Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Petticoat Affair

This scandal attached to the Andrew Jackson administration makes for interesting discussion today.  I think the modern reader, especially the modern feminist, would side at first with Peggy O'Neill, because she was more of a "bad girl" by their standards but not ours, who made her way in the world anyway.  But not so fast. All the other Washington Society Wives in the story wielded real power, didn't they? Important goverment figures got moved all over the world.  It was part of the growth of feminine power in America.  Though indirect, it certainly signified that those women "had a voice," in some cases more of a voice than their husbands who held the actual titles of power.  This was primarily an Anglospheric, especially American and Canadian phenomenon.  It was a step along the way to suffrage.

Peggy may have been talkative in mixed company, and more sexually obvious in a way that Grlz applaud now, but she ultimately didn't have much power or influence, and the foundation of her importance - beauty and relaxed sexual rules, was a more ancient mode of feminine power, open to a few women in every generation.  Great for stories, but not really moving the dial along for equality.

1 comment:

RichardJohnson said...

I remember my father singing but one line of a song: "That's Peggy O'Neill." I went to YouTube and found it: That's Peggy O'Neill.And yes, the tune my father used matched the song. It was a hit when my father was a child.