The Way to Spoil Girls

In my research for Dr. Nettles’ Baptist History doctoral seminar, I was going through Baptist state newspapers when I found this article from the May 11, 1867 issue of The Baptist (Tennessee’s state paper).  It was titled “The Way to Spoil Girls”:

If any parent wishes a recipt how to spoil daughters, it can be easily and readily given, can be proved by the experience of hundreds to be certain and efficacious:

1. Be always telling her, from earliest childhood, what a beautiful creature she is. It is a capital way of inflating the vanity of a little girl, to be constantly exclaiming, “How pretty!” Children understand such flattery, even when in the nurse’s arms, and the evil is done the character in its earliest formation.

2. Begin, as soon as she can toddle around, to rig her up in fashionable clothes and rich dresses. Put a hoop upon her at once, with all the artificial adornments of flounces and feathers, and flowers and curls:  fondness for dress will thus become a prominent characteristic and will usurp the whole attention of the young immortal, and will be a long step towards spoiling her.

3. Let her visit so much that she finds no happiness at home, and therefore will not be apt to stay there and learn home duties. It is a capital thing for a spoiled daughter to seek all her happiness in visiting and change of place and associates. She will thus grow as useless as modern fashionable parents delight that their daughters should be.

4. Let her reading consist of novels of the nauseatingly sentimental kind. She will be spoiled sooner than if she perused history or science. Her heart will be occupied by fictitious scenes and feelings; her mind filled with unrealities, and her aims placed on fashion and dress, and romantic attachments.

5. Be careful that her education gives her a smattering of all the accomplishments, without the slightest knowledge of the things really useful in life. Your daughter won’t be spoiled so long as she has a real desire to be useful in the world, and aims at its accomplishment. If her mind and time are occupied in modern accomplishments, there will be no thought of the necessity and virtue of being of some real use to somebody pervading her heart, and she will soon be ready as a spoiled daughter.

6. As a consequence, keep her in profound ignorance of all the useful arts of housekeeping, impressing upon her mind that it is vulgar to anything for yourself, or to learn how anything is done in the house. A spoiled daughter never should be taught the mysteries of the kitchen—such things a lady always leaves to the servants. It would be “vulgar” for her to know how to dress trout or shad, to bake, to wash, to iron, to sweep, or wring the neck of a live chicken, pluck it and prepare it for breakfast, or to do anything that servants are hired to do. As a mistress of a house it is her duty to sit on a velvet sofa all day, in the midst of a pyramid of silks and flounces, reading the last flash novel, while her domestics are performing the labors of the house.

To complete the happiness of your spoiled daughter, marry her to a bearded youth with soft hands, who knows as little how to earn money as she does to save it. Her happiness will be finished for her lifetime.


  1. I loved going to the conference!!!!!!!!
    God is great.
    So exciting!!!!!!!!
    Except you weren’t there.
    That was rather sad.
    I am hoping to be back in Louisville in June.
    I will have to work my way into that however.
    By the way, Interesting post.

  2. It really is so interesting how there is “nothing new under the sun.” Thanks for sharing this. I have passed it on to my monthly email recipients. A wonderful companion to these thoughts is “Stepping Heavenward” by Elisabeth Prentiss. It was written during this time period, and addresses the follies mentioned above in a very effective way. Excellent reading for young ladies.

  3. This article criticizes extremes. Perhaps we shouldn’t tell our daughters that they are beautiful every five minutes, but if one never told his or her daughter that she is pretty, she is going to grow up searching for the answer for which her very nature begs. Am I pretty? For what is the essence of a woman? Which of God’s characteristics does she naturally reflect? Men reflect the image of God best in their strength to come through, to be faithful to those they love. What is it that drives and inspires men to protect, cherish, pursue, and delight in women? Beauty. Beauty inspires. Not just outer beauty, of course, but God created all woman with both a deep desire and the capacity to be beautiful. Let’s not feel that we holy when we go around plucking all the petals off of the spring flowers.
    Be moderate in the richness of dress she wears. Be moderate in how much she visits others. And for goodness sake, restricting romance novels is not going to keep her from dreaming about falling in love or delighting her future husband with her beauty. Read Debi Pearl’s “Created to be His Helpmeet”—It’s a book for conservative woman who arn’t only interested in being seen as “lowly” but who want to fulfill God’s will for them as wives–helpmeets–and mothers.

  4. Interesting post Steve. I’m glad guys like you dig these things up for guys like me! I am curious, what do you think is meant by #5? What do you think is meant by “modern accomplishments”?

  5. Hey Brian,

    I’m not sure what is meant by #5. I read it as referring to a “Liberal Arts” education, as opposed to skills needed for home-making.


    By the way, I’m not necessarily advocating all that is in this article by posting it. I thought it was interesting. There are some things which are a needed corrective, but I think Aubrey’s points are helpful in providing some balance.

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