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When men and women did meet, they obviously enjoyed each other’s company. After dinner we assemble in the hall where the sweet Judah favored us with a good deal of her incomparable music.” (Peter S. ] Carr, July 28, 1787.) Young white men began courting in their late teens.“After an agreeable ride we at length reached the house about two o’clock, just about the time when Miss J’s beauty was in its meridian splendor. The average man in Virginia married in his mid-twenties. Perhaps it’s all a self-fulfilling prophecy, just playing out my role as Jocelyn said, repeating the same pattern over and over again.
Marriage was the next logical step in life as they sought marriage partners who could support their economic efforts while running their households and raising their children.
Young white women approached courtship and marriage differently.
Couples made many preparations for their wedding day. Women’s dowries consisted of linens and household goods they had accumulated and any money or property their fathers could afford to give to the couple.
The groom’s father also was expected to contribute something.
Benjamin and Annabelle raised their daughter to be a good housewife and respected member of society; to fulfill her destiny, Hannah did her best to find the most eligible young man to marry. Although William Drew and Hannah Powell were of different social stations (he of the gentry class and she of the upper-middling sort), they still met often at church, balls, parties, public entertainments, and neighbors’ homes.
They were part of a small group of well-off, unmarried, young people living in the small city of Williamsburg.I know it’s not her style, but, selfishly, I wish her actions showed it as much as her words. She doesn’t deserve someone who is unsure about her. My whole life has been turned inside out from this crazy experiment. It’s been a while since I’ve let a woman in, and I do want to share my life with the right person. In mythology, once an adventure is over and the reward has been secured, the hero or heroine usually leaves the “special world” to go back to the world where he or she first began. It’s 3 AM and I’m listening to the most ridiculous Phil Collins song right now. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything, nor do I want to go back to my old habits. The final test for the hero is to realize what they’re bringing back to the old world, literally or metaphorically. Those who disliked their children’s choices might withhold permission or, if the children were of age, leave them out of a will. Young people rarely courted far from their social class, and respected parental opinions most of the time. W[illiam] C[olston] came here and Communicated his intention of waiting on my daughter Lucy.I told him I had long entertained such a Suspicion and really with Pleasure for his Virture and unexceptionable behaviour had long attached my good wishes to him.Courting gave women power; it was their decision whether to accept or reject a suitor. “You know I have never with all my faults betrayed one symptom of vanity, but now if you should discover a little spice of it can you Wonder—just at this moment are at my entire disposal two of the Very Smartest Beaux this country can boast of—what think you of G & B both at my feet at one. The choice of a husband was very important since, once made, only death could undo a marriage. It meant leaving childhood behind, taking on adult responsibilities, and forming a new family.There is much speculation going on as to the preference I shall give & tho I do not intend to practice one Coquettish air as you are pleased to call my little innocent gaieties yet for my own amusement do I intend to leave these speculating geniuss to their own conjectures for some time at least till I have made up my mind as to the time—for you must know I know I mean make one Surprize do for all by being married off hand—believe me it is impossible for me to think too long on the subject lest I should in truth be whimsical.” (Eliza Ambler to Mildred Smith, February 1785.)“It has ever been my wish to keep my Daughters single ‘till they were old enough to form a proper judgment of Mankind; well knowing that a Woman’s happiness depends entirely on the Husband she is united to; it is a step that requires more deliberation than girls generally take, or even Mothers seem to think necessary; the risk tho always great, is doubled when they marry very young; it is impossible for them to know each others disposition; for at sixteen and nineteen we think everybody perfect that we take a fancy to . With the rise of the affectionate family, arranged marriages became a thing of the past.And the parameters of this experiment didn’t allow me to see things very clearly.This was like boot camp, and we learned stuff about each other that one wouldn’t normally know for a long time.They have lived to tell their story, and to inform society. While I do feel heartbroken right now, I feel a tremendous amount of hope for my future. We did, however, agree that everything would be okay no matter where we go from here. I thought of that Bob Dylan song where he says, “I gave her my heart but she wanted my soul.” And I know that what I could offer right now would never be enough for someone like Jessie. I love her, yet I know there’s nothing else I can do.