Fannie’s Flirtations: Etiquette, Reality, and the Age of Choice

Sue Lynn McDaniel, Western Kentucky University

Document Type Article

Originally published as: Sue Lynn McGuire, “Fannie’s Flirtations: Etiquette, Reality, and the Age of Choice,” Register of the Kentucky Historical Society (Winter 1995), 43-78. Reprinted with permission. Illustrations from the Deparment of Library Special Collections, Western Kentucky University and used with permission.


The 1890s were, for bright young females, an age of choice. Despite admonitions that flirting would ruin their reputations, many south central Kentucky adolescents enjoyed courtship rituals and remained highly respected in their communities. For every Charlotte Perkins Gilman with a mission set on advancing the status of women within our society, numerous females existed simply to enjoy life’s fullness and frivolity. Fannie Morton Bryan’s life story, as told through her diaries and newspaper accounts, gives readers a glimpse of the many rather than the few, the fun-loving rather than the serious-minded, and the old maid flirt in the largest American generation of unwed females between 1835 and 1980.