Bachelors shed stigma — not so, ‘old maids’

“Early in the 19th century there had been talk in North Carolina of penalizing unmarried men by imposing special taxes on them. Like spinsters, they were not fulfilling the universal obligation to procreate.

“But by the Jacksonian era there was nothing scandalous or wholly pathetic about the aging bachelor as such. At least he could afford condescension about women in the same position as he. T. W. Peyre, a Carolinian bachelor, remarked about a landlady’s daughter who was ‘a maid…. approximating the antique, but of what degree I know not, whether a voluntary old maid, or an involuntary, or an old mad by accident, an explicable old maid or a literary old maid.’ ”

– From “Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South” by Bertram Wyatt-Brown (2007)


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