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The old-fashioned grandmother has gone out of fashion (1900)

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Grandmother with two grandchildren - Photo: Estes children & grandmother (1890s)

Growing old gracefully

The days of caps and wrinkles are gone by, and we have pretty young women of seventy

By Helen Ward

Happily for us women, the old-fashioned grandmother has gone out of fashion. May she never be revived, say I.

Fifty years ago, a woman practically retired from the pleasures and active interests of life at about her fortieth birthday, and began to get ready to die. It made no difference how young her spirit may have been, nor how many years of her young life she had unselfishly devoted to the bearing and rearing of a brood of children.

At forty, she was unceremoniously turned over to a contemplation of the cemetery, where her place was long ago assigned her, and according to an inflexible custom, she disfigured her pretty head with an abomination in the way of muslin and lace called a cap, put on spectacles, took her seat in the back ground; and for twenty or thirty years (if she were not happy enough to wear out sooner) lived an existence which must have been martyrdom to some of our ancestors — an existence passed in black bombazine gowns made after an especially hideous design, and bounded by the church yard on the east, the chimney corner or “grandma’s own room” on the west, the kitchen or nursery on the north, when poor grandma was not a woman of wealth and the daughters’ or sons’ homes for an occasional glimpse of the sunny south.

Growing old gracefully meant accepting fate, and beginning to prepare for the resurrection day at the fortieth milestone.

Personally, I always feel vicious whenever I think of the grandmother of fifty years ago, who was an old woman at forty. I want even now to vent my opinion of the selfishness that forces them to be resigned to such a fate.

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Oh, I know what the casual man will say, should he happen to read this article, which wasn’t intended for men, anyhow.

I can hear him rail. “What,” he will say, “do away with the dear old grandmother, who used to bake us cakes and give us all her spending money to buy fishing tackle with! Grandma, who was always sitting at her window waiting to help us out of scrapes and ready to mend our clothes. Perish the idea of robbing us of our comfortable, good old grandmothers.”

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