Search icon


06th May 2019

The inspired responses of Victorian women when asked why they were spinsters


“Because men, like three-cornered tarts are deceitful…”

If someone asked you why you were a spinster, what would your response be?

“I’m not”? “Rude”? “It’s none of your business but the idea of companionship revolts me and I’d rather die alone than have to devote my life to another person”?

Whatever your response, it absolutely isn’t as absolutely bangin’ as the answers the women of 1889 gave to the same question.

After all, why would they be? Having spinster-related tendencies was even more overtly rejected as being acceptable back then.

Irrespective of this, Victorian women didn’t seem to bothered and were, in fact, proud that they were independent women who didn’t need no man.

Shared on Twitter by historian of Victorian pop culture, Dr Bob Nicholson, the answers came from a section of 1889 magazine, Tit-Bits, who were offering prizes to single women who came up with the best answer for the question: “Why Am I A Spinster?”

And my oh my if they didn’t disappoint.

“Because men, like three-cornered tarts, are deceitful,” wrote one woman. “They are very pleasing to the eye but on closer acquaintanceship prove hollow and stale, consisting chiefly of puff with a minimum of sweetness, and an unconquerable propensity to disagree with one.”

“Because matrimony is like an electric battery,” said another, “when you once join hands, you can’t let go however much it hurts; as, when embarked on a toboggan slide, you must go to the bitter end, however much it bumps.”

“Because I am an English lady, and Americans monopolise the market,” said another, who was clearly having absolutely none of the yanks.

Excellent lines all round.

The women’s full names and addresses were published alongside their answers in the magazine, explained Dr Nicholson, to make it easier for the census to find them.

One of the women ended up marrying just one year after entering the competition, with her husband tragically dying six years later.


You can check out Dr Nicholson’s full Twitter thread here. It’s fairly fascinating.