Sunday, February 25, 2018

Etiquette and Social Acceptance

Though incredibly wealthy, the famous Vanderbilt family had not truly been welcomed into New York’s Gilded Age society, and wouldn’t be welcomed unless they were accepted by the ultimate social “judge and jury” of the day, Mrs. Caroline Astor. The Mrs. Astor of the famous list of “400” socially acceptable people... a number based on the limitations of the Astor’s fabulous New York City ballroom, (which was actually a list of merely 319) But, without Astor’s social support, the Vanderbilts were merely the wealthiest “nobodies” in New York society. Soon after the announcement of a forthcoming Vanderbilt ball, but before the formal invitations had been issued, Miss Carrie Astor, took it for granted that, as leaders of society, the Astors would, of course, be invited. Mrs. Vanderbilt heard of this, and told friends that she could not invite Miss Astor to her ball, as her mother “had never called upon her” socially. This reached Mrs. Astor’s ears, and soon after she called upon Mrs. Vanderbilt. She and her daughter were thus invited to the Vanderbilt ball, “making” the Vanderbilts in the process. 

Ball  “Made” Vanderbilts
—————————————————
Magnificent Entertainment Gained Family Formal Recognition by Recognized New York “Society.”

The Vanderbilts obtained their first secure foothold in New York’s leading society by a great fancy-dress ball given by Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt In her beautiful Fifth Avenue house on the evening of March 26, 1883. It surpassed in splendor, in beauty, in brilliancy, and in luxurious and lavish expense any scene before witnessed in New York. But two or three of the leaders of New York society, notably Mrs. William Astor, had never called upon any of the ladies of the Vanderbilt family. 

According to the generally accepted story, soon after the announcement of the forthcoming ball, but before the formal invitations had been issued, Miss Carrie Astor, the only unmarried daughter of Mrs. William Astor, organized a fancy dress quadrille to be danced at the ball by several young ladies and gentlemen, it being taken for granted by the Astors that, as leaders of society, they would, of course, be invited. Mrs. Vanderbilt heard of this, and stated in the hearing of some friends that she could not invite Miss Astor to her ball, as her mother had never called upon her. 

This reached Mrs. Astor’s ears, and soon after she called upon Mrs. Vanderbilt. She and her daughter were invited to the Vanderbilt ball. Thus did the ball break the last barrier down and the Vanderbilt family was firmly established among New York’s social leaders. –Healdsburg Enterprise, 1923

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Etiquette and an African Princess

West African Royalty, Sara Forbes Bonetta, on her wedding day with her Groom, in 1862. Queen Victoria had raised her as a ‘Goddaughter’ in the British middle class. This description is of the wedding; “The wedding party, which arrived from West Hill Lodge, Brighton in ten carriages and pairs of grays, was made up of White ladies with African gentlemen, and African ladies with White gentlemen. There were sixteen bridesmaids.”
Sarah Forbes Bonetta was born a child of Yoruba Royalty. She was a Princess of the Egbado clan in West Africa. The army of the Kingdom of Dahomey brutally attacked her village when Sarah, was only 4 or 5 years old though, slaughtering her siblings and decapitating her parents. The now orphaned Princess was kept as a slave in the court of Dahomey King Ghezo. The King, a notorious slave trader, had plans for Aina (Sarah’s birth name). She was to become a human sacrifice.

