Optional Courtesies? It Depends...
Among "optional" courtesies may be enumerated those which govern the conduct of persons on crowded public conveyances:
South of the Mason and Dixon line, no man would brave public opinion by remaining seated when a woman maintained a standing position, even were she the humblest of her sex. A foreigner would argue in such a case that he had paid for his seat, and that there could be no more reason for his rising in a street car than if he were occupying a seat at the opera or at a hotel table.
In New York, which is too cosmopolitan a city to be cited as an example, street car etiquette is decidedly variable, and whether or not it is necessary to vacate a seat in a lady's favor is a much mooted question. One thing is certain, and that is, that youth and beauty appeal to both and low, even the most boorish individual being willing to relinquish his rights in favor of a woman with a pair of bright eyes and a stylish figure.
The poor wage worker, in her faded cotton gown and with fingers showing evidences of toil, is rarely the recipient of such courtesy. The man in broadcloth, who has been seated in his luxurious office most of the day, keeps his seat without a qualm of conscience, and holds his paper before his face to obstruct the view of the appealing eyes and worn figure.
Women in public vehicles often exhibit a remarkable selfishness and a total disregard for the comfort of others. Many of them accept a seat to which they have no legal right with a saucy toss of the head and without recognizing the courtesy by as much as a bow or a "thank you." An audible expression of thanks is the least a lady should offer in exchange for the sacrifice of a place, and this should be tendered as freely to the threadbare clerk as to the dude in fine raiment. —Jenness-Miller Magazine, 1891
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