Cease Texting

Written by Guest Blogger Ann Parker

Congratulations to contest winner Jacqueline Seewald.

Today, I welcome Ann Parker, the author of one of my favorite series. Ann is a California-based science/corporate writer by day and an historical mystery writer by night. The latest installment in her award-winning Silver Rush series, Mercury’s Rise, will be released November 1.


If you thought on-line dating was difficult, find out what single women had to put up with a mere 150 years ago.




Ladies and Gentlemen: A Pause, If You Please, in Your Texting


Author Ann ParkerNowadays, so much in the dating and courtship arena seems to take place in the electronic world. Dating websites, cell phones, texting, IMing, Facebooking – but go back to 1880, and it’s a different world as far as etiquette and dating.


A VERY different world.


My Silver Rush historical mysteries are set in the 1880s silver mining boomtown of Leadville, Colorado. And even in there, a time and place of great social flux (today’s down-and-out miner could be tomorrow’s millionaire), there were rules to govern the interactions of the sexes in polite society.


Whenever I need to determine what the etiquette of the day allowed, I turn to my bookcase and a lovely leather-bound volume titled Our Deportment or the Manners, Conduct and Dress of the Most Refined Society (by John H. Young, A.M., copyright 1880) for advice.


J.H.Y. never lets me down.


For instance, he has this to say about the introduction of a gentleman to a lady:

A gentleman should not be introduced to a lady, unless her permission has been previously obtained … When a gentleman is introduced to a lady, both bow slightly, and the gentleman opens conversation.


And, for those who are wondering, the proper form of introduction is to present the gentleman to the lady first. As the introducer, one bows first to the lady and says,

Miss C., allow me to introduce to you Mr. D. Mr. D., Miss C.

Mr. D. then should bow and say,

It gives me great pleasure to form your acquaintance, Miss C.

or some such.


A future caution notes,

An unmarried lady should not shake hands with gentlemen indiscriminately.




As for introductions at a ball (and yes, there were balls, soirees, receptions, five-o’clock teas, and all the rest in Leadville), there were also very strict rules:

Gentlemen who are introduced to ladies at a ball, solely for the purpose of dancing, wait to be recognized before speaking with ladies upon meeting afterwards, but they are at liberty to recall themselves by lifting their hats in passing.



a gentleman cannot, after being introduced to a young lady, ask her for more than two dances during the same evening.


Obviously, this is no mosh pit we’re talking about.


On forming street acquaintances, the author is even more emphatic:

A lady never forms an acquaintance upon the street, or seeks to attract the attention or admiration of person of the other sex. To do so would render false her claims to ladyhood, if it did not make her liable to far graver charges.


I think J.H.Y. would have heart failure if he had the opportunity to hang out at the local mall on weekends and observe today’s courting rituals… If nothing else, though, it makes for entertaining people-watching!


As for “popping the question,” the overeager gentleman of yore was warned that

It is very injudicious, not to say presumptuous, for a gentleman to make a proposal to a young lady on too brief an acquaintance. A lady who would accept a gentleman at first sight can hardly possess the discretion needed to make a good wife.


Hmmm. No wonder my protagonist, Inez Stannert, has had some difficulties in the matrimonial side of her life. Mark Stannert walked into her life and two weeks later, they eloped. So much for discretion on the part of my sleuth!


Other advice regarding courtship and proposals in the U.S. versus the Continent and elsewhere:

It is impossible to lay down any rule as to the proper mode of courtship and proposal. In France it is the business of the parents to settle all preliminaries. In England the young man asks the consent of the parents to pay address to their daughter. In this country the matter is left almost entirely to the young people.


Ah yes, three cheers for those independent Americans!


Finally, a word of warning to parents, regarding undesirable suitors:

Parents, especially mothers, should also watch with a jealous care the tendencies of their daughters affections…. The objectionable traits of the undesirable suitor should be made apparent to [the daughter] without the act seeming to be intentional; and if all this fails, let change of scene and surroundings by travel or visiting accomplish the desired result. The latter course will generally do it, if matters have not been allowed to progress too far and the young girl is not informed why she is temporarily banished from home.


So, there you go, ladies and gentlemen. Life in the past lane, regarding dating and courting. You may now return to your iPhones and Droids, your Skyping and Tweeting. Just keep in mind the following timeless advice from over a century ago:

Never hesitate in acts of politeness for fear they will not be recognized or returned. One cannot be too polite so long as he conforms to rules, while it is easy to lack politeness by neglect of them.


Leave a comment on this post by midnight October 3 and you will be eligible to win one of Ann’s Silver Rush mysteries! Winner may choose from Silver Lies (first in the series), Iron Ties (second in the series) or Leaden Skies (third in the series).


