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On This Day in History: January 9

1914 Op-Ed  re: Pampered Ladies
 
As early as 1914 at least one newspaper columnist felt the days of “idle rich” females had become passe. He felt a girl should go out on her own and stop “trifling away her precious time” and get a life that doesn’t rely on “squandering the wealth of their fathers or husbands.”

Julius Chambers, who loved controversial topics, had the following to say in his Brooklyn Daily Eagle column “Walks and Talks” of Jan. 9, 1914: “The ranks of the ideal rich are thinning. When one finds an immensely wealthy woman like Mrs. Harry Payne Whitney, formerly Gertrude Vanderbilt, modeling a statue like that memorializing the Titanic disaster — a work accepted over many competitors and accorded a place in Potomac Park at Washington — it is time to recognize the revolution in progress in New York society.
 

“No more ‘monkey dinners.’ No more girl bachelor suppers that last until daylight! No longer will the merely rich girl of the future trifle away her precious time “There will be exceptions, naturally, but they will be known.

“Hereafter the pampered ‘golden girl’ must cease to exist!

* * *
 

“The woman who has nothing but money to recommend her must marry a social troglodyte — a chap content to live on her income and to spend his time in a cave of his own, restricted to not more than two clubs in Manhattan where such creatures are tolerated.

“My prediction is that typical young women of great wealth in this city will lead in the movement for the elevation and enfranchisement of their sex! They have already comprehended the humiliations to which their mothers and grandmothers calmly submitted, so long as they could filch support from men.
 

“This is an era in which ‘grafters’ of all sorts are being exposed! At last, young women who have been resorting to every manner of trick and device to wheedle money from their fathers, brothers and husbands will see the reaction of their offenses upon their own sex! Not until they do comprehend the undignified character of their conduct is there hope for their regeneration.

“A few women like Helen Gould, Anne Morgan, Inez Milholland, Gertrude Vanderbilt and others are splendid exemplars of the new woman.

“The ‘idle rich’ women are disappearing from ‘society’ and are struggling for self improvement. They are found at lectures like those given by Miss Richards, a former newspaper woman of Washington, listening with intent faces to reviews of the current news. There are classes twice in every week, at two of the most fashionable hotels, where from 400 to 600 women of the best society are receiving instruction in the making of history. These ladies are becoming informed in politics; they are learning the provisions of the Constitution — a document about which many of them knew nothing. They are following the development of Egypt, under British administration; they have been studying the war in the Balkans and trying to comprehend the meaning of the downfall of decadent Turkey and the renaissance of glorious Greece. They are seen daily in the lecture rooms of Columbia, the University of New York and Adelphi, applying their minds to science, philosophy and law.

“A mere smattering of French no longer satisfies the sensible young woman, rich or poor; a knowledge of English is demanded. Poverty has ceased to be a bar to the acquirement of a complete education: the fact that many a working girl has raised herself into the intellectual class has dignified labor by gaining a large income. Such examples have had their effect upon previously pampered, idle rich girls.

“Women of the latter class must now be capable of doing something besides squandering the wealth of their fathers or husbands.

“They actually realize that great truth.

* * *

“The hour has already struck in which it is no longer respectable — outside of England or France — for a man to be supported by his wife. The British pre-nuptial settlement has belittled the race of Englishmen.”

 

January 9, 2012 - 3:01pm


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