Textile Terms: Spinsters of the world, Unite!

Remember playing “Old Maid” as a kid? Who ever got stuck with the old maid card was the loser and received a lot of taunting. The proper term for old maid is spinster, which means a woman beyond the usual marriageable age who is still single.

But what does the “spin” in that word refer to? Since at least the 14th century, any person who did wool or flax spinning was called a spinster, gender, age, and status notwithstanding. As late as the first half of the 20th century, it was considered inappropriate for any woman to live alone. In many families, an unmarried female relative, be she cousin, aunt, or sister, would be taken in, and to “earn her keep”, was often assigned the task of spinning. So how did it become a rather demeaning term? Through common usage, it’s believed.

Some famous spinsters from history:

Jane Austen * * Louisa May Alcott * * Emily Bronte * *  Helen Keller * * Greta Garbo * * Florence Nightingale * * Queen Elizabeth I * * Diane Keaton * * Oprah Winfrey * * Condoleeza Rice

Hardly a boring, sexless bunch!

Add your favorite spinster!

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