Monday Manners: On Being a Southern Lady

“Etiquette is something that has traditionally been very important in the South.  The South is world famous for its “Southern Hospitality.”  Manners are important to Southerners, no matter what status in life one holds.  While manners seem to be slipping in our modern society, there is still a place for manners, and good manners can help anyone move between different social classes and assist in advancing one’s career.”

I thought y’all would like this article I found, on being a Southern lady. I definitely think some of it is extremely outdated, but interesting just the same.
“What is a Lady”
by Varina Jefferson Davis
(Note:  While the definition of a lady provided here may be a little dated, the basic concepts never go out of style.   
Varina Davis’ recommendations here are as sound and applicable today as they were in the 19th century.)

A lady is simply someone who cares about herself and others.  She sees that her garments are clean and neatly pressed, her shoes are polished, and every button is in place.  She is neat and tidy even at the breakfast table and wishes to appear well to her own family.  She keeps her hair clean and well-groomed and never puts her hand to her hair to re-arrange it or search for loose pins while others can see.

(From left to right, Vivien Leigh (played Scarlett), Clark Gable (played Rhett), Margaret Mitchell (wrote GWTW), David Selznick (produced GWTW), and Olivia de Havilland (played Melanie)

A lady does not monopolize the conversation.  She does not talk of herself and her own affairs but listens with well-simulated interest to a story that bores her.  This is the mark of good breeding.  She does not sit apart with one or two friends but makes the gentle effort to assure a good time for all with pleasant conversation.  A lady does not say or do anything that will upset those around her or make them uncomfortable.

A lady does not let any man kiss her or put his arm around her unless she is engaged to be married to him, and even then she should be a little stingy with her favors.

A lady, when she brushes off her hat, does not forget to brush away the cobwebs…in her brain.  She does not conclude that every man who has said something pleasant to her has fallen in love with her.

A lady is possessed of refinement, which prevents her from all fidgeting, from playing with her handkerchief, her umbrella, her purse, or whatever may be in her hands.  When she sits down she remains quietly, her hands resting easily without movement and her whole figure is filled with repose.  She is calm, composed, self-controlled at all times, yet there are no airs about her.  These qualities are what keep her from talking and laughing loudly, and they prevent her from hurting the feelings of anyone.

A lady does not grow weary in well-doing but encourages herself by trying to live up to her ideal of a woman.
Adapted by Martha Clippinger
Photo Credits: 1, 2

10 thoughts on “Monday Manners: On Being a Southern Lady

  1. what an excellent post! (and thank you for all the reminders!)
    i remember my 11th grad history teacher told us: "Girls, any one of you can be a woman, but it takes a special woman to be a SOUTHERN LADY." — insert heavy drawl on the southern lady part. And after that, she had us close our books and taught us the waltz, right there in the classroom.

  2. Oh-so-charming post. Love the first picture! My grandmother used to make me walk with a book on my head whenever I visited her. At that time I couldn't imagine why I would need can-walk-with-a-book-on-my-head skills but she told me I would be grateful later. I am so grateful now and I have made my daughter walk with books on her head too (to get rid of the bounce/swagger). She receives compliments on her grace/poise but I don't think she has made teh connection yet. I love your blog!!!

  3. I guess I would make a horrible southern lady mostly, but in social setting I try to apply these rules as much as possible. I am a huge stickler for proper etiquette, which I think shocks some people since I am only 21.

  4. Love it!! I can remember walking out the door to go on a date and the very last thing my momma said to me was" Act like a lady!" My daughter is now 15 and while she is a bit of a tomboy sometimes whenever she goes anywhere I always say "Mind your manners and act like a lady!"

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