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Labor of Love

The Invention of Dating

By Moira Weigel
12-minute read
Audio available
Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating by Moira Weigel

Labor of Love (2016) is your guide to the history of dating. These blinks walk you through the social, cultural and economic shifts that have shaped modern rituals of courtship and explain the curious fads and fashions of flirtation that have come and gone through the ages.

  • People who love to flirt or are serial daters
  • Students of psychology or the social sciences
  • Anyone who uses Tinder

Moira Weigel is an American writer and PhD candidate at Yale University. Her work has appeared in The New York Times and The Guardian, among other publications.

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Labor of Love

The Invention of Dating

By Moira Weigel
  • Read in 12 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 7 key ideas
Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating by Moira Weigel
Synopsis

Labor of Love (2016) is your guide to the history of dating. These blinks walk you through the social, cultural and economic shifts that have shaped modern rituals of courtship and explain the curious fads and fashions of flirtation that have come and gone through the ages.

Key idea 1 of 7

The influx of women into cities during the Industrial Revolution transformed courtship in America.

The world of dating is much different than the one in which your parents met. Do you know why?

Well, economics certainly played a part. To understand this better, let’s wander back briefly in history to the Industrial Revolution, an event that transformed courtship among the working and middle classes.

Before the late nineteenth century, “dating” as we know it now wasn’t really a thing. Instead, matchmaking was controlled by one’s parents or other relatives. In the 1880s, however, the industrial boom led to an increased need for labor, and many young women moved to cities to work in factories, in shops as salespeople, or as servants. This influx of female workers transformed life in the city. Suddenly, city dwellers could witness a previously rare sight – men and women spending time together in public spaces, even kissing in parks and secluded alleyways.

Couples showed affection in public mainly because they had nowhere else to go. Apartments were small and crowded, leaving little room for privacy; workers on limited incomes couldn’t afford an evening at the theater or other places of entertainment.

In contrast, society’s expanding middle class, built with the new wealth from industrialization, could “call” on each other. This popular method of courtship basically had men competing for the favors of women by visiting them at home.

If a man was interested in a particular woman, he’d show up at her home and knock on her front door. A servant would usually answer and take the man’s name and inform the woman of the “caller.” If the woman was interested in the caller, he’d be invited inside. The pair could then talk, sing and enjoy each other’s company for a time, yet always under supervision.

Such a private ritual reflected the wealth of the growing middle classes. Unlike workers who had to steal time in the shadows in public, wealthier individuals could meet suitors in private.

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