Russian Women

It is only a few years since the Russians emerged from a state of barbarity.

A late empress of Russia, as a punishment for some female frailties, ordered a most beautiful young lady of family to be publicly chastised, in a manner which was hardly less indelicate than severe.

It is said that the Russian ladies were formerly as submissive to their husbands in their families, as the latter are to their superiors in the field; and that they thought themselves ill treated, if they were not often reminded of their duty by the discipline of a whip, manufactured by themselves, which they presented to their husbands on the day of their marriage. The latest travellers, however, assert, that they find no remaining traces of this custom at present.

Russian fathers, of all classes, generally arrange marriages for their children, without consulting their inclinations. Among the peasantry, if the girl has the name of being a good housewife, her parents will not fail to have applications for her, whatever may be her age or personal endowments. As soon as a young man is old enough to be married, his parents seek a wife for him, and all is settled before the young couple know any thing of the matter.

Their nuptial ceremonies are peculiar to themselves; and formerly consisted of many whimsical rites, some of which are now disused. On her wedding day, the bride is crowned with a garland of wormwood; and, after the priest has tied the nuptial knot, his clerk or sexton throws a handful of hops upon the head of the bride, wishing that she might prove as fruitful as that plant. She is then led home, with abundance of coarse ceremonies, which are now wearing off even among the lowest ranks; and the barbarous treatment of wives by their husbands is either guarded against by the laws of the country, or by particular stipulations in the marriage contract.

In the conversation and actions of the Russian ladies, there is hardly any thing of that softness and delicacy which distinguishes the sex in other parts of Europe. Even their exercises and diversions have more of the masculine than the feminine. The present empress, with the ladies of her court, sometimes divert themselves by shooting at a mark. Drunkenness, the vice of almost every cold climate, they are so little ashamed of, that not many years ago, when a lady got drunk at the house of a friend, it was customary for her to return next day, and thank him for the pleasure he had done her.

Females, however, in Russia, possess several advantages. They share the rank and splendor of the families from which they are sprung, and are even allowed the supreme authority. This a few years ago, was enjoyed by an empress, whose head did honor to her nation and to her sex; although, on some occasions, the virtues of her heart have been much suspected. The sex, in general, are protected from insult, by many salutary laws; and, except among the peasants, are exempted from every kind of toil and slavery. Upon the whole, they seem to be approaching fast to the enjoyment of that consequence, to which they have already arrived in several parts of Europe.


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