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Spinster
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The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

Created: 04/28/16

Replies: 18

Posted Apr. 28, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

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The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book? When you imagine a spinster, what does she look like, and would you ever describe yourself as one?


Posted May. 02, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
karenrn

Join Date: 08/29/13

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RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

I covered this partly in another post but I used to think of spinster as a negative. I used to picture a old crabby unattractive woman who no one ever wanted to marry. Until Bolick's book I never had positive thoughts about spinster. Now I think of spinster as a woman who develops her mind, career, and hobbies. I think of a woman who lives life to the fullest regardless of marital status or age. I think I try to live life to the fullest but I have a husband and children. Sometimes I have to compromise and do whats best for them.


Posted May. 03, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

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RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

The term spinster hasn't changed in my mind. A spinster is an unmarried woman. At one time school teachers were required to be spinsters. Are nuns spinsters? A spinster is a woman beyond the acceptable marriage age, which has changed considerably over the decades. Spinster is an old word, not in today's language. Today any woman can develop her mind, her hobbies and live a full life and it is her choice as to how and when she decides to do this. Most women today are their own awakeners.


Posted May. 03, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
melanieb

Join Date: 08/30/14

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RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

To me a spinster is a sad, lonely, disatisfied unmarried woman over the age of 40. I have disliked the word since the first time I learned its meaning as a child and as a pre-teen reading the novels of Charles Dickens. Reading this book has changed my perception about the word spinster because Bolick clearly addresses the history of the term and the setting in which it was intended to be used and I can consider the word now with a broader perspective.


Posted May. 03, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

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RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

I think spinster is a word long overdue for positive rebranding. And if it's a choice between "bachelorette" and spinster - please let it be spinster that wins out!

Its roots are in a trade which wasn't even exclusively for women, as I recollect. And if you break down the two syllables they both fit well into today's vocabulary - spin having all sorts of different and generally positive uses from "to go for a spin" to "spinning" (as in indoor cycling): and ster being a widely used suffix.

So, silly as it may seem, I've taken to saying expressions to myself such as "she's a spinster" but instead of using the intonation that I would have used (monotone, matter of fact), replacing it with the tone I'd use if I was saying "youngster", "mobster" or any number of other "ster" words - and all of a sudden it sounds just fine.

There are many words in the English language that started out with actively negative definitions that are now totally positive (such as fun, grin and terrific). Spinster's got much less far to go for a change in perception. All we need now is someone like Beyonce to write a song and the job would be done - and there's no shortage of words to rhyme with spinster so the lyrics should be easy :)


Posted May. 04, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janp

Join Date: 05/11/15

Posts: 31

RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

I have always disliked the term "spinster". I thought it denigrated woman who, for whatever reason, did not marry. I found it enlightening to discover the root of the word which makes me dislike it less. But I still dislike it. Yet, the one woman I adored and wanted to emulate, as a youth, was an aunt who never did marry. She was my role model for single womanhood.


Posted May. 06, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
cm28015

Join Date: 11/01/15

Posts: 26

RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

I haven't thought of this word in years. It's obviously an old-fashioned term and I'm not sure what a currently-used equivalent word would be. I enjoyed seeing the history of the word. It's too bad it has aquired such a negative meaning. I would hope today's world would look beyond a women's martal status in defining her. A woman, married or not, can be fulfilled in personal, work and other areas of her life. That change in society should help us try to evolve the word to a new definition. I knew spinsters growing up and know some as an adult, although I never thought to call them that -- unmarried, single, if a description was needed. Let's hope people look at more than that one "label" of a women in describing one. It would be interesting to compare how different generations use and define that word. Funny how bachelor doesn't have such a negative connotation.


Posted May. 06, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dianaps

Join Date: 05/29/15

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RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

The word spinster is very old fashioned and seldom heard these days. I picture an older woman who never married. Nothing else. I just never thought of it in a mean spirited way.


Posted May. 09, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
terrio

Join Date: 08/16/11

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RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

I think the word "spinster" has always had a negative connotation, and I don't see that changing. I much prefer "girl bachelor," which I had never heard until reading this book. It puts unmarried women on a more equal footing with unmarried men and doesn't sound derogatory like "spinster" does.


