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Woman's place, Part II

Posted by ESC on October 12, 2000

In Reply to: Woman's place in the home - origin? posted by Jan Bradley on October 11, 2000

: I'm trying to find out where this phrase came from. Anybody have any idea?

A WOMAN'S PLACE IS IN THE HOME - 1844 'J. Slick' High Life II. 121 A woman's place is her own house, a taking care of the children. 1897 'S. Grand' Beth Book xix. If we had.done as we were told, the woman's-sphere-is-home would have been as ugly and comfortless a place for us today as it used to be." "The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs" by John Simpson and Jennifer Speake (Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, Third Edition, 1998).

Those same citations are listed by "A Dictionary of American Proverbs" edited by Wolfgang Mieder & Others (Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 1992). However, it says "US 1844 Stephens, 'High Life in New York.'" So I'm assuming that "J. Slick" was a pen-name.

A third source has more detailed information about the origin of this saying concerning a woman's place: ".the notion of women staying at home was apparently quite old, though it was not quoted in written form with any frequency. The earliest version appeared in 'Seven Against Thebes' (467 B.C.) by the Greek dramatist Aeschylus, who wrote, 'Let women stay at home and hold their peace.' Perhaps the earliest English version was rendered in George Pettie's 'Civile Conversation' as 'A dishonest woman can not be kept in, and an honest ought not.' In 'Don Quixote' , the Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes penned the downright ghoulish 'The respectable woman should have a broken leg and keep at home,' and an English version rendered in the next century was no better. Thomas Fuller's 'Gnomologia: Adagies and Proverbs' gave this variant as 'A Woman is to be from her House three times: when she is Christened, Married and Buried.' By comparison, the nineteenth-century 'A woman's place is her own house, taking care of the children (1844, 'High Life' by J. Slick) seemed comparatively mild. Though it was probably in use earlier, the exact wording of the modern version appeared in R.A.J. Walling's 'The Corpse With the Dirty Face' . A few years later, Agatha Christie railed against the saying in 'The Moving Finger' , calling it a 'silly old-fashioned prejudice' and thereby heralding changed attitudes that came in the next decades." From "Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New" by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993).

And here's a recently coined variation: A woman's place is any damned place she wants to be. 1st cit: 2000 ESC, "Sayings of ESC."