During a visit to King Ghezo, Royal Navy Captain Frederick E. Forbes was able to rescue the young Princess. On a mission to convince Ghezo to abandon the slave trade, Forbes bargained for the Sarah’s life. He persuaded the King to give her to Queen Victoria. Later, in his journal, he wrote: “She would be a present from the King of the Blacks to the Queen of the Whites.” Forbes re-named Sarah after his ship, the HMS Bonetta and his own name. The Princess Aina became “Sarah Forbes Bonetta” and they sailed for England. 
Queen Victoria and Sarah Forbes Bonetta, as portrayed on ITV’s series, “Victoria” – “… back in Shakespeare's day, you could have met people from west Africa and even Bengal in the same London streets. Of course, there were fewer, and they drew antipathy as well as fascination from the Tudor inhabitants, who had never seen black people before. But we know they lived, worked and intermarried, so it is fair to say that Britain's first black community starts here. There had been black people in Britain in Roman times, and they are found as musicians in the early Tudor period in England and Scotland. But the real change came in Elizabeth I's reign, when, through the records, we can pick up ordinary, working, black people, especially in London. Shakespeare himself, a man fascinated by 'the other', wrote several black parts - indeed, two of his greatest characters are black - and the fact that he put them into mainstream entertainment reflects the fact that they were a significant element in the population of London. Employed especially as domestic servants, but also as musicians, dancers and entertainers, their numbers ran to many hundreds, maybe even more. And let's be clear - they were not slaves. In English law, it was not possible to be a slave in England (although that principle had to be re-stated in slave trade court cases in the late 18th Century, like the Somersett case of 1772). In Elizabeth's reign, the black people of London were mostly free. Some indeed, both men and women, married native English people.” –BBC History Magazine
The first meeting between Queen Victoria and Sarah was at Windsor Castle in November of 1850. Opposed to racism, and impressed by Sarah’s intelligence
and manners, Victoria recognized her Royal blood by calling her a “Princess.” Queen Victoria soon became Sarah’s “Godmother” and invited her regularly to Windsor Castle. Victoria paid for her education and upbringing after finding guardians for the young Princess. Captain Forbes died a year later, around the same time that Sarah developed a chronic cough, attributed to the climate in England. In an attempt to improve her health, Victoria sent Sarah to Sierra Leone in the hope that her health would improve in the warmer temperatures.

Sarah excelled academically, but was unhappy living in Sierra Leone, and attending the church missionary society school there. Queen Victoria arranged for Sarah’s return in 1855, when she was about 12 years old. She lived in Gillingham, with the Schoen family. Remaining a part of Queen Victoria’s life, Sarah was a guest at her daughter Princess Vicky’s wedding.Sarah received a marriage proposal from Captain James Pinson Labulo Davies, when she was 19. He was a wealthy Yoruban businessman, already a widower and more than 10 years her senior. Initially turning down the proposal, Sarah soon agreed to the marriage. Victoria naturally approved the match. Like other young women her age, Sarah had no financial independence if she remained unmarried.

A large wedding in Brighton followed, with guests both white and black. Much happier than Sarah had initially presumed she’d be, the couple moved to Africa. They had three children: Victoria, named after the Queen, Arthur and Stella. The family returned to England in 1867. Smitten with her young namesake, Queen Victoria not only became Godmother to little Victoria, she paid for her education, as well. Sadly, Sarah died of tuberculosis at the age of 37, on Portugal’s island of Madeira.

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Friday, February 23, 2018

Museum Etiquette

Please don’t feed (or touch) the bears! – Photo from Candace Smith’s visit to the Anchorage Museum, Anchorage, Alaska

Museums are a place of wonder, housing visual aspects of culture, imagination, and history. The primary reason to visit museums is to educate yourself in some way. But even though a good educational experience involves interaction, not all museums encourage this. Some pieces are meant to only be viewed.

For the Best Experience

I don’t know of any place that requires greater vigilance to the rules than does a museum. It’s important for you to know what to expect, and the behavior expected of you. Keep in mind, however, that rules, though seemingly stringent, are created to provide all visitors a meaningful experience while protecting the valuable art and artifacts that are kept there.

Rules will be posted at each facility, but here are ones that will apply at any museum:
  1. Do not bring food or liquid into a gallery and do not chew gum.
  2. Politely comply if you are asked to place backpacks and large bags in a locker.
  3. If it is not a self-guided museum, stay with your tour guide at all times.
  4. Never touch exhibit displays. 
  5. Please don't run or play around. When you least expect it, something will be knocked over or be broken.
  6. Touch only the pieces designated for touching, such as interactive displays and buttons that turn on audio or video.
  7. Always walk at the specified distance from displays and never cross ropes to get a closer look. This is usually at least a one-foot distance.
  8. Do not take pictures unless expressly permitted. Usually, photographs are permitted as long as no flash or lights are used.
  9. If you are in a group led by a guide, it would not be considerate to take pictures while the tour is being conducted unless invited to do so.
  10. Talk quietly so you don't interrupt or annoy others listening during a guided tour, or who simply want a thoughtful experience.
  11. Ask questions of your guide, but avoid monopolizing her time.

