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Ian Wright
Ian Wright

Essay On Old Maids

Many stereotypes surrounded spinsters. Many were considered to be deformed or unfeminine. Over the course of three volumes in A Philosophical, Historical, and Moral Essay on Old Maids, published in 1793, William Hayley discusses his opinions concerning old maids.

essay on old maids

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If reusing this resource please attribute as follows: A philosophical, historical, and moral essay on old maids. By a friend to the sisterhood. In three volumes.: [pt.2] ( ) by Hayley, William, 1745-1820., licensed as Creative Commons BY-NC-SA (2.0 UK).

"The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the English Genius" is an essay by George Orwell expressing his opinions on the situation in wartime Britain. The title alludes to the heraldic supporters appearing in the full royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom. The essay was first published on 19 February 1941 as the first volume of a series edited by T. R. Fyvel and Orwell, in the Searchlight Books published by Secker & Warburg.[1]

The first part of the essay, "England Your England", is often considered an essay in itself. With the introductory sentence "As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.",[1] the content sheds some light on the process which eventually led Orwell to the writing of his famous dystopia, Nineteen Eighty-Four. The text is also influenced partly by his other experiences in the Spanish Civil War, which he published his memoirs of in "Homage to Catalonia". His beliefs molded there of the dangers of totalitarianism and his conviction for democratic socialism to defeat fascism and Soviet communism are evident in all of his future novels such as Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm but are expressed here without allegory.

According to research made in Kuwait, Kuwaiti families have a positive association with maids that contribute to the family welfare. A housemaid is a demanded worker who provides necessary services; sometimes, she even becomes a surrogate for a child. The presence of a maid is typical even in the case of a non-working mother. The number of maids may increase in a household, if new children appear, or when one maid can not manage her job well (Koch and Long, 2009, p. 263).

However, there is another side of the coin in the phenomenon of maids in the GCC countries. First, owing to a maid, parents may face a new problem in raising their child. Most of these maids do not speak English. Moreover, they speak Pidgin Gulf Arabic. For this reason, Arabian-speaking children experience the negative influence of this pidginized form of Arabic. As a result, children may have communication disorders or low-level communicative skills in their native Arabic language (Grigorenko, 2009, p. 292). Besides, many maids are low-skilled, with a poor level of literacy that inevitably influences GCC children. Their level of education is low; they are ignorant of the local language and culture (Dresch, 2005, p. 124).

Taking everything mentioned into consideration, one can not but agrees with the idea that the GCC families should not have maids who do parental work. Naturally, nobody can replace a native mother for a child. Arabian-speaking children should be raised by their parents, not a foreign female migrate. Domestic workers should be demanded only in case if they do only domestic work, not a parental one. The modern status of an Arab woman should not influence her motherhood job. Although the GCC countries used to have maids as their slaves who do both domestic and parental work, the needs of the modern world should dictate other rules. Nevertheless, maid services are welcomed in these countries, as they meet the needs of GCC working families who need a person who would look after their child, doing domestic work. Obviously, there is a need for a fair division of labor in society: parents should do parental responsibilities, while housemaids should do only domestic work.

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We invite readers of all ages to submit an original and previously unpublished personal essay of musings related to life during the current pandemic for Coronavirus Chronicles. Submissions should run no longer than about 600 words and should include the name, age, hometown and phone number of the author, as well as a current photo. All accepted essays become property of The Dispatch. Send essays by email:

One question seems to reside at the heart of Catharine MariaSedgwick's life and literature, as it does for the world of antebellumAmerica of which she is part--married or single? Since Sedgwick's(re)discovery, however, critics have read her relationship to marriage andher own spinsterhood as ambivalent at best. The consensus is that Sedgwickultimately places her true sentiment with marriage, holding it up as a statethat is more "natural" than and preferable to its opposite. (1)Mary Kelley's essay "A Woman Alone" begins with the followingclaim: "The life of Catharine Maria Sedgwick was betwixt andbetween" (209). Kelley further explains,

Sedgwick's solution to the question of marriage and thespinster's relation to it is twofold. First, she counters negativestereotypes of the single woman by making a logical, reasoned, andunambivalent argument about an unmarried woman's usefulness to marriage,gender, and citizenship. Second, Sedgwick develops a case for (female)exceptional individualism, an argument that will become central for spinsterand domestic literature of the nineteenth century. This line of thinkingholds that if women are to be better wives or better old maids, they must notsimply be average. Exceptional women must choose marriages of equality andsingle women must act as exemplary citizens. Wives and old maids must be bothuseful and independent. More important, they must simultaneously be connectedto others. Isolating the married couple from old maids is not, after all,republican citizenship. Women, then, whether married or single, have theability to redefine marriage itself.

