Worcester Women's History Project

"Homely Girls"

Frank Leslie's Budget of Fun, January 1866

[Editorial Note: One of the recurrent themes in the woman's rights movement was opposition to what a later generation would call the "beauty trap," the indoctrinating of young women that they must devote all their energies to looking "pretty." Girls who were not pretty were objects of fun, as this piece from Frank Leslie's Budget of Fun exemplifies. Leslie's was the leading humor magazine of the day.]

The editor of the Cleveland Herald, having been tolerably profuse in his compliments to the pretty girls of Cleveland, has been requested to say a good thing in behalf of the homely ones, and he does it thus:
First--The homely girls of Cleveland are in a hopeless minority, but they mean well.
Second--They go to church every Sunday, and are fond of their meals. They had rather have their meals regularly than a new bonnet.
Third--They understand their business, and wear No. 16 gaiters[1].
Fourth--They are bright, intelligent, devoid of low jealousy, fond of music, dance at Garrett's Hall as though it was the chief aim of life, and always go in when it rains.
Fifth--They always thank the gentlemen for giving them seats in the street cars; never flirt with the boys, because it's out of their line, and keep out of the fire.
Sixth--They never have half a dozen young sprigs [i.e., lads] keeping company with them.
Seventh--They wash their own handkerchiefs, iron their own collars, and darn their own stockings.
Eight--They never wear waterfalls that weigh over one hundred and fifty pounds, and have neither "rats" nor other animals in their hair.[2]
Ninth--They don't call the young bloods and other trash "perfectly splendid."
Tenth--They never eat between meals.
Eleventh--They are all going to get married.
Twelfth--They will all marry well.
Thirteenth--Their children will be bright and shining lights in the world.
Fourteenth--They won't keep hired girls till their husbands can afford them.
Fifteenth--They sleep under mosquito bars when convenient.
Sixteenth--They can make coffee and nutcakes, and can do chamberwork.
Seventeenth--They are O.K.
Eighteenth--They are homely, but oh, Jerusalem!
Nineteenth--They know they are homely.
Twentieth--They perspire when the thermometer is at ninety-four in the shade, and wear gored waists.[3]
Twenty-first--Young gentlemen don't squeeze them by the hand, and they like peanuts.

NOTES
[1]A style of ankle-high shoe. The joke is that pretty girls were always seeking opportunities to show off their well-turned ankles. Homely girls "knew their business" and thus covered up their ankles.
[2]The "waterfall" was a popular hair style in which the woman gathered her hair, naturally long enough to reach her waist, in a "fall" at the neck. Some women used wigs to make the "waterfall" bigger. A "rat" was another way of padding a woman's own hair to make it appear more puffed out.
[3]A [shirt]waist was a kind of blouse with full shoulders and a tapered waist. A gored waist was one with a triangular insert.

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