Mrs. General Bidwell Writes An Interesting Letter on the Subject to the Chronicle-Record
Having lived from childhood to marriage under this system, the impulse irresistible to present is from the standpoint of the circle in which it prevailed in Washington, our nation's capital. Doubtless the diplomatic element had something to do with its existence there, but it was never suggested as a system of “espionage.” On the contrary it was supposed to be of equal advantage to gentlemen as to ladies. The style of entertaining has much to do with its existence.
In Washington parties were made up of all ages, from the debutante to the grent-grandparents, if they had hearts to enjoy them. Thus daughters had their parents, or relatives as escorts, leaving them free to accept attention from all gentlemen, and gentleman equally free from bondage to any one lady. The young lady’s self-respect was never sacrificed by feeling herself a burden to an escort, if not sufficiently popular to have him relieved of her presence from tune to time. Young men from other cities have complained to me of the expensive hackhire, bouquets and suppers after theatre, which they have been compelled to furnish or lose social caste. The newspapers were ever inveighing against “the greediness and expensiveness of the ice-cream girl.”
Ashamed and indignant have I been at the criticism of young ladies from elsewhere, of the young gentlemen who failed to furnish these “perquisites,” to have done which would have been impossible unless dishonestly done. As school-girls, our brothers were our escorts, or one of our parents or relatives of mine would have felt keenly the slight had I accepted any other. Among school-girls there are those from different circles, and such would meet at parties and adhere to the etiquette of their own circle. But these differences could not be carried into general society without injury to the standing of the innovator.
When invited to a strictly young people’s party—adults, one of the parents or a relative—was expected to escort the young lady "in justice to the hostess,” and to assist in introducing her. There was no suggestion of want of confidence in one's virtue. Still, no fond mother could feel that it was proper for the daughter to be taken to a party, and not from it, often in the morning hours, by any gentleman who would propose such a thing, especially when knowing how many are not fit to escort anyone at such hours, after such an evening. I know whereof I speak, from observation, and the confidence of those who have experienced the unpleasantness of such exposure.
A chaperone can be provided in such a manner, and of such a character, as to do more harm than good, but properly provided, is, in my opinion, a blessing to gentleman and lady. –Annie K. Bidwell, 1894
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