There is a book that I have taken with me though every move in the past 20 years. It’s dog-eared and a bit battered, but it’s the one thing I always have with me. Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach is one of those ”thought for every day of the year” books. The purpose is stated as giving the reader a blueprint to live a simple yet fruitful life. However, I believe another intent is to show women how to live as a gentlewoman.
According to Dictionary.com, one definition of a gentlewoman is “a civilized, educated, sensitive, well-mannered woman.”
Throughout history ladies have been told to be gentle, kind, and polite. They were subservient, even somewhat oppressed. Not considered equal to men but expected to be strong, industrious, creative in keeping a home, and willing to do whatever a man told them. However, even being the force behind the household they had to be passive and obedient. This, of course, changed in the 1960s when “women’s liberation” became a thing. Females became aggressive in their quest for equality. Equal rights in the workforce and in the home is still debated but getting closer to a realistic way of relating to the female sex.
Some would say women have gone from one extreme (passiveness) to the other (aggressiveness). In going to the opposite extreme, the concept of what being a lady is has changed. Not many girls are taught the art of keeping house. Sewing, cooking, cleaning, are things to be done by others. Hobbies and pastimes like gardening and reading are no longer desired.
Living life as a gentlewoman entails a concept of wanting peace and civility in life, assuring that one is content in one’s environment. According to Simple Abundance there are six concepts that make life content. Each one is a method for expressing the lifestyle.
Gratitude: A gentlewoman appreciates what she has. There is an overwhelming sense of consumerism today that makes people feel inadequate if they don’t have what everyone else has. Being grateful for your possessions is the essence of inner peace.
Simplicity: A gentlewoman realizes that less is more. The ease of keeping a house directly corresponds with the number of unnecessary items in it. Loving fashion and jewelry can be an interest in life, but obsessively buying things you don’t need is a hindrance.
Order: A gentlewoman knows that clutter — in the home and in the mind — is distracting. Getting rid of those things that are not needed is a sign of maturity. Anxiety is greatly reduced when there is not a lot of cleaning to be done.
Harmony: A gentlewoman feels content when her life is in balance. Learning to pause in daily life is a source of inner quietness that is essential to fulfillment. Accepting the hard with the easy, the dirty with the clean, the work with the play leads to a harmonious life.
Beauty: A gentlewoman sees the good in everyone and everything. Beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder and seeing things as good is seeing them as beautiful. She takes time to appreciate little things and creates a home that is pleasant as well as pleasing to the eye.
Joy: A gentlewoman embraces the world as a wondrous place. She strives to leave the path of struggle and travel the road of joy. Of course, there will still be difficulties, but she works to overcome them instead of letting them control her.
By using these principals, any woman can assume the life of a gentile lady. Even those with strong liberated ideals can also be creative, home loving, and fulfilled. The ideas of being fully liberated and being the lady of the house are not exclusive. There is strength in gentleness, power in politeness, and worthiness in domesticity. Any woman can be a credit to her sex while being content in her life.