Posted May. 09, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
melindah

Join Date: 12/25/12

Posts: 48

RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

I'm tired of the need to label everything. The term does and has always had a negative connotation, but many words have flipped offer the years. Why do we have to use anything beyond single or married? Whose business is it why a person is single, or why or to whom a person is married? By using the word spinster instead, we are clearly trying to communicate more than marital status - why? Whose business is our choice, and conversely, why do strangers care about the reasons you are married or single?


Posted May. 09, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
juliaa

Join Date: 12/03/11

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RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

The word has had a negative connotation for me since I learned its meaning as a child. I have always known the derivation, yet that didn't change the connotation for me. "Spinster" meant to me a dried-up bitter woman who never married and was never considered as a productive member of society. I would be happy to see the word disappear from contemporary vocabulary completely and be listed in the dictionary as "archaic." As melindah said, "why do we need to label everything?" It is no one's business whether I am married or single--I want to be seen as a person, not a category. Despite my hopes, Bolick's book hasn't made me like the term "spinster" at all.


Posted May. 09, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
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donnac

Join Date: 03/26/14

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RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

I have always associated the word spinster with a woman who is unattached past a certain socially determined age of eligibility for marriage. "On the shelf" is a phrase used in Georgian romance novels in reference to a woman that has passed the age of 20 or so and is still unmarried. "On the shelf" conjures such a vivid meant image of an object that is no longer useful and that this referred only to women never ceases to anger me. The term was eventually retired and (I'm guessing here) replaced with "spinster." In the end it all means the same thing in a culture that values women for their reproductive value only. The interpretation is that whether a woman's a spinster or on the shelf she's pretty much useless. Not so anymore -- in the more progressive corners of the planet anyway. Both are archaic terms that need to be expunged from 21st Century vocabulary. I believe that hanging on to archaic words impedes progress. Bolick's book hasn't changed my mind. I'm guessing that using the word as the its title was a marketing decision to gain attention and elicit controversy and interest in the book.


Posted May. 09, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
pennyp

Join Date: 03/22/12

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RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

I think of a spinster as an unmarried childless woman over fourty. I guess in the past, it had more of a negative connotation. Today, it seems, that marriage in general is on the down swing.


Posted May. 12, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
lynnw

Join Date: 09/01/11

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RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

Spinster has never been part of my vocabulary. I have many friends and a sister who have never married. Some of these women made a conscious choice not to marry and some just never found the right person. I don't put labels on them.


Posted May. 15, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
pamelah

Join Date: 05/19/11

Posts: 19

RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

The term spinster conjures up images of Dickens' Miss Havisham. It seems a 19th C term, that implies to me, inherited wealth and isolation from society. It does not seem to fit Ms Bolick.


Posted May. 21, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
suzanner

Join Date: 04/26/15

Posts: 27

RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

Did not know origin of word spinster until reading this book. To me the word connotes an "unmarried woman who is unavailable or uninterested or fulsomely unattractive to the shared state of marriage". Nothing has changed in my thinking because of having read this book.


Posted May. 29, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
reene

Join Date: 02/18/15

Posts: 212

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RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

The term "spinster" indeed has a negative connotation. One that was deliberately created to make a strong, determined woman appear to be damaged or undesirable. If you look at the history of Anna Jarvis, the creator of Mothers Day, you will see she was a firm and hard working female that cared deeply about the day she had created. All her work was to keep Mother's Day a "holy day" rather than a "holiday". She tried to keep it from becoming commercialized. That's when business men took objection. In articles in the newspaper, they depicted her as "strange", she never married, never had children, adding the term "Spinster", thus the establishment of a new definition for an old term.


Posted May. 29, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 1303

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RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

Very interesting Reene - thank you!

Those who are interested in Anna Jarvis and Mother's Day might find this article of interest - scroll past the reading list to get to the info on Mother's Day:

http://www.bookbrowse.com/blogs/editor/index.cfm/2013/4/28/Books%20to%20Give%20This%20Mother's%20Day

- Davina (BookBrowse editor)


Posted May. 30, 2016 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
cb

Join Date: 03/19/14

Posts: 26

RE: The term spinster has a divisive history. What does the word mean to you? Has this changed since reading the book?

My thoughts on the term SPINSTER echo that of dianaps -basically, an older, unmarried woman. But I also acknowledge the negative connotations associated with the word. While B's book offers a different view, I think it is likely many will continue to view/use it in this fashion. Why "classify" at all? But as rhat seems to be in our nature, I agree, as others have suggested, that, perhaps a new term needs to be coined.


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