In Chicago, single women were known as “women adrift.” These circumstances gave birth to dating rituals and other unfortunate traditions that still remain — or, at least, still cause confusion as mores change — today.
“In the eyes of the authorities,” Weigel writes, “women who let men buy them food and drinks or gifts and entrance tickets looked like whores, and making a date seemed the same as turning a trick.” After centuries of women’s fortunes being dictated by the men around them, the notion of women on their own gave much of society pause.
As with concepts like the “teenager” and “middle-class,” dating is an historically recent invention, spurred by an influx of women into the big cities seeking work around the turn of the 20th Century.
The word “date” was coined — inadvertently, it seems — by George Ade, a columnist for the Chicago Record, in 1896.
“At Bedford Reformatory, an institution founded to rehabilitate female delinquents in upstate New York, an Irish woman told her jailers again and again that she had ‘never taken money from men,’ ” Weigel writes.
“Instead, men took her ‘to Coney Island to dances and Picture Shows.’ ” In time, the authorities gave up, overtaken by reality.