Mail and Female: A Story About Women, the Post Office, and Church

[In honor of Women’s History Month I have a guest post at The Junia Project today. Here’s the opening:]

Angela Serratore’s 2012 article on 19th Century women and the rise of modern postal service sheds light on a world foreign to people who use modern electronic communications with ease and from the privacy of their own smartphone.

As she notes in Post Secrets, in the mid-1800s New York City established its first post office, causing public concern over the implications for women.

The sign above the small window reads: "Gentlemen not allowed at this window. For Ladies exclusively." (New York Public Library collection.)

The sign above the small window reads: “Gentlemen not allowed at this window. For Ladies exclusively.” (New York Public Library collection.)

For the first time, women who had formerly relied on parents, husbands, or even servants to retrieve their personal mail could now retrieve it themselves.

“Suddenly, wide swaths of women had access to two dangerous things—the mail and the post office. Anthony Trollope’s 1852 invention of the pillar-box had given British girls a chance to subvert the authority of their scandalized parents by mailing letters in secret, but their New York counterparts who visited the post office could both send and receive mail almost entirely unmonitored by those who might want to regulate their epistolary lives.”

Ladies’ Windows were common, with some offices even having separate entrances for women where they …

[Click here to read the rest on The Junia Project blog.]

 

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2 Responses to Mail and Female: A Story About Women, the Post Office, and Church

  1. Superb job of reporting, Tim! Wonderful how the world opened up for women by such a simple thing as sending and receiving mail.

    • Tim says:

      I give all the reporting credit to Angela Serratore, Chaplain!

      But I agree that something as simple as posting and receiving letters can do wonders for freeing people. It’s like when Hannah More and her crowd started teaching the working class children how to read and write in late 18th Century England: all of a sudden people could do more than eke out an existence. Literacy meant advancement, travel, even changing class level.

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