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Spinsterhood: Circumstance or Choice? by A.S. Fenichel

Historically, life could be very hard for an unmarried woman. The term “spinster” referred to an unmarried woman older than what was perceived as the prime age range during which women should marry. In Regency or Georgian England, that age was between twenty-four and perhaps twenty-nine. In Jane Austen’s Persuasion, Ann is twenty-seven but already off the market, while her sister Elizabeth is still considered marriageable at twenty-nine. Of course, this decision was made by Ann herself after being convinced to decline her only marriage proposal. Millions of millennial women just rolled their eyes, but imagine a world where you were not allowed to earn a living without being shunned.

The word spinster was originally a term for women whose occupation was to spin wool. It evolved into the notion of a woman of good birth who works rather than marries. An unmarriageable woman might end very badly if not for the kindness of family members. She might become a nanny or perhaps nurse a sick relative to secure a place to live.

Today, the notion of spinsterhood is rather archaic.  We don’t think anything of a woman staying single or waiting until her thirties to marry, but marrying was serious business for the women two hundred plus years ago. Austen points this out by beginning Pride and Prejudice with, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”  I think she was being a bit tongue and cheek, but it still furthers their nineteenth century need to marry and marry well.

Jane Austen visits this idea of women choosing spinsterhood again and again in her novels. In Pride and Prejudice, Lizzy says, “I am determined that only the deepest love will induce me into matrimony. So, I shall end an old maid, and teach your ten children to embroider cushions and play their instruments very ill.”

My nod to Ms. Austen is The Everton Domestic Society series, where women of gentle birth with either no means or desire to marry can find honorable employment and safety from the cruelty of the Regency world. In A Lady’s Escape, Millie longs to get away from a life where her sweet but distracted uncle constantly blows things up with his scientific pursuits. Millie has pushed seven possible suitors aside by matchmaking them with her friends. Thus, it’s a perfect transition for her to become a matchmaker for The Everton Domestic Society and find a wife for the duke of Middleton. I’d like to believe Ms. Austen would approve.


The perfect match may be closer than they imagine…

Despite her disastrous London debut, Millicent Edgebrook has proven skilled at securing matches—for every young lady but herself. Resigned to spinsterhood, and eager to gain independence from her lovable but eccentric uncle, Millie joins the Everton Domestic Society. Her first assignment: find a bride for Preston Knowles, Duke of Middleton. How difficult can it be to secure a match for a handsome, eligible aristocrat? As difficult, it seems, as resisting her own attraction to the duke…

Preston has promised himself not to be ruined by love. After being rebuffed by two perfectly respectable candidates, he’d rather remain happily single for the rest of his life…if only his mother would let him. Yet suddenly, he’s fantasizing about the lovely matchmaker she’s hired—the least suitable bride imaginable. Millie’s past is shrouded in scandal, and the Everton Society forbids relations between employees and clients. But even with so many obstacles against them, Preston longs to convince the woman he adores that love trumps rules every time…


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