Saturday, October 20, 2018

Older American Women

1730-40 Artist: John Smibert 1688-1751. Subject: Sarah Middlecott 1678-1764 (Mrs. Louis Boucher). Henry Francis duPont Winterthur Museum. Mr. Louis Boucher, who had been born in France, was lost at sea in 1715. They had been married in 1702, in Boston by Cotton Mather.

An essay aimed at older women trying to look and act like their younger counterparts, "Search After an Old Man" appeared in The Lady’s Magazine and Repository of Entertaining Knowledge published in Philadelphia, in 1792.

The time…is past when nature has attractions for love; and wisdom and discretion ought to supply the place of personal Beauty. They ought to be counsellors to the young, and not imitators of folly; they ought now to use that experience which they have acquired, to teach the young to avoid the errors into which themselves may have fallen, by an overweening attention to external ornament, and being more desirous to catch men, than to attract minds.

This view that women should be high-minded & virtuous heightened after the Revolution. In the new Republic, many believed that natural feminine virtues of humility & sensibility made women more religious & thereby, the perfect guardians for the nation's moral integrity.

It soon became expected that American women would instill traditional values in their children while protecting them in a refuge removed from the temptations of the outside world. American men would use their rational minds to make farms & businesses & government flourish. Little girls would be taught the domestic arts; little boys would be taught classical critical thinking.

Older women, who no longer had young children & could offer little help with household chores, were expected to be the ultimate repositories of conservative feminine virtues.
new nation. 1771-76 Henry Benbridge (1743-1812). Mrs Benjamin Simons. Metropolitan Museum of Art
1790 Ralph Earl (1751-1801). Mrs Nathaniel Taylor. Newark Museum.

1791 Ralph Earl (1751-1801). Mrs. John Watson. Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute of Art.

1792 Ralph Earl (1751-1801). Mrs. Richard Alsop. National Museum of American Art.
1796 Ralph Earl (1751-1801). Sarah Bostwick (Mrs. Sherman Boardman) New Milford Historical Society, Connecticut.

1798 Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Anna de Peyster. San Antonio Museum of Art..