Tuesday, August 21, 2007
THE YANKEE MAID
The Stage Yankee had a female counterpart in the Yankee Maid. Jemima, or Tabitha, or Abigail, was a petticoated equivalent of Brother Jonathan. She wore outdated clothes in homespun stripes or windowpane checks. Her hair was dressed high on the head, usually with a large comb tacked on top. Unfashionably short skirts revealed white stockings and flat black shoes. Her figure was tall and lanky, and she favored "plain speaking" -- truth without flattery, laced with a strong dose of opinion.
The Yankee Maid could be attractive; her function, after all, was generally romantic interest. Jedidah, in The Stage-Struck Yankee, is a "likely-looking gal", although untutored and backwoodsy. If the Yankee woman were old as well as unmarried, however, she became a less sympathetic figure of fun. Harriet Beecher Stowe (who should have known better) created Ophelia St. Clare in Uncle Tom's Cabin along these lines.
Oh! I am a Yankee Maid
My lot O! ‘tis happy and free
My home is beneath the shade
Of the widespreading old Elm tree.
No home can with mine compare.
And many and old-fashioned air
I sing as I’m -- shelling the peas.
Oh! I am a yankee maid.
None happier ever was seen
When in the old elm tree’s shade
Or dancing across the green.
On Sunday to church I go
Where voices in praises unite;
I give a sly look at my beau
And he –- comes a-courting at night!
(First and last verses of "Yankee Maid," 1847)