Colonial dating and courtship

14 Mar

By 1840 there were fewer than one in five premarital pregnancies in most New England towns, and by 1860 the rate had dropped to one in twenty.

With the rise of the sentimental domestic ideal, which held American womanhood as an example of purity, Americans now set much stricter moral and sexual codes. The typical courtship began in church or at a family celebration.

During the first quarter of the nineteenth century, however, this attitude underwent a significant change.

Known as a British import, the tradition of bundling apparently came with the Dutch to New Amsterdam, New York, as well, though they called it “queesting.” By 1800, bundling as a courtship practice was well on its way out.

Before long, Victorian culture would prevail, and if one term characterized courtship of the 19th century, it would be “calling.” When permitted, gentlemen would call upon young ladies, and it was this custom of calling that eventually segued into “dating.” The transition was not, however, a subtle one.

While in the past parents often chose their childrens wealth or landholdings, by the mid nineteenth century most young people, and many parents, believed that men and women should marry for love.

This romantic idea of love based on mutual attraction was reinforced by sentimental poetry and short stories in magazines such as the Ladies not to say disreputable.