Little Encyclopedia for Ladies


Among the few things I brought with me when I emigrated to the United States half a century ago, was a collection of books I inherited from the brother of one of my grandmothers and I knew they had some value, if not in money, so in rarity. Four encyclopedia volumes immediately caught my eye, although time passed before I paid attention to them. They are small: 5.25 x 3.5 inches in size; 0.5 inches in thickness; and contain about 300 pages each. I was intrigued by the juxtaposition in the title terms of “Ladies” and “Encyclopedia” as both allude to importance—for the audience of high society ladies who carry certain privileges not granted to ordinary women and for an encyclopedia which suggests large volumes stuffed with knowledge and wisdom. The work is indeed meant to prepare high class, educated women for their future career as a supervising housewife of a large town apartment, a mansion or even a castle. These women will have to manage a team of servants in house and kitchen, and perhaps one or more gardeners. They will not have any modern household equipment to make life easier. They will be expected to know it all, although they stand no chance of entering the business world of men nor possessing any political prowess and standing and will serve a house bound world ruled under the auspices of a husband. My suspicion is confirmed when I discover and read the dedication in the first book: “To my niece Betty on her wedding day as a keepsake from P. Ritter—Vienna, August 21, 1860”.

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