Five Reasons Women Had it Better in Regency Times

Ok, so they couldn’t vote, husbands and fathers had total control over their lives and the fashions occasionally cracked a rib or two, but there were some upsides to being a woman in the 18th Century. From all-night parties to wet nurses, Historical author Joanna Taylor explains.

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1. All nighters

With no licensing laws and plenty of private parties, revellers went on all night. Popular gatherings like masquerade balls served an extra dinner at midnight to keep the revellers dancing until dawn. And with wine glasses around 2/3rds smaller than our modern-day buckets, people got less drunk (or at least paced themselves) and had more staying power.

Party-goers even breakfasted on the remains of the dinner from the night before and headed out to the nearest tavern. Time to party like it’s 1799 …

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2. Credit in your husband’s name

Regency women had no rights whatsoever to their own money. But this turned in women’s favour when London shops began issuing huge store credit. Female shoppers could rack up a huge bill and put it in their husband’s name. If he couldn’t cover the store charges, she was exempt from any prosecution or responsibility. But he was liable to pay her bill. This was such a problem for one poor Regency husband that he even took a newspaper advertisement with his wife’s description asking shops not to serve her. Spend it up ladies!

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3. High maintenance desserts

Labour intensive cakes were the order of the day. As was elaborate sugar-work. Antoine Careme, celebrity Regency chef of the day constructed jaw-dropping constructions in sugar. These included a table length ‘extraordinaire’ model of a Grecian temple and a replica of the Brighton Pavilion.

In domestic kitchens recipes included seed cake (beaten for two hours) and steamed puddings boiled overnight in cloths. Marzipan sweets, cream pastries and all manner of other delicacies also made it onto the table. Hot chocolate was routinely served for breakfast. And plumpness was fashionable. For women with a sweet tooth, Regency was their time to shine.

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4. Tailor-made clothes

Size 10 waist with a size 12 bust? Don’t worry about it! Your dressmaker will take your preferred fabric and map it perfectly to your exact size. Favourite dress chafing after a few too many plum puddings? No problem! Have it let out for pennies. Ready-to-wear is decades away and as long as you secure the fabric of your choice you can be sure the dress will fit.  Better yet those flattering Regency waistlines hide a multitude of sins.

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5. Wet nurses

For Regency mummies, there was no agonising over whether breast is best. They simply handed their tots to an experienced wet nurse and she did the rest. Fashionable Parisians took this one step further and farmed their children out to country wet nurses until they were two. So no late night feeds, maternity bras or sterilising bottles for these ladies. They went back to the serious business of socialising within weeks of giving birth. Why let a baby get in the way of a good party?

Enjoyed reading this? Masquerade, Joanna Taylor’s Regency take on Pretty Woman, is out NOW!

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