Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Brisk Charming Eyes...Carolina Girls of the 18th century

Portrait of an Unknown Lady of South Carolina, 1708-1709, by Henrietta Johnston

In 1709, British Surveyor General John Lawson, wrote an extensive description of the Carolinas which served as an enticement for men of England to brave the seas and help colonize the land. The title for this work certainly boasts one of the longest sub-titles this author has ever seen:

A New Voyage to Carolina; Containing the Exact Description and Natural History of That Country: Together with the Present State Thereof. And a Journal of a Thousand Miles, Travel'd Thro' Several Nations of Indians. Giving a Particular Account of Their Customs, Manners, &c

One of the most entertaining sections of his treatise is his description of the amazing virtues of the region's women. Not only were they "often very fair" and "very fruitful," they were, apparently, not afraid of heavy, outdoor labor and "very handy in Canoes!" Read on to see Lawson's own words regarding these remarkable women: 

"The Women are the most industrious Sex in that Place, and, by their good Houswifry,
A Girl Sewing, 1750, by Philip Mercier 
make a great deal of Cloath of their own Cotton, Wool and Flax; some of them keeping their Families (though large) very decently apparel’d, both with Linnens and Woollens, so that they have no occasion to run into the Merchant's Debt, or lay their Money out on Stores for Cloathing.

As for those Women, that do not expose themselves to the Weather, they are often very fair, and generally as well featurd, as you will see any where, and have very brisk charming Eyes, which sets them off to Advantage. They marry very young; some at Thirteen or Fourteen; and She that stays till Twenty is reckon’d a stale Maid; which is a very indifferent Character in that warm Country.

The Women are very fruitful; most Houses being full of Little Ones. They have very ­­easy Travail in their Child-bearing, in which they are so happy, as seldom to miscarry It has been observ’d that Women long marry’d, and without Children, in other Places, have remov’d to Carolina, and become joyful Mothers.
Louisa Balfour, 1751, by Phillip Mercier

Many of the Women are very handy in Canoes, and will manage them with great Dexterity and Skill, which they become accustomed to in this watry Country. They are ready to help their Husbands in any servile Work, as Planting, when the Season of the Weather requires Expedition; Pride seldom banishing good Houswifry. The Girls are not bred up to the Wheel, and Sewing only; but the Dairy and Affairs of the House they are very well acquainted withal; so that you shall see them, whilst very young, manage their Business with a great deal of Conduct and Alacrity."

Perhaps the Beach Boys should have been singing, "I wish they all could be Carolina girls!"

Have a good week, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...Y'all come back now!

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