Ask the Past: Leaving the nest

How do I get my 20 year old daughter to move out and find a flat?

This is a tricky question at the best of times, but if you're looking to the past for answers, there are really only three circumstances under which a woman should be away from home: to travel, to work, or to get married.

Obviously, leaving home to travel is a temporary thing, though, and ultimately you'll need your daughter to either get a job or get married. The good news for you is that according to Australian Etiquette (1885) (in a section titled "Parents should exercise authority over daughters"), you actually have quite a lot of say as far as her marriage is concerned:

Parents should always be perfectly familiar with the character of their daughter's associates, and they should exercise their authority so far as to not permit her to form any improper acquaintances. In regulating the social relations of their daughter, parents should bear in mind the possibility of her falling in love with any one with whom she may come in frequent contact. Therefore, if any gentleman of her acquaintance is particularly ineligible as a husband, he should be excluded as far as practicable from her society.

Since falling in love and catching a virus seem to be pretty similar as far as Australian Etiquette is concerned, make sure your daughter masks and washes her hands well around any unsuitable men. Australian Etiquette goes on to say:

Parents, especially mothers, should also watch with a jealous care the tendencies of their daughter's affections; and if they see them turning towards unworthy or undesirable objects, influence of some sort should be brought to bear to counteract this. great delicacy and tact are required to manage matters rightly. A more suitable person may, if available, be brought forward, in the hope of attracting the young girl's attention. The objectionable traits of the undesirable suitor should be made apparent to her without the act seeming to be intentional; and if all this fails, let change of scene and surroundings by travel or visiting accomplish the desired result. The latter course will generally do it, if matters have not been allowed to progress too far and the young girl is not informed why she is temporarily banished from home.

As you can see, this can work out for you either way. Either your daughter gets married to someone suitable and moves in with her husband, or she falls in love with someone unsuitable and you can send her away to live with friends for a while. If you're going to follow this course of action, it might be best to check with your friends now to see whether any of them have room and would mind having her to stay for several months while she gets over her unsuitable suitor.

If all of that sounds a bit hard, she can always get a job. I'm not sure what kind of work your daughter is interested in, but The National Encyclopedia of Business and Social Forms (1879) suggests she might want to consider becoming a cook, and offers this sample letter

Carlton Place, September St A.

Madam :

Having seen your advertisement for a cook in to-day's Times, I beg to offer myself for your place. I am a thorough cook. I can make clear soups, entrees, jellies, and all kinds of made dishes. I can bake, and am also used to a dairy. My wages are $4 per week, and I can give a good reference from my last place, in which I lived for two years. I am thirty-three years of age.

I remain, Madam,

Yours very respectfully,

Ellen O'Rourke.

(Obviously she will have to change the age given in this letter, but I'm sure that apart from that it will be perfectly suitable.)

The other thing she could become is a school mistress, and if she is having a problem getting that kind of work, the National Encyclopedia recommends that she write to a friendly clergyman for help:

Nantwich, May 18th, 1879.

Reverend and Dear Sir:

Having seen an advertisement for a school mistress in the Daily Telegraph, I have been recommended to offer myself as a candidate. Will you kindly favor me with a testimonial as to my character, ability, and conduct, while at Boston Normal School? Should you consider that I am fitted for the position, you would confer a very great favor on me if you would interest yourself in my behalf.

I remain,

Reverend Sir, Your most obedient and humble servant,

Rachel Lee.

If she shows no interest in finding a husband or a job as a cook or teacher, then you can always resort to flowers. Try putting a few bouquets outside the door to her room, and I'm sure she'll get the message (all meanings, as usual, from The Language of Flowers):

Wild plum: Independence

Sweet pea: Departure

Michaelmas daisy: Farewell

I'm sure that will help.

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