And because dating no longer followed the same rigid rules of Victorian courtship, everyone from members of the clergy to social scientists, educators and newspaper columnists stepped in to offer dating advice and matchmaking services.In , Vandergelder enlists marriage broker Dolly Gallagher Levi’s help in securing Irene Molloy’s hand in marriage, but Dolly is determined to pair him up with a woman she believes will be a much more equitable match for him: herself!Luckily for the audience, there’s plenty of mischief, humor and misdirection as Dolly works to make her plan a reality.
The first decade of the 20th century was marked by the figure of the gentleman caller.If a young man was interested in a young woman, he would follow the proper protocol of calling upon her, which meant that he would come to the family's home and (hopefully) be welcomed into their parlor.If he was invited back for subsequent visits, he would be free to come and call upon the young woman during hours specified by her parents.As the years rolled on into the 1920s, however, this system quickly became outdated and unfavorable. Bailey writes in her book , "Dating had almost completely replaced the old system of calling by the mid-1920s — and, in so doing, had transformed American courtship." This was a period of time when couples started going out on dates, which also meant they started paying for dates.So why would a successful, widowed bachelor like the play’s protagonist, Horace Vandergelder, seek out a matchmaker to find him a new bride?
Looking back at the evolution of courting customs in America over the last two centuries sheds light on the factors that would have influenced Vandergelder’s search.
Dance halls and theaters encouraged group socializing between men and women, and dating became a way to build popularity and social standing.
Certain behavioral norms – for example, men should pay for dates, dating many different people before marriage – became popular.
Courtship in the Victorian Age: Calling Cards, Visits and Chaperones (1837-1901) Respectable behavior and strict courtship rituals were the hallmarks of Victorian romance.
Men were expected to marry within the same class to preserve their family’s social standing; courting a woman from a family “above” or “below” his own class standing was frowned upon.
Still, the ultimate and very apparent goal was still that of marriage.