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Taylor Brown Gilded Asheville Miniterm Upper Class Women of the Gilded Age
The Role of an Upper Class Woman The main role of a woman was to act as a hostess Receive calling cards and callers, as well as returning the calls Plan seating charts and menus Keep household running smoothly Plan parties and other events Make sure all of the servants of the house were properly cared for A woman was to act properly According to scholar Nan Johnson, in the Gilded Age quiet women were considered the “wine of life” ¹ A proper woman was to know when to speak and what to speak of, and most importantly, when not to speak Women were discouraged from having strong voices
An Elite Woman’s Dress A Victorian woman wore ² Drawers Camisole Shift Corset Petticoat Bustle Dress Gloves Stockings Shoes She might also carry/wear Parasol Fan Gaiters (shoe covers) Me in full Victorian dress
Proper Etiquette for Dining ³ Guests should be seated boy-girl at a table ⁴ You must not speak to anyone other than the people directly next to you You speak to the person on your right for one course, then for the next course, the person on your left, and so on All dishes should be passed to the left Topics that should be avoided Politics Religion “One’s own affairs” Anything that could cause controversy
Proper Etiquette for Dining, Continued ⁵ Modesty is stressed Do not laugh at your own jokes Do not mention influential acquaintances Do not speak of your “superior” education Control any desire to shine Avoid any scenes or quarrels Also Avoid Foreign languages Slang Interrupting others Whispering Volunteering information Intimate questions Lengthy anecdotes Gilded Asheville Miniterm students observing proper etiquette
Formal Dinners 6 Usually consisted of around 7 courses Each place setting had up to 15 different utensils (of which guests must know the purposes) Lady of the house planned / approved menu At the Biltmore, dinners included Truffles Sorbets Salads Cheese and biscuits Ice cream Fruit Club soda Coffee Grape brandy Sherry Proper etiquette must be observed Biltmore’s Banquet Hall
Women’s Pastimes at Biltmore ⁷ Dances Formal meals Parlor games Chess Cards Mah-jongg Swimming Bowling Croquet Picnics Drawing Playing music A Game of Croquet
A Day in the Life of a Woman at Biltmore ⁸ 8:30 Hot water brought upstairs for the pitcher and bowl in the bathroom 9:00 Morning tea served in the bedroom, servants assisted in getting dressed 10:00 Breakfast in the Winter Garden 11:00 Change into a walking outfit 11:30 A stroll though the gardens 12:30 Change into a Luncheon Outfit 1:00 Lunch in the Breakfast Room 2:00 Change into riding clothes 2:30 Horseback riding 4:30 Nap or rest in the bedroom 5:30 Dress for dinner 6:30 Aperitifs served in the Second Floor Living Hall 7:00 Dinner in the Banquet Hall 9:00 A string quartet plays in the Gallery 11:00 A stroll on the Library Terrace 11:30 Go to bed Biltmore Estate
Edith Vanderbilt Married to George Washington Vanderbilt in June of 1898 Mother of Cornelia Vanderbilt Known for incredible grace and exceptional hostess skills Bought Christmas presents every year for all the children of Biltmore, even those of servants Arranged for much of the Biltmore Estate’s land to be sold in order to keep the household running after her husband’s sudden death in 1914 Edith and Cornelia Vanderbilt
Groundbreaking Women of Gilded Age Asheville 9 Julia Wolfe Mother of writer Thomas Wolfe Owned boarding house Shrewd businesswoman In a time where women could not get loans from banks, Julia Wolfe owned a house and ran a successful business Elizabeth Blackwell First female doctor in the United States Worked as a nanny for a doctor and read his medical books at night Was admitted to medical school because the students were given a vote, and they thought it was a joke She graduated first in her class and went on to open the first female-run hospital, along with the help of Florence Nightingale
Groundbreaking Women, Continued ¹º Lillian Exum Clement First female attorney in NC to practice without a man Elected to North Carolina House of Representatives by a margin of 10,368 to 41 Introduced 17 bills, 16 of which were passed Allowed women who had been abandoned to apply for divorce in 5 years instead of 10 Helped create private voting booths
Analysis During the Gilded Age, women were seen as possessions, designed to look pretty and keep a household running smoothly They were expected to follow proper rules of etiquette and manage a household Women had little influence in the world outside of the home Upper class women of the Gilded Age were expected to appear perfect at all times They wore corsets to manipulate their figures, and never spoke of their true beliefs or feelings, as it was considered poor manners This all suggests that a woman’s place was as the lady of the house, always with the interests of her guests or family in mind, rather than her own
Endnotes 1. Johnson, Nan. “Reigning in the Court of Silence: Women and Rhetorical Space in Postbellum America.” Philosophy and Rhetoric. Vol. 33, No. 3 of On Feminizing the Philosophy of Rhetoric. Pennsylvania: Penn State Press. 2000. 221-42. Print. 2. Whitfield, Lisa. Smith McDowell House, Asheville, NC. March 2, 2011. Oral presentation. 3. Elder, Dana. “A Rhetoric of Etiquette for the ‘True Man’ of the Gilded Age.” Rhetoric Review. Vol. 21, No. 2. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 2002. 150-69. Print. 4. Whitfield. 5. Elder. 6. “The Gilded Age at Biltmore Estate.” Asheville: The Biltmore Company. 1992. Print. 7. Gilded Age at Biltmore 8. Gilded Age at Biltmore 9. Williams, Brenda. HerStory Tour. Asheville, NC. March 2,2011. Oral Presentation. 10. Williams.