Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Acceptable Sports for Females #2: Shuttlecocks & Battledores

Mrs. Lydia Maria Child (1805-1800) was a remarkable woman. A prolific writer, she used her talents to share her convictions; among them, the abolition of slavery in the United States, Native American rights, women's rights, and the education and health of children. She also wrote the classic American poem,  "A Boy's Thanksgiving Day", better known as "Over The River And Through The Woods". Among her books concerning mothers and children are The Mother's Book (1831), and The Girl's Own Book (1833). In both books, she promotes vigorous exercise for both boys and girls, and daily outdoor activity. The Girl's Own Book has descriptions of many suitable activities to promote the health and good physical development of girls. They may seem somewhat limited to today's reader, who is used to girls (and women) playing strenuous team sports and competing in national and international games, but Mrs. Child was a controversial voice for her day. The societal view of women was more and more restrictive as the 19th century wore on, which was most evident in the styles of clothing women were forced to wear by the dictates of fashion. 

One active game Mrs. Child recommends is Shuttlecocks and Battledores, an early version of badminton. The shuttlecock (or birdie, as we call it) was batted back and forth between players until a player missed and let the shuttlecock fall. A net was not used until the rise of "badminton battledore", a game popular in British India and transported back to Britain by retired army officers.  Shuttlecocks and Battledores was a popular game in France in the late 1700s, and like most other French things (except for guillotining large numbers of the population), it was taken up by the British upper classes with great enthusiasm. 

Dolly and Minerva are visiting their friends, the Sperlings, of whom I will write at length at a later date. The Sperling girls are playing with their brother Henry, while a French couple play in the background. 

Sources: Caricatures Parisiennes, watercolors of Diana Sperling, Ackermann's Repository, frame

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