The texts that allow me to make these claims span Sedgwick'scareer, demonstrating that she did not falter on this particular stance: FromHope Leslie in 1827, through "Old Maids" in 1834, to her lastnovel, Married or Single? in 1857, each narrative builds upon the former.Over the course of thirty years, Sedgwick worked out a theory of old maidsand wives: She began with an introduction to (female) exceptionalism, whichled into a critique of spinsterhood in relation to marriage, and finallybrought these ideas together in Married or Single? Here, at the end of hercareer, Sedgwick highlighted how the lessons of spinsterhood done right mightvery well inform and prepare a woman to be a new kind of wife.

Seven years later, Sedgwick returned to the subject of marriageand spinsterhood in her short story "Old Maids." Susan Koppelmanprovides a useful overview of the purpose and structure of the old maid talein nineteenth-century America. She explains that stories such asSedgwick's "defend unmarried women from cruel, demeaning andlimiting stereotypes that are still used to frighten and coerce women"(Introduction 1). These "vindications" show that old maids wereactually virtuous and useful "in the households of married women"(5). While Sedgwick's tale is a defense of spinsterhood, it also shows aprogression in her thinking on this question. "Old Maids" says asmuch about wives and marriage as it does about old maids. What Esther Downingbegan is here turned into a short story, as Sedgwick's narrator, Mrs.Seton, tells a series of old maid vignettes; these stories, which serve as acritique within a critique, ultimately question the binary between married orsingle. Instead of critiquing marriage explicitly, Sedgwick allows a wife toanalyze spinsterhood and, in so doing, marriage itself.

Each of Mrs. Seton's four examples, "actual livingexamples--no fictions" (13), reveals a lesson about old maids and wives.The first is Violet Flint, who has been given the "old maidenishappellation" of "Miss Vily" (presumably to vilify). Her storypresents a contrast between the apparent naturalness of motherhood and theunnaturalness of spinsterhood. Since Violet's brother "marriedyoung" to "a poor invalid," Violet, like a good spinster,takes on the physical care and responsibility for her brother's family,one that is not, biologically speaking, her own. According to Mrs. Seton,"Without the instincts, the claims, the rights, or the honours of amother, she has ... done all the duties of a mother." As a dutifulsurrogate mother, Violet has "made the happy happier, tended the sick,and solaced the miserable." In her position as "second best"(a line Sedgwick used in her journal entry five years before), Violet isnever thanked, nor is her old maid's duty appreciated as it would be ifshe were wife or mother (16).

Although Violet does not possess the "instincts" ofmotherhood (because spinsterhood is conceived of as unnatural), she provesthem to be necessary. Both Violet and Mrs. Seton's second example, SarahLee, disrupt the binary between married and single. Sedgwick might appear tobelieve that motherhood and marriage are a woman's natural calling, butat the same time she questions the biological basis of motherhood to showthat old maids are as maternal as wives and mothers. Later, in her novelMarried or Single? Sedgwick will again emphasize this point when the heroine,Grace Herbert, reads in a family letter, "It is not necessary to haveborne a child to love it with a moth-er's perceptive, anxious, relyingfondness. The affections are not dependent on the instincts, though they bebest adapted to the conservation of the race, and its general happiness"(1: 35; emphasis added). Sedgwick therefore negates the hold mothers have onnature and on femininity. Old maids do the labor of wives and mothers butsimply are not granted the same kind of recognition as their marriedcounterparts. They, too, shape nations and their future citizens. Republicanmarriage might very well be necessary to form families, communities, andnations, but marriage as an institution also marginalizes spinsterhood anddefines only husbands and wives as valid citizens.


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