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Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Emory Women Writers Resource Project

The Gentlewoman's Companion: or, A Guide to the Female Sex, an electronic edition

by Hannah Woolley [Woolley, Hannah, fl. 1670]

date: 1675
source publisher: Printed by A. Maxwell for Edward Thomas
collection: Early Modern through the 18th Century

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And first to all Gentlewomen, who though well born are notwithstanding by indigency necessitated to serve some person of Quality.

In the first place, I would not have you look upon your condition as to what it hath been but what it is; learn what ever you can, and slight no opportunity which may advance your knowledg to the height of your birth, for want of which some by reason of their Parents negligence, think they have enough to maintain their Children in a good equipage, & therefore slight those arts which may not only be ornamental, but beneficial to their Children hereafter, vainly imagining that poverty will never approach their Gates; by which cross mistake their Daughters are often exposed to great hardships, many times contenting themselves to serve as Chamber-maids because they have not the Accomplishmentsof a Waiting-woman, or an House-keeper; and so whereas their own natural and acquired parts might raise in every ones opinion a great esteem of their worth and merit, and incline Ladies to covet their company, sit at Table, and have a command in the House, respect from the rest of the Servants; wear good Clothes and have a considerable fallary; instead thereof, the meanness of their qualifications render them only fit companions for Grooms and Footboys.

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Wherefore in the first place I shall advise all parents (be their Estates never so good, and their Revenues large) to endeavour the gentile education of their Daughters, encouragging them to learn whatever opportunity offers, worthy a good estimation. For riches hath wings, and will quickly fly away; or Death comes and removes the Parents, leaving the Children to the tuition of merciless and unconscionable Executors or other in trusted, who only study how to rob the Orphants of their due, and afterwards thrust them into the world, giving them neither their own money, not half the education they deserved; now if there be a treasury laid up within by education, by which they may live (without an Estate their Parents shall leave them) in some honest and creditable imployment, their condition will be so establisht, that nothing almost but death or sickness can make an alteration therein, and may boldly defie and scorn the various vicissitudes of common misfortunes. For this reason I would have you to lose no time, but improve all you may in learning whatever may befit a Woman.

If your Father hath had large Revenues, and could talk loudly of his Birth, and so may think this servile life beneath you, yet thank God you can do something for an honest livelihood, and be never the less submissive; for if you are a Servant, you must do what becomes a Servant; if your extraction be mean, and have attained to serviceable preserment, give God the glory, and be more careful to please.

If you desire to be a Waiting-Gentlewoman, it will be expected that you can Dress well; | | 206 Preserve well; and Write well a legible hand, good language, and good English; have some skill in Arithmetick; Carve well, and let your behaviour be modest & courteous to all persons accord-to their degree; humble and submissive to your Lord and Ldy, or Master and Mistriss; nat in your Habit; loving to Servants; sober in your Countenance and Discourse; not using any wanton gesture, which may give Gentlemen occasion to suspect your levity, and so court you to Debauchery, and lose a reputation irrecoverable.

If you owuld be an House-keeper, it will be required that your behaviour be grave and foli'd, which will inculcate in their beliefs that you are able to govern a Family. And as I told you before, you must Preserve well; so you must have a competent knowledg in Distilling, making Cates, all manner of spoon-meats, and the like. Be careful in looking after the Servants, that every one perform their duty in their several places, that they keep good hours in up-rising and lying down; and that no Goods be either spoil'd, or imbezel'd.

That all Strangers be nobly and civilly used in their Chambers; and that your Master or Lady be not dishonoured through neglect or miscarriage of Servants.

To be first up, and last in bed, to prevent junketing.

To make Salves and Ointments, to dress the wounds of the poor about you, with other things of your own composition, with which you may compassionate the sick and indigent: for commonly | | 207 all good and charitable Ladies do make, this part of their House-keepers business.

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