When visiting the Anchorage Museum, I walked through an exhibit featuring three colorful bears. I was fascinated! Though there was a sign clearly posted to warn me, I instinctively reached out and touched one of them...

When Enthusiasm Takes Over

If you love to visit museums and learn new things, there will be times when you see something exciting and can't contain yourself.

I'm certainly no exception. When visiting the Anchorage Museum, I walked through an exhibit featuring three colorful bears. I was fascinated! Though there was a sign clearly posted to warn me, I instinctively reached out and touched one of them. I know, but I couldn't help myself!

I immediately pulled my hand away and told our guide, who was standing next to me, "Oh, I am sorry!" I kept guard of my straying hands after that incident.

When enthusiasm takes over, do your best to be mindful of your movements. Museum curators enjoy knowing how much guests like the works they've installed, but don't risk letting your excitement ruin a piece of priceless art.

If you do happen to touch something (or worse), find a staff person and tell him or her. It may be necessary that they clean the piece to remove the oils and bacteria from your fingers, or right whatever wrong has accidentally happened.


Visit Museums Often

Museums are a wealth of knowledge waiting for you to explore. Though some people are a little put-off by the rules in place, it is entirely possible to visit, learn information, and be inspired by the things you will see - all while having fun. The most important rule is to enjoy yourself while doing your part to protect and preserve the art work, and to be mindful that others will come after you, hopefully for many years to come. 




Meet our newest contributor, Candace Smith... A retired, national award-winning secondary school educator, Candace Smith teaches university students and professionals the soft skills of etiquette and protocol. She found these skills necessary in her own life after her husband received international recognition in 2002. Plunged into a new “normal” of travel and formal social gatherings with global leaders, she discovered how uncomfortable she was in many important social situations. After extensive training in etiquette and protocol, Candace realized a markedly increased confidence level in meeting and greeting and dining skills and was inspired to share these skills that will help others gain comfort and confidence in dining and networking situations. Learn more at http://www.candacesmithetiquette.com/

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Etiquette and What’s Overheard

What to Do When You Overhear Conversations

When you overhear conversations between other people, there are a variety of reactions that may occur. You may be disturbed, entertained, surprised, or saddened, among other feelings.

Even when you have no intention of listening, it is easy to become drawn in, especially if you have an opinion about the topic, or if the topic affects you personally. While there isn't much to be done about people conversing in public or shared spaces, there are things you can do to manage what you might hear.

Cell Phone Conversations

Overhearing someone on a cell phone can be very distracting! Mostly because you pick up on the half of the conversation you can hear, and begin assuming the other half of the conversation you can't hear.

You feel as if you are eavesdropping when you're really not. After all, the conversation entered your space.

Whenever this happens and I become annoyed by it, someone near and dear to me always advises, "Just don't listen." Easier said than done, so if it's possible to move away from a phone conversation, I do. But when it's not, I make the best of it, sometimes giving my imagination a little exercise.

If you need to take a call in a public or shared space, keep it short - and quiet. And if you can move to a more private space to take your call, the people around you will appreciate it.

Conversations at Work

Open work spaces allow for much information sharing. Some of it you don't need to know, or don't want to hear.

Discretion is a valuable commodity for professionals. The bottom line is, even if you don't work in an open office environment, there are likely times when you will overhear conversations or see written materials that were not meant for you. This information is not to be shared.

However, if these conversations are not work related and the circumstances of your overhearing them seem to repeat themselves, it's a good idea to let the parties involved know that you hear them talking and remind them to be more discreet in a professional environment.

I Can Hear You!

In the grand scheme of things, we live in a free society where most people feel comfortable speaking their thoughts. While this is something to be valued, we forget that our words will enter the space of other people who may have no appreciation for them for whatever reason.

