Friday, January 9, 2009

Failings of Phrenology

Elizabeth Cady Stanton on the selection of servants:
During the visit of my cousin [Gerrit Smith] I though I would venture on a small, select dinner party, consisting of the Rev. John Pierpont and his wife, Charles Sumner, John G. Whittier, and Joshua Leavitt. I had a new cook, Rose, whose viands, thus far, had proved delicious, so I had no anxiety on that score. But, unfortunately, on this occasion I had given her a bottle of wine for the pudding sauce and whipped cream, of which she imbibed too freely, and hence there were some glaring blunders in the menu that were exceedingly mortifying. As Mr. Smith and my husband were both good talkers, I told them they must cover all defects with their billiant conversation, which they promised to do.

Rose had all the points of a good servant, phrenologically and physiologically. She had a large head, with great bumps of caution and order, her eyes were large and soft and far apart. In selecting her, scientifically, I had told my husband, in triumph, several times what a treasure I had found. Shortly after dinner, one evening when I was out, she held the baby while the nurse was eating her supper, and carelessly burned his foot against the stove. Then Mr. Stanton suggested that, in selecting the next cook, I would better not trust to science, but inquire of the family where she lived as to her practical virtues. Poor Rose! she wept over her lapses when sober, and made fair promises for the future, but I did not dare to trust her, so we parted. The one drawback to the joys of housekeeping was then, as it is now, the lack of faithful, competent servants. The hope of co-operative housekeeping, in the near future, gives us some promise of a more harmonious domestic life.

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