Silver Lies by Ann Parker Iron Ties by Ann Parker Leaden Skies by Ann Parker


Learn more about Ann and her series at http://www.annparker.net.



  1. Staci on September 30, 2011 at 9:47 am

    What a fascinating look back at the rules of society! I’m sure back in that time, these rules were well understood and passed down from mothers to daughters automatically so that no reputations were tarnished. But reading those rules today, they seem so rigid and largely unnecessary, except for the idea that you can never be too polite. People today could benefit from that rule!

    • Ann Parker on September 30, 2011 at 11:15 am

      Hi Staci! It *is* interesting how much times have changed. And I suspect you’re right: mothers (and aunts and grandmothers and places like “finishing school”) made certain that young women knew the rules. One hopes that the young men were similarly tutored, in some fashion! 🙂

  2. Camille Minichino on September 30, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I’d be exhausted if I lived then! Just carrying that book around would tire me out, and I’d have to, ’cause I’d never remember the rules. I’d have gone down in history for proposing to the first cute guy.

  3. Ann Parker on September 30, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Hello Camille!
    Well now, it was probably no more difficult for a woman back then than memorizing, say, the periodic table would be now! 😉 Although, come to think on it, “memorization” was the key to learning back then: long passages of the Illiad, etc. etc. So perhaps it would have been easier if one were a “person of the times.” Nowadays, we don’t memorize… we turn to Google! 😉

  4. Lynn on September 30, 2011 at 11:28 am

    Wow this is great — everyone needs a manner book from the past to see how far we have veered from … normalcy?

    • Ann Parker on September 30, 2011 at 7:26 pm

      Or perhaps how far we’ve veered from simple (not to mention complex) courtesy… Yes, it’s my soapbox and I’m sticking to it! 😉

  5. Jacqueline Seewald on September 30, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Hi, Ann,

    You’ve obviously done excellent research for your historical mystery which is a real plus. I love Regency romance. So I decided to write my own version.
    Little did I realize how much effort into research would be required to do
    justice to an historical time period.


    Jacqueline Seewald
    TEA LEAVES AND TAROT CARDS–check it out at local libraries

  6. Phyllis on September 30, 2011 at 7:20 pm

    Those rules always amuse me. I don’t think you’d really have to memorize most of them if you lived back then, it was more or less the way you lived. Unless you were moving up through the social strata, in which case, yes, I’d totally need to the book. I’m bad at memorization, so I’d be screwed – er, uh – confused.

    • Ann Parker on September 30, 2011 at 7:29 pm

      Oh dear Phyllis… language! language! (Although my protagonist, Inez, although raised in a proper household has been known to let loose with an occasional profanity in Leadville… but a mining-town saloon is a different environment from the abode of a 19th century upscale NYC family!) 😉

  7. Arletta Dawdy on October 1, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Hi Ann,
    I love the manners book..what a real hoot. Are you applying all this to your teenagers? Har! In my ms BY GRACE, my character has to read the rules in her 1898 NYC ladies hotel and they come close to JHY’s..

    • Ann Parker on October 1, 2011 at 4:38 pm

      Hello Arletta!
      To my teenagers?? Well, I’ll tell you. I pounded in “please,” “thank you,” and “how do you do” as best as I could. Stress basic respect for others and “think before you speak” (a rule which can head off all kinds of etiquette grief, if followed). 🙂

    • Ann Parker on October 1, 2011 at 4:39 pm

      Oh! Also meant to say: I suspect the rules did not change much between 1880 and 1898. 🙂 BY GRACE sounds intriguing!

  8. Loretta on October 1, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    I love going back in time to see how our world has changed. That’s why I love your series so much. It is unbelievable how things have changed. Even if you only go back to our parents or grandparents lives. Thank you for sharing Inez and her life with us.

    • Ann Parker on October 2, 2011 at 12:12 pm

      Hello Loretta,
      Thank you so much! I’m glad you’re enjoying the series! True, life has changed so much in one generation, let alone two. Makes me wonder what it’ll be like two generations from now… Kind of a scary thought. Although, I suppose if our great-grandparents were immediately thrown into the present, it would be scary/mystifying to them as well. Everything in its own time, right? And how great it is we can travel back in time through fiction! 🙂

  9. Loretta on October 2, 2011 at 12:36 am

    I love going back in time with your series. It is unbelievable how things have changed even since our parents and grandparents time. Thank you so much for giving us Inez.

  10. Clyde Linsley on October 2, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Ann —
    Just read your blog entry re dating/courtship in the 1880s. However, a generation earlier, such conventions were quite different.

