In an 1889 magazine, women were asked why they were spinsters. Their reactions are hilarious and badass.

Dr. Bob Nicholson, a historian who maintains the blog The Digital Victorianist, was examining an 1889 edition of Tit-Bits Magazine a few years ago when he came across an intriguing feature titled “The Spinsters’ Prize.” It was a competition that offered a prize to unmarried women who could provide the greatest explanation for why they hadn’t found a partner. One thing was plainly evident from the page-full of comments published on April 27, 1889: Victorian English women had a badass sense of humor.

“I’m a historian who specializes in the history of Victorian pop culture,” Nicholson explained to Bored Panda. “I was looking through old issues of Tit-Bits magazine for nineteenth-century jokes when I came across the ‘Why Am I a Spinster?’ competition by chance.” I enjoy discovering evidence that questions our ideas about nineteenth-century living. Some people think of Victorian women as prudish, reserved, and obedient to men, but many of the’spinsters’ who competed were anything but. They were smart, irreverent, and self-assured. That was something I believed was worth sharing.

“Dr. Nicholson revealed his findings in a Twitter thread that quickly went viral because 21st-century women could connect on a deeply intimate level with their Victorian-era sisters. “I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call the article progressive, but it does a good job of subverting the jokes that were usually told at women’s expense,” the historian continued, explaining that’spinster’ jokes of the time typically portrayed unmarried women as either desperate to find a man or spiteful that they’d been left on the shelf.

“The Tit-Bits article contains hints of these misogynistic stereotypes, but they also give a voice to women who comically assert their happiness at being single and use the opportunity to mock men.” This was not unheard of in Victorian humour, but it does run counter to the grain.””Tit-Bits ran their competition at a time when the so-called ‘woman question’ was becoming increasingly debated in Victorian society,” stated Dr. Nicholson.

“Many women began to demand more rights and opportunities, including the right to be defined by more than their marriage.” I believe the replies Tit-Bits received, as well as the fact that they were printed, indicate these shifting attitudes.”

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