About dating and courtship
“In the early 1900s, vice commissions across the country sent police and undercover investigators to check out spots where people went to make dates,” Weigel writes.“As early as 1905, private investigators hired by a group of Progressive do-gooders in New York City were taking notes on what we can now recognize as the dating avant-garde.” She recalls the report of one such special agent, staked out at the Strand Hotel in Midtown, who noted that the women he was spying on did not seem like prostitutes, per se, but were concerning nonetheless.“As the years passed, the vice squad had to accept it,” she writes. They saw them as romantic.” While dating finally became acceptable, it wasn’t exactly liberating for women.If the American Dream for men was to work hard and become a success, the equivalent for women was to get a good job and marry your rich boss.“A waitress or a shopgirl could be fired at any time simply because someone her boss found prettier showed up and asked for her position.” As dating rituals changed, moral authorities panicked at every turn.
“The cosmetics industry exploded in the 1920s,” Weigel writes.As with concepts like the “teenager” and “middle-class,” dating is an historically recent invention, spurred by an influx of women into the big cities seeking work around the turn of the 20th Century.The word “date” was coined — inadvertently, it seems — by George Ade, a columnist for the Chicago Record, in 1896.“Have you noticed a gentleman wearing spats stopping at Miss Holahan’s counter every day, leaving a spray of lily of the valley? In an odd way, this consumerism marked a form of progress.“In an earlier era, a girl from humble origins could not hope to look like the wife or daughter of a millionaire,” Weigel writes.