As a listener, you might offer these solutions:

  • Consider letting the person(s) know that you are overhearing them, if doing so wouldn't be a distraction to others.
  • If the people talking don't know you are there, say or do something to be noticed. Try clearing your throat or coughing.
  • Don't repeat what you heard to others. This will only light the fire of gossip.
  • If you know someone who isn't aware she is being overheard, you can interrupt politely with a question related to another subject. In private, mention the reason you were trying to change the conversation.
  • If you are at a restaurant and are bothered by someone who is talking loudly, ask your server or the manager if you can move to another table.

Should You Try to Help?

What is probably the hardest thing about overhearing someone talking is when there is an obvious conflict or sadness, and you wonder if you should break the boundaries of personal space and see if you can help. If you hear an argument through the walls of a hotel room and it sounds serious, or you hear someone sobbing as they’re talking on the phone, should you do anything?

Should you then choose to eavesdrop for the purpose of standing ready to help someone?

We always want to be available to help someone, to give an encouraging word, or to have enough information to say the right thing. This means taking risks, erring on the side of more listening rather than less.

The decision to get involved in a situation like this is a very personal choice. It's also important to understand that your offer of help may be rejected.


Meet our newest contributor, Candace Smith... A retired, national award-winning secondary school educator, Candace Smith teaches university students and professionals the soft skills of etiquette and protocol. She found these skills necessary in her own life after her husband received international recognition in 2002. Plunged into a new “normal” of travel and formal social gatherings with global leaders, she discovered how uncomfortable she was in many important social situations. After extensive training in etiquette and protocol, Candace realized a markedly increased confidence level in meeting and greeting and dining skills and was inspired to share these skills that will help others gain comfort and confidence in dining and networking situations. Learn more at http://www.candacesmithetiquette.com/

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Tea Rituals and Scone Etiquette

This looks delicious, but it is not "the done thing" to cut a scone, slather clotted cream and jam on, then put the scone back together to form a kind of bulky sandwich. Scones are broken, much like a bread roll. The scone (pronounced as in “gone” not as in “cone”) is to be eaten in a very particular way. Scones are served whole and preferably warm from the oven, and as with bread you break a scone with your fingers, and spread the jam and cream on, bite-size by bite-size piece. One should never be seen to cut a scone with a knife.

The Beginnings of the Afternoon Tea Ritual 

The British ritual of afternoon tea is attributed to Anna Maria, 7th Duchess of Bedford. The Duchess was staying as a guest of John Manners, the 5th Duke of Rutland, at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire when she found herself experiencing a “sinking feeling” during the long hours between midday luncheon and late evening dinner. 

She requested a snack of tea and cake to curb her hunger and found that she so enjoyed it that she invited her friends to join her. She continued the social gatherings when she returned to her home at Woburn Abbey and even took her own silver tea equipment with her when she went to visit her friends in their castles and palaces.
A stunning, late 19th century silver and enamel tea service. Tea services added to the ceremony of Victorian afternoon tea we know today.  

As the popularity of this new found ritual spread amongst the upper and middle classes the Victorians unsurprisingly began producing new specially designed apparatus to further enhance the enjoyment of afternoon tea. So up sprang all the elegant tea pots and kettles and creamers and tea strainers, and subsequently the ceremony of afternoon tea grew into what we know today.– Contributor Rachel North

Contributor Rachel North is an etiquette and afternoon tea enthusiast with a love for anything -ancient and historical.
Etiquette Enthusiast Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia 

Etiquette, Low and High Teas

Several 19th century ladies and a gentleman,  enjoying an outdoor afternoon, or “low tea.” “High tea” is a completely different meal in itself and does not connote any segment of society, wealth, ability to exhibit manners or the oft and incorrectly used term, “classy.” 

Afternoon tea is traditionally known as “low tea” because it was served whilst sitting down on low sofas and chairs, whereas high tea is a completely different meal in itself. High tea does not have anything to do with the overused and misused phrase, “high class,” but instead got its name due to being eaten on high tables amongst the working classes.

