Scarlett O'Hara in GONE WITH THE WIND
Southern Belles

The ‘true’ Southen Belle has ceased to exist…

The original definition of a ‘Southern Belle’ was a daughter of a white wealthy elitist Southern plantation owner from the 19th century. That time has passed, and that version is gone. So, now, we have the ‘watered down’ version that is slowly dying as well… Here is the hard truth that many southerners don’t want to face. My own daughter has been so marred by social media that she wouldn’t be considered a ‘southern belle’ by any means because she doesn’t uphold or believe in all the traditions- which brings me great sadness.

The next comments were written in the year 2000 on my old webpage and they still hold true today, but I had no idea how much things would change in the year 2022. God help us all…

To be taught the ideas and traditions, you certainly must have a mother and or/ grandmother who is a true southern lady. The southern ladies raised in the 1950’s and early 1960’s are the last of the women raised in the true old-fashioned southern values. Coming from a respectable family that has financial means is a must to be considered a southern belle- not a southern lady. Having some financial means does help, but if you do not have the proper upbringing, no amount of money can help you attain southern lady status. There are a few exceptions to this rule. Some true southern ladies never came from social prominence and their families had very little money. These women were taught as children grace, manners, and values. Some women from this group of southern ladies are some of the most gracious, refined, and sweetest women I have ever met.

It can be said that from a social point of view that the idea “southern belles” is an elitist title invented by wealthy southern plantation owners. The title itself has the connotations of arrogance and self-importance. There is arrogance and self-importance to a degree in all southern belles and southern ladies, myself included. Some southern belles/ladies have very little arrogance or self-importance about them. Then, there are some that are self-absorbed with these qualities; I find in my experience that these women feel a need to over-compensate for qualities they lack.

I feel the greatest contributors in the cultural and social change of the proper upbringing of southern women are:
Decline is morals – With the acceptance of unwed motherhood, this is just one of many behaviors that has had a devastating effect on many families. Of course it is the parent’s duty to teach morals, but many parents lack in that duty. The principles of honesty, integrity, and virtue are not being taught to many of the younger girls. The media parading sexual freedom also has had a harming effect on all of society.
“Modern” women and “Modern” society – Some of the ideas of the modern woman and modern society have changed the household of what a true "Southern family" should be. Nowadays, these old-fashioned ideas may seem insulting to some modern thinking women. It is the man’s duty to support his family the best he can. If at all possible, the mother needs to be home to raise the small children. The proper southern household should be set to where the wife and the female children take care of the household duties (laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc). The yard work and house repairs are the husbands and the male children’s duty. If the woman works full-time (some have no choice), she comes home to cook and clean. If financially able, you hire a maid to help. These rules define roles, which makes a more organized family and household. The women should know how to cook meals from scratch at times, not all quick box meals or eating out. I am the only person under the age of 55 in my family that can make homemade bread/desserts and preserve vegetables and fruit. The art of cooking southern food is not being taught much to the younger generations these days.

I see even in “polite” society how younger mothers are not teaching their daughters manners and how to act like a lady. Even the wearing of a dress for many girls today- is uncommon. It saddens me that the southern “way of life” I grew up in is truly dying before my eyes. Little by little, for too many reasons to detail, this new modern world of cell phones and technology is only making the “selfish me” complex grow greater in our children.

For those who feel like I do, all we can do is raise our children in the way we want- and train them in the proper southern ways and teach them manner and etiquette. It is up to us to preserve our past heritage and pass it on to our children. This has to be the foremost goal in raising our children if we want honor our past and heritage.

I know that many disagree with my ideas and opinions. Some of you may be disappointed of my not promoting the “Southern Belle” myth you may have expected to read. Much to my sadness, the breed of the true southern belle/southern lady are dying out. -- September 2000

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