March 20, 1749:
A few centuries ago, marriage was more than a than just arrangement for two people who love each other. It was a significant economic proposition. This was especially true for women, whose options for earning a living were severely limited. While men had the entire world open to them as far as opportunities for making a living were concerned, women’s options were limited mostly to marrying men.
In 1749, a group of single women who called themselves “The Petticoat Club” found themselves paying a severe economic penalty while they saw large numbers of “eligible” men who for some reason would not settle down and marry.
In a petition to the New York Gazette, the club proposed that those “old bachelors,” (many of whom were gay men) who were not carrying out their proper duties, should be severely taxed for their selfishness and that tax would go to support unmarried women.
To all married Men:
The Humble Petition of a Society of young Women known by the Name of The Petticoat Club, in Behalf of themselves and several Hundred of others, between the Age of Sixteen and Forty, in this City and Province.
That your Petitioners being all of the ancient and honourable Family of the Wife-wou’d-be’s, and being arrived to the Age of Maturity, are as we flatter ourselves, of as good Abilities both of Body and Mind as any the World does afford … ; yet, notwithstanding all our Accomplishments and utmost Endeavours we are frustrated of this our laudable Design, by the unsufferable Stupidity and Obstinacy of a Set of Men called Old Bachelors, who know and ought to do better, and who in Contempt of the laws both of God and Nature, and to the inexpressible Damage of this Province, do oblige us, contrary to our Desires and Inclinations, to remain useless, and ever burdensome Members thereof.
For our Relief in these our deplorable Circumstances, ’tis our earnest Desire, that you would so far commiserate our Condition, as to use your utmost Endeavors, that there be such Fine laid on all Offenders of this Nature, as may bear some Proportion of the Heinousness of their Crimes; and that all Bachelors above 26 Years of Age, may be obliged to pay a moderate Tax, which should yearly increase till they arrive at 40; that the said Fine may be applied to the Education of the Boys of this Province, that so they may have the Opportunity of learning more sense and better Manners, and wherein the true interest of their Country does consist. — And if any of the aforesaid Drones shall presume to continue in their Obstinacy till the Age of 40, then we pray, that there may be some publick Mark of Distinction, that they be known from other Men; and we think it not improper to oblige such stubborn offenders to wear one Side of their Beard at full length, to show their Age, and the other Half shaved bare, as a Mark of their Folly; unless they can make appear they have done something to equivalent Advantage to their Country . …
That there are such Numbers of the ancient and honourable Family of the Wife-wou’d be’s, in this Province, is so manifest it needs no Proof; that the Treatment they meet with, is in Contempt to the Divine Law, is plain; for no sooner was Man created Male and Female, but God commanded them to increase and multiply, and replenish the Earth; which Command the Old Bachelors have no Regard to, unless to replenish it with such an illigetimate Race, as would be a standing Reproach to the Parents. … We could multiply Texts of Scripture to the Purpose; but … we shall pass on to show, that it is even contrary to the Laws of Nature. We see that the Male and Female of all Species of Creatures (except the Old Bachelors) have a natural Inclination towards each other, by which their Kind is propagated and maintained in the World. … ’til a general Rule with the whole Creation, and the Old Bachelor Seems to be the only Exception. [The women argue that] those that are best able, and have least Charge on their Hands, ought to pay the Most Tax; That the Bachelors have the least Charge, is plain, having none but himself to support, and yet has the same Liberty and Opportunity to pursue his Business as other Men; For which Reason if he is not capable, it’s his own Fault, which often happens; for having no suitable Companion at home, he is often inclined to indulge himself in drunken Frolicks abroad … often to the great Disturbance of the whole Town in which he lives.