To end Women’s History Month on a more pleasant note, I leafed through the digital pages of a short-lived Salem newspaper published for women by John Chapman from 1828 to 1831: the Ladies‘ Miscellany. I started with the question what did women want to read? but quickly determined that this was a query that I would not be able to answer, as most of the material in each edition seemed to be of a prescriptive nature: what women should read and do rather than what they might like to. There are long romantic/dramatic or edifying stories in every issue, along with poetry (a lot of odes to the seasons), little editorials about “women’s issues” culled from other American and English periodicals, and (the best part): events: strictly marriages and deaths, with the occasional ordination. No births, for some reason, although you would think this would be a popular topic. Reading the lines very randomly (which suits the nature of this publication: “miscellany” is an apt title), and reading between the lines, these are my main takeaways:
- It is possible to be the perfect wife.
- Mustard is an antidote for poison!
- Success in life (or marriage) generally consists of finding the right regimen–and sticking to it.
- Many young Salem men drowned by falling overboard ships in exotic places, or in Salem Harbor.
- It is possible to illustrate the concept of division of labor many different ways using domestic items and tasks.
- Corset mania was a major concern–but for whom? Certainly not for Mrs. Sally Bott, who was the Miscellany’s most consistent advertiser.
- It’s nice to see this notice of the Salem Female Charitable Society, which was founded in 1801, incorporated in 1804, and is still in existence today!