The Man of Her Dreams
If it’s clear what Canadian bachelors wanted in a partner in the early 1900s, it’s less clear what Canadian maidens wanted. One reason is that women who wrote to the Family Herald were more reticent when it came to describing their ideal. Why? Maybe it was because they were expected to act modestly at all times, and describing their ideal man so publicly was, after all, somewhat brash. It was a form of solicitation, and many Canadians believed that women who solicited male correspondents through personal columns for romantic purposes were behaving unwomanly.1 Or maybe women were simply less discriminating when it came to prospective husbands, as in “any man will do.” Lacking the financial means to support themselves comfortably and terrified of becoming “Old Maids,” most of them had to get married; marriage was both their livelihood and the key to complete social acceptance. Or perhaps they were tight-lipped because they had great faith in their ability (and obligation) to mould a man’s character. As New Brunswick’s “Plain Jane” put it, plainly, “Men will rise to meet the highest expectations of womankind, and will be what women demand of them.… I’ve seen men become ideal through the clever management of women. There is no over-estimating the power of women in making or marring men.”2 Such thinking was part of the mindset of the age and this, too, may have made women reticent about describing their ideal man. Why should a woman solicit a particular man, through the personal columns, when she could basically create her ideal man once married?