Monday, July 11, 2016

Washington Ladies' Etiquette Code

Known the country over as the most beautiful and influential woman there ever was in Washington, Kate Chase, occupied the most powerful position in Washington society that a woman could hold. She held sway in 19th Century Washington D.C., far beyond her gender at the time. 

Etiquette in Washington 


"The Ladies' Code"

The ladies' code is more complicated, and it is important to be understood. Ladies of the Diplomatic Corps receive first visits from official society, and duly return the same in good form. 

There is a friction between Senate ladies and Cabinet ladies regarding first calls, but the common law of custom exists, and should be gracefully, accepted. There was more excuse for sensitiveness during the present administration than has existed before. 

The Cabinet ladies were entirely new members of Washington society, excepting the honored and beloved wife of the Secretary of State, who was called to a higher court before social etiquette of the new administration was established, and naturally they felt the newness of their position, and, from a home point of view, regarded it etiquette for the older members of society to make the first call upon the new, hence a conflict, without an authorized umpire to decide a vexed question.

The ladies' visiting code admits of great latitude, and rules must be observed to avoid complications. The old rule of fixed days in every part of the city was best. Why any innovation from the old rule is regarded with favor, I am unable to say; but if carriage hire has produced this result, let it be canceled by "Jeffersonian simplicity," and ladies take time to enter and leave the house with formality due a hostess, and not pay visits as if life depended on the action. 

Many compromising episodes result through lack of "time" and method. Not long ago, a new member of official society with ambition to call where the largest number of carriages were seen, found herself at a funeral. — Brooklyn Magazine, April 1887

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