making of fortunes, and by the absence of a hereditary, reigning set. There is no aristocracy here which has the right and title to set the fashions.

But courtship was no mere fashion. It was a serious business, with significant consequences to the young lady’s reputation if she and her parents/chaperone weren’t careful:

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Sadly, I think the “black sheep” will always be with us.

What were the consequences when one of these black sheep strayed into the fold? Wolfish rather than sheep-like (though a wolf with a big wallet and a taste in theater…but ahh, the metaphor is falling apart on me, so I’ll stop):

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Ouch. So, what is the remedy?

Chaperones. Yeah, even back then no one was crazy about the idea. Mrs. John Sherwood acknowledges the tedious nature of a young lady having to be chaperoned constantly. Apparently, American girls were particularly resistant:

etiquette-manual-9a

Besides having a chaperone, what else can a young lady do to protect herself? Mrs. Sherwood was a big fan of a girl “playing hard to get.” According to the author, “Men, as they look back on their own varied experience, are apt to remember with great respect the women who were cold and distant….

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Brrr, it’s getting chilly in here.

And the restrictions weren’t over once a formal engagement was announced…no, no.

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You can imagine my vexation, as an author, in not being able to get my engaged couple alone for some crucial plot points without the risk of vulgarity…but wait! Dear Mrs. Sherwood notes two exceptions to the rules of chaperonage, both of which apply to Concordia:

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Check. Concordia is twenty-nine (was she ever a “giddy girl”?). On to exception #2:

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Concordia is a literature professor at Hartford Women’s College…double check! Mrs. John Sherwood, I could kiss you. …okay, never mind.

What do you think of the courtship conventions of the 1890s? Are there any we should keep? Or are you relieved to be living in the 21st century? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

P.S. – Check out my new release, Beloved and Unseemly!

belovedandunseemlyebook

A stolen blueprint, a dead body, and wedding bells….
Change is in the air at Hartford Women’s College in the fall of 1898. Renowned inventor Peter Sanbourne—working on Project Blue Arrow for the Navy—heads the school’s new engineering program, and literature professor Concordia Wells prepares to leave to marry David Bradley.

The new routine soon goes awry when a bludgeoned body—clutching a torn scrap of the only blueprint for Blue Arrow—is discovered on the property Concordia and David were planning to call home.

To unravel the mystery that stands between them and their new life together, Concordia must navigate deadly pranks, dark secrets, and long-simmering grudges that threaten to tear apart her beloved school and leave behind an unseemly trail of bodies.

Now available at your favorite online bookseller (buttons are clickable):

Posted by Kathy Owen (aka K.B. Owen). Kathy is a recovering former English professor with a PhD in 19th century British literature. She is currently raising three boys and working on Book 6 in the Concordia Wells series of historical cozy mysteries.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Welcome to the Family, K.B. Owen

I am thrilled to welcome a new author to our group! K.B. Owen (a.k.a. Kathy Owen) writes historical cozy mysteries and we have bribed lured enticed her to join us here at misterio press.

I have read her newly released novel, Dangerous and Unseemly: A Concordia Wells Mystery, and it is one of the best debut novels I have ever read! But more on her book in a moment.

First, I’ll let Kathy introduce herself.

Headshot of K.B. OwenHi! I’m a former college instructor, with a Ph.D. in 19th century literature. These days, I’m applying my background and interests to historical mystery writing, and have created a female professor as amateur sleuth. I’ve been a professor but never a detective, so I’m living vicariously. (Although I never taught college classes in a bustle and long skirts, either. Thankfully!)

I’m also married to the love of my life, and am mom to three boys, ages 12, 17 and 20.  In my *ahem* free time, I enjoy reading, baking, gardening, and backyard bird-watching.

 

Phew, Kathy, you are one busy lady! And, folks, she also has a delightful website and blog at K.B. Owen, Historical Mystery Author: Chasing the Cozy Thrill.

Now a bit more about Kathy’s writing. Her stories are set in the late 1800’s at a women’s college (women going to college was a newfangled concept back then). Kathy is a meticulous researcher and her descriptions pull you back in time so that you feel you are living in Concordia’s world.

This is what I love most about historical fiction. You get to learn about another era–not just the dry facts from history books, but the way that people dressed, talked, interacted, the attitudes and conventions, etc. At the same time you are being entertained by a delightful story, in this case a suspenseful mystery.

Kathy is also great at developing compelling, and sometimes quirky, characters. But wait, don’t just take my word for it. Here are some comments from award winning authors who have read Kathy’s book.

  • “What a perfectly enjoyable debut! The author seamlessly works in the finely wrought historical details that make the reader feel totally at home. …truly a delight to read. I’ll definitely be awaiting more adventures of the intrepid Miss Wells.” ~ Martha Powers, author of Conspiracy of Silence and Death Angel
  • “The exquisitely plotted mystery will keep you turning the pages well into the night, and the richness of the world will keep you thinking about the story long after you put it down.” ~ Janice Hamrick, author of Death Makes the Cut

Below is the blurb and links for her book, but before you run off to check it out, please join with me and our misterio press authors as we break out the virtual bubbly to celebrate.

(photo by ori2uru, Creative Commons 2.0 license, Wikimedia Commons)

 A Toast ~ Welcome Aboard, Kathy!

 

Dangerous and Unseemly, A Concordia Wells Mystery

Dangerous and Unseemly book cover

An unseemly lesson… in murder. The year is 1896, and college professor Concordia Wells has her hands full: teaching classes, acting as live-in chaperone to a cottage of lively female students, and directing the student play, Macbeth. But mystery and murder are not confined to the stage, especially when the death of Concordia’s sister, Mary, appears to be foul play. To make matters worse, the women’s college is plagued by malicious pranks, arson, money troubles, and the apparent suicide of a college official. With her beloved school facing certain ruin, Concordia knows that she must act. As she struggles to seek justice for her sister and discover who is behind the college incidents, there are some closest to Concordia who do not appreciate the unseemly inquiries and bold actions of the young lady professor. Can she discover who is responsible… before she becomes the next target?

Absorbing in its memorable characters, non-stop plot twists, and depiction of life in a late-nineteenth century women’s college, Dangerous and Unseemly is a suspenseful and engaging contribution to the cozy historical mystery genre. Fans of Harriet Vane and Maisie Dobbs will find in Concordia Wells a new heroine to fall in love with.

Available now:

Amazon Kindle

Paperback (Amazon)

Barnes and Noble Nookbook

Smashwords

Kobo

Scribd

Posted by Kassandra Lamb, co-founder of misterio press.

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

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