I Regressed to 1775 and Found my Inner Femme Sole

29 Oct

This weekend, I went to Colonial Williamsburg to learn accurate facts about this nation’s history, naturally. Most of the things went in one ear and out the other. Most, but not all.

As it turns out, the rules in those times stated that a single woman had the same rights as a man while she was single (fun fact: voting back in those times was not a right, it was a civil duty that if a man failed to fulfill ended in a fine). I am sure that it was not as clear in practice as it was in theory, but at least it was acknowledge that women had the right to own property, a right to her own earnings, and many more. Here’s the kicker: two individuals became one as far as law was concerned in the 18th century, as in a woman lost all her rights to her husband.

The following events take place in R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse. A strapping lad (who was definitely older than the average life expectancy of 1762) led us on a tour of this tres classy establishment. In one of the rooms, he pointed to a map and asked if any of the gentlemen were interested in “land speculation”, and I decided to respond with a confident “of course”. Now, this man had to stay in character, so he said that in his times it was very possible for a woman who has been single for a long, long, long time (his emphasis, not mine) also known as a “Femme Sole” to be interested in land speculation. I obviously accepted this title proudly (and perhaps a just a tiny bit bitterly).

From there, we were lead to a dining room where we were able to sample Mr. Charlton’s coffee and hot cocoa. An older black woman told us her story of living in 1762 Williamsburg as free woman, while we sipped on very rich, dense, delicious hot chocolate. One thing led to another, and somehow I told her that I would not like to be married, given that I like my rights. She was not happy with my response.

“You can’t think like that honey. A beautiful girl like you, you would make such a great ornament to your husband”

“I can be a great ornament to myself”

“Oh well honey, that is selfish!”

“Exactly”

“You are shameless”

The look of horror on her face was priceless. She asked me what my dad would think, I  told her that he doesn’t live in Williamsburg, and then she proceeded with her story. As we began getting up to exit the Coffeehouse, this woman pulled me aside, grabbed my face with her hands, looked me in the eyes and repeated her advice “You can’t think like that honey, seriously. You should find a man and get married”.

I obviously am in a position that is NOTHING AT ALL like her character. However, I don’t want to get married. Which led to the following thoughts:

1. When the institution of marriage was established, life expectancy was less than half of what it is today. In other words, when you said “forever” back then, you probably just meant 7 to 12 years.

2. Today, we live for about 80 years.If a marriage lasted the average length of a marriage in Colonial times, our divorce rate would be MUCH smaller.

So…

3. What if a marriage was only good for 10 years (or another limited time period, the 10 is not scientifici)?

4. After those 10 years, you would have to get re-married which would force individuals to stop and think about the status of their relationships.

I don’t think this would necessarily mean more people would choose to not remarry, but don’t you think that it would allow couples to think about what’s working, what isn’t, and what needs work? It would force people to COMMUNICATE!!

This might be a radical suggestion. But as it was pointed out to me, a Femme Sole was a radical kind of woman. And I am here to shake things up.

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