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February 2017 Posts


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Tea and Feminism - Guest Post by Rosanna Inc.

Monday, February 27th 2017 @ 4:13 PM

Tea and feminism have a relationship that extends across generations, causes and continents.

It’s hard to imagine sipping tea being an affront to society in the 1800’s, but in the United Kingdom it was linked to radical, revolutionary feminism.

Complaints came from the upper class, arguing peasant women shouldn’t be wasting time and money on tea. Clearly, if they had time to sit and take a break they were ignoring their domestic duties. Or worse, it could lead to political engagement or rebellion.

Ladies’ tea breaks started small - asking for higher wages and standing against their companies, but no large social movements… yet.

Pamphlets were distributed explaining why long tea breaks were morally wrong. In one publication, Cottage Dialogues, it was argued tea time and dialogue between women could become habit-forming, like an addiction - likening the drink to alcohol.

Image: Getty Images

These views against ladies’ tea time wasn’t new, in 1785, A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, took slang words and defined them. A few terms used to describe tea drinking? Chatter Broth, Scandal Broth, Cat Lap, and to Stand Bitch (or “a Bitch”) which generally meant a woman that was making tea.

Image: Getty Images

The trend continued through 1874 in The Slang Dictionary: Etymological, Historical, and Anecdotal, where tea parties are described as: “Tabby Parties: a party consisting entirely of women, a tea and tattle gathering,” and “sipping the scandal-potion.” Are you flashing forward to “Nasty Woman” and being “Bossy?” Good, me too.

Some of the upper-class European concerns did come true even though it wasn’t related to them (Kudos to them for predicting tea as the feminist-brew though, right?).

July 9, 1848: Five key members of the American Women’s Suffrage Movement met for tea in Waterloo, NY: Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright, Mary Ann McClintock, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and hostess, Jane Hunt.

While drinking some Scandal Broth, this Tabby Party went from talking about passions to a full-on revolution discussion. Their afternoon tea became a launch pad for the Seneca Falls Convention: The first women’s rights conference in the Western world.

Fast forward to 1985, Nancy Reagan convinced her husband and President Ronald Reagan to hold “summit” conferences - where Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union developed a relationship through negotiations.

The relationship between Nancy Reagan and Raisa Gorbachev, however, was not so productive. The two would sit to tea and fake pleasantries while discussing the differences between the US and USSR in front of press.

These meetings changed the public’s perception of Nancy Reagan from tea-party-hosting first lady to someone with hidden power in the White House. Gossip at tea parties was no longer just “tattle gathering,” but instead became information that the most influential politician in the country heard about from his partner.

Girlfriends, we’ve come far. Keep sipping your tea, talking about the world and making change. Remember the words of Nancy Reagan: “A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong she is until she’s in hot water.”

Image: Associated Press

~ Rosanna, Inc.

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ROSANNA INC. is an international award-winning home decor design house run by women, for women. Our team is dedicated to bringing people together - after all, there's nothing better then chatting with girlfriends over tea. Learn more about Rosanna, Inc. at and look for social media @rosannainc

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