After a long day’s hard labour, the working classes would gather together for their evening meal which usually consisted of meat, fish and other heavy foods. It is still common to hear people from various areas of the country refer to their dinner as “tea” and their lunch as “dinner.”

When presented correctly, afternoon or a “low tea” is actually a three course meal, hence the prettily decorated three-tier stand.

The tea when presented correctly is actually a three course meal, hence the prettily decorated three-tier cake stand. Quite apart from being purely aesthetic, the cake stand represents the three courses. When when having tea, you “work from the bottom up” when it comes to the stand.

The bottom tier represents your first course and is usually laden with finger sandwiches, the middle tier sports warm, succulent looking scones and the top tier finishes the meal off with various cakes, pastries and petit fours. It is incorrect for the three tier cake stand to be arranged in any other way.— Etiquipedia Contributor, Rachel North

Contributor Rachel North is an etiquette and afternoon tea enthusiast with a love for anything -ancient and historical.
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia  

Manners Make Us Human

How good manners are what really make us human... and help keep us free from disease – Dr Val Curtis, an expert on disease control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: ‘Manners should be up there with fire and language as a prime candidate for what makes us human.’ 

How Manners Make Us Human 

"... the first, and most ancient function of manners, is to allow bacteria and virus-ridden humans socialise without falling ill."  
  • An expert on disease control says  manners stop us from standing so close to people we could spread infection 

  • They also encourage us to keep ourselves and homes clean 

  • Good manners stop us from biting into food already eaten


Manners really do maketh man – it could be that they are one of the keys to being human.

Scientists have suggested that good manners not only distinguish us from the rest of the animal kingdom, they help keep humans free of disease and underpin the co-operation that helps the world go round.
 

Dr Val Curtis, an expert on disease control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: ‘Manners should be up there with fire and language as a prime candidate for what makes us human.’
 
Dr Curtis warns of the dangers of handshakes which could transfer salmonella bacteria among other unwanted infections
‘Far from being an old-fashioned set of rules about which fork to use, manners are so important that they should be up there with fire and the invention of language as a prime candidate for what makes us human.'  
She argues that the first, and most ancient function of manners, is to allow bacteria and virus-ridden humans socialise without falling ill.  

Writing in New Scientist, she added: ‘Although I’d like to hang around in case you have information or goods to exchange, it might be more sensible if I ran way because, to me, you are a walking bag of microbes.  


'With every exhalation you might emit millions of influenza viruses and your handshake might transfer salmonella bacteria. ‘When we fail in these civilities, the disgust shown provokes shame and teaches us not to repeat the offence. ‘More intimate contact could give me hepatitis, syphilis or worse.  ‘You too, of course, make the same subconscious calculation. 


'So how can we get close enough to share the benefits but avoid sharing our microbes? This is the job of manners.' Good manners stop us from standing so close to someone that we spray them with saliva as we speak.  
They also encourage us to keep ourselves and our homes clean and stop us from sharing food we have already bitten into.

The consequences of bad manners don’t end with falling ill.  Dr. Curtis said: ‘If I fail in my manners, you may reject and ostracise me and refuse further collaboration, denying me access to the benefits of life as a member of an intensely social species. We play out a mannerly dance every day, getting close but not too close. 
Dr. Curtis also suggests good manners compel us to keep clean and tidy homes which will further reduce the risk of infection
‘Worse, you may gossip about my lapses in hygiene and tarnish my reputation, denying me access to the benefits of life as a member of an intensely social species.’ 

Dr Curtis, who covers the topic in her book, Don’t Look, Don’t Touch, says that manners also underpin our ability to co-operate with others, with polite people seen as team players.  


Her article concludes: ‘We play out a mannerly dance every day, getting close but not too close, offering tokens of goodwill but not giving away too much. ‘Yet we do the dance largely unaware of why we do it.
   ‘We have vague intuitions that it would be better not to disgust a guest by appearing unkempt or by offering them a dirty towel and we follow the rules of politeness that were drummed into us as children.' – 
By Fiona Macrae – Science Correspondent, Daily Mail Online

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J. Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia