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Vinegar Valentines

Known as ‘Vinegar Valentines’ these mocking cards, which date from the 1840s to 1940s, were used to tell someone how you did not love them. Yes, that’s right! For almost as long as Valentine’s Day has been an insufferably sappy day celebrating romantic love, it’s also been a day for telling everyone else exactly how much you don’t love them—with an anonymous poem sent via post.

Annebella Pollen, a lecturer in art and design history at University of Brighton, first discovered Vinegar Valentines when she was researching a project on love and courtship … In the back of a stationer’s sample book from 1870, she discovered 44 cheap, single-sheet, insulting Victorian Valentines with a comic sketch and a few lines of verse.

According to Pollen: “often they were sent anonymously. They were to say “Your behavior is unacceptable.” For example, there are quite a few cards that mock men with babies on their laps as being henpecked—the kind of thing now we would think was a man doing the right thing by taking his share of child care. But these cards were specifically designed to make the man seem emasculated and disempowered by being left holding the baby. Or there’d be images of women holding rolling pins, threatening their husbands.

The people sending such cards were usually not either one of the couple. It wasn’t the wife sending to the husband or the husband sending to the wife. It was somebody outside, looking in at their relationship and saying, “This doesn’t conform with what’s expected.” In that way, they did enforce social norms. Sometimes they seemed to be saying, “Change your behavior, or else.” There’s almost this threatening element to them.”

You can see loads more of these, and read a full interview with Pollen, here. See also, last year’s Valentine’s Day oddment.

I feel a little bit bad, given how mean-spirited these were, about how hilarious I find them.

So mean!

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    YAY! I was hoping there’d be some vinegar valentines on here… they’re the best kind!
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    Vinegar Valentines Known as ‘Vinegar Valentines’ these mocking cards, which date from the 1840s to 1940s, were used to...
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