Posted by Cassia on October 17, 1997 at 15:18:55:
In response to Coming Out, written by Lynne on October 10, 1997 at 13:46:06
] ] ] I wonder how much the custom of "coming out" correlated to a young girl's first menstrual period? I think it may have, due to the fact that girls of the Regency Era probably did not begin having their periods until about age 15-16.
] ] I've always thought it was a combination of factors that determined when a girl would come out. Part of it is, certainly, physical maturation, since being out is essentially being on the market. However, I believe the parents had some say in when their daughters were ready to market -- and, as Lady Catherine said, most younger daughters were on hold until their older sisters had been given a fair shot. I believe in later years it became more structured, that young ladies were presented at a certain age during their "season" or "year." Julia Flyte in Brideshead Revisited comes to mind as an example.
] ] BTW, I am also reading The Body Project right now, and find it very interesting.
] They also interviewed the author of TBP on Fresh Air one day, and that, too was interesting.
] Yes, I think other factors were at play in coming out----if one was a late bloomer well into her seventeenth year, but her parents knew she was prime marriage material....I don't believe they would have held her back simply because her body had yet to produce a menstrual flow: especially if a man of great fortune happened to move into the neighborhood (shades of P&P) and was casting an attentive eye upon their daughter. Perhaps at the very beginning of this custom, it was the case that a girl needed to be mestruating to be considered ready for marriage...but that probably occurred in the more primitive times of the human race....
I'm reading Anotia Fraser's The Weaker Vessel now and it focuses on the 17C. One of the factors she mentions is class: if a girl's family is rich and well enough connected they may have her out as early as fourteen, despite her not being able to bear a child yet. Even the lower classes had a sort of coming out (being able to walk alone to church with a boy and going to dances, for example) but theirs was between 16-18 (they also saved for their dowry before coming out). But for the gentry there was a marked connection between menarche and coming out although social class would play a role as well. I guess doing it earlier could be looked upon as false advertising! ;-)
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