    Earlier in the century (at least in New England) young men and women went on dates, unchaperoned, and even shared a bed (remember the “bundling board?”) I’ve seen assertions that a third of all New England brides in the early 1800s were pregnant on their wedding days. And as for “proper introductions,” well, communities were so small that it was almost impossible to pretend someone did not exist until they were introducecd.

    I think the difference between your period and the previous one is Victoria. During her excruciatingly long reign, she had a major influence on public morals on both sides of the Atlantic. The United States was still a relatively young nation and inordinately concerned with being perceived as backward and uncivilized (whatever that meant).

    I’ve enjoyed the Leadville series — haven’t read no. 3 yet, I confess — but I suspect that the rules of engagement that Inez practiced were not universally followed elsewhere in town.


    Clyde Linsley
    Death of a Mill Girl (Author’s Guild Back in Print edition, 2009)
    Saving Louisa (Berkley, 2003)
    Die Like a Hero (Berkley, 2005)
    Death Spiral (Avalon, 2000)

    • Ann Parker on October 2, 2011 at 12:14 pm

      Hello Clyde!
      Love your insights into early 19th century dating! 😀 You’re right: I think Victoria had a lot to do with the “tightening up” of the rules of, erm, “engagement” between the sexes.

  11. Carol-Lynn Rössel on October 2, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Fascinating to see how mores have changed. Of course, they’ve changed dramatically just in my lifetime.

    • Ann Parker on October 2, 2011 at 12:21 pm

      Hi Carol-Lynn,
      True, true, it’s interesting to chart the changes. I “came of age” during the so-called “Second Wave” of the feminist movement in the 1960s/1970s, and wow, what an upheaval that was. But cultural dynamics don’t hold still (I guess that’s why they are “dynamic”), and I’ve no doubt that changes will continue… Wonder what it will be like for my daughter, when she’s my age, and my daughter’s daughter (should she have one … no assumptions here!).
      Thanks for dropping in and commenting!

  12. Sandra on October 2, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    The bit about the man being presented to the woman first rang a bell; somewhere in my early years I think I was actually taught things like that. The thing is, I can’t for the life of me remember where! I don’t think it was at home, but it seems a bit of an odd thing to be taught at school.

    • Ann Parker on October 2, 2011 at 4:26 pm

      Hello Sandra!
      You know, I think I was taught that as well… I’m thinking it might have been in “dance class” in 7th grade, when we received instruction on how to interact with (gasp!) boys and dance such things as the foxtrot and the swim (now THERE’S a strange pairing!). I think the boys were coached on how to introduce themselves etc. Of course, all the girls lined up along one side of the wall and waited while the boys were forced to march forward and “pick a partner.” Ugh. I’m glad those days are over!

  13. Penny Tuttle on October 2, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    I really enjoy historical mysteries – and often the heroines are considered mavericks who do not want to live within the restrictions that “polite society” imposes on them. I suppose if we had grown up in those times, we would have considered them “the way things are”. As virginia slims ads use to say “we’ve come a long ways”. Love your books!!

  14. Ann Parker on October 2, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Hello Penny!
    Thank you! And I do remember those Virginia Slims ads. Weren’t they even on TV before cigarette advertising on TV was banned?
    It’s true that historical mysteries often feature women who are mavericks and a bit “outside” the norm… but aren’t the men often portrayed that way as well? Maybe it’s one of the conditions of being an amateur sleuth! 🙂

  15. Beth Anderson on October 2, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    All three of your books sound wonderful, and I’ll be looking them all up. Love the ‘manners’ of their day. SO formal! How things have changed…

  16. Ann Parker on October 2, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Hi Beth!
    The books are readily available online (in tradepaper and eBook flavors), and the most recent (Leaden Skies) is in audio as well.
    Hope you find them a fun read! 🙂

  17. Helen Kiker on October 2, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Your mining series will be a new setting and time period for me.

    The manners in those days are so different from the current ones. Women were probably not expected to ever go to a mining town.

    • Ann Parker on October 2, 2011 at 10:14 pm

      Hello Helen!
      Well, there were women, and then there were women, if you get my drift. Some miners brought their families to the diggings early on. For instance, Horace Tabor, who made his millions in Leadville (and lost them just about as easily… but that’s another story) came early to Oro City (which was the precursor to Leadville). He and his wife, Augusta, ran a store/postoffice combination. They had a young son, as well. Augusta led quite a life. There are a couple of books about her, if you’re interested in non-fictional accounts. The 1880 census counted about 4000+ women, in a variety of occupations, from artist to teacher to prostitute (yes, they had a listing for such) to saloon keeper to Sister of Charity and more! The census has a wealth of information, and sets me to musing every time I go through it. In any case, as a saloon-owner, Inez would have definitely been a “woman in a man’s world.” There were something like 300 saloons in Leadville; the census shows three were run by women.

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