Thursday, February 14, 2013

Vinegar Valentines

From about 1840-1940, "vinegar valentines" were given out to neighbors, friends, family members, and enemies alike.  Vinegar valentines worked as an informal social control to warn young people about watching too much television, shame men for being "drunks," and attack women for being too vain.  The selection hosted on Collector's Weekly includes several valentines that clearly intersect humans with the stereotypical characteristics of Nonhuman Animals.

Here a gentleman caller in the 1870s is likened to a snake:

From Collector's Weekly

Here an elderly gentlemen is chastised for making "pretense of being young":

From Collector's Weekly

The "henpecked" husband in the era of women's suffrage:

From Collector's Weekly

Here a woman who "can't snare a man" is deemed socially worthless; failed femininity is linked to companionship with Nonhuman Animals:

From Collector's Weekly

Societal understandings of Nonhuman Animals come through in these valentines:  Other animals are sneaky, vicious  overly proud, or pathetic.  As Joan Dunayer has noted, very few Nonhuman Animal labels are flattering; most act as pejoratives that speak to an underlying disrespect to society's most vulnerable.

And in some cases, they're simply morbid:

From The Urban Housewife

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