The Modern Old Maid
By Fanny Fern             1869

     She don't shuffle round in "skimpt" raiment, and awkward shoes, and cotton gloves, with horn side-combs fastening six hairs to her temples; nor has she a sharp nose, and angular jaw, and hollow cheeks, and only two front teeth. She don't read "Law's Serious Call," or keep a cat or a snuff-box, or go to bed at dark, save on vestry-meeting nights, nor scowl at little children, or gather catnip, or apply a broomstick to astonished dogs.
     Not a bit of it. The modern "old maid" is round and jolly, an dhas her full complement of hair and teeth, and two dimples in her cheek, and has a laugh as musical as a bobolink's song. She wears pretty, nicely fitting dresses, too, and cunning little ornaments around her plump throat, and becoming bits of color in her hair, and at her breast, in the shape of little knots and bows; and her waist is shapely, and her hands have sparkling rings, and no knuckles; and her foot is cunning, and is prisoned in a bewildering boot; and she goes to concerts and parties and suppers and lectures and matinees, and she don't go alone either; and she lives in a nice hous, earned by herself, and gives jolly little teas in it. She don't care whether she is married or not, nor need she. She can afford to wait, as men often do, till they have "seen life," and when their bones are full of aches, and their blood tamed down to water, and they have done going out, and want somebody to swear at and to nurse them--then marry!
     Ah! the modern old maid has her eye-teeth cut. She takes care of herself, instead of her sister's nine children, through mumps, and measles, and croup, and chicken-pox, and lung fever and leprosy, and what not.
     She don't work that way for no wages and bare toleration, day and night. No, sir! If she has no money, she teaches, or she lectures, or she writes books or poems, or she is a book-keeper, or she sets types, or she does anything but hang onto the skirts of someone else's husband, and she feels well and independent in consequence, and holds up her head with the best, and asks no favors, and "Woman's Rights" has done it!
      That awful bugbear, "Woman's Rights!" which small souled men, and, I am sorry to say, narrow women too, burlesque and ridicule, and won't believe in, till the Juggernaut of Progress knocks them down and rides over them, because they will neither climb up on it, nor get out of the way.
     The fact is, the Modern Old Maid is as good as the Modern Young Maid, and a great deal better, to those who have outgrown bread and buter. She has sense as well as freshness, and coversation and repartee as well as dimples and curves.
     She carries a dainty parasol, and a natty little umbrella, and wears killing bonnets, and has live poets and sages and philosophers in her train, and knows how to use her eyes, and don't care if she never sees a cat, and couldn't tell a snuff-box from a patent reaper, and has a bank-book and dividends: yes, sir! and her name is Phoebe or Alice; and Woman's Rights has done it.

more articles by Fanny Fern