Propriety of deportment is a happy union of moral and the graceful; it should be considered in two points of view, and ought therefore to direct us in our important duties as well as our trifling enjoyments. When we regard it only under this aspect, some contend that mere intercourse with the world gives a habit and taste for those modest and obliging observances which constitute true politeness; but this is an error. Propriety of deportment is a valuable results of a knowledge of one’s self, and of respect for the rights of others, it is a feeling of sacrifices which are imposed on self-esteem by our social relations; it is, in short, a sacred requirement of harmony and affection. But the usage of the world is merely the gloss, of rather imitation of propriety, since instead of being like that, based upon sincerity, modesty and courtesy, it consist, in not being constant in an thing, and in amusing itself by playing off its feeling and ridicule, against the defects and excellence of others, provided it is done with grace and never carried so far as to wound the self-esteem of any one.
Mary and I have had a 35 year friendship and passion for the American Civil War. We have traveled coast to coast visiting museums, old grave yards, historical homes, and have read what ever we could find on the life of women’s decorum before and during the war. The hardships, I believe, can never be surpassed; but I also believe that the war was more than “blood and mud”. No matter the station, rich or poor, North or South, women practiced and taught the rules of politeness, style and grace, which is more beautiful than beauty itself. With this being said, Mary and I have decided to attempt to contribute to our organization portals of “Women of Means” inspired by actual family members, Rebecca Sue Elliott and Mary Elizabeth Elliott from Elliott County, Kentucky. We hope that in some small way, we can teach the public that even during the darkest times of our history, women insisted on practicing the art of being ladies. I hope to write future articles on the subject of what was expected of women’s decorum under the heading “in the Presence of a Lady” depicting the rules of society from street manners to dressing for the occasion.
Judy Bauer and Mary Felder