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A woman suspected of dabbling with too many suitors was in danger of becoming publicly regarded as a “coquette,” which essentially socially branded her as a flirt, a disparaging designation in a society that so highly esteemed chastity.

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During the courtship process, it was typical for the intended couples to divulge their perceived character flaws to ensure that a long-term commitment would be logical and feasible.

This ritual may seem overly cautious, but in a society in which the Catholic Church was an incredibly powerful institution that prescribed marriage as an integral part of God’s plan, this was not a decision that could be made lightly.

As the American conception of intimacy evolves, so does society’s approach to dating.

A society’s prescribed method of courtship is incredibly illuminating: As we trace the timeline of dating rituals, we can get a better sense of how Americans throughout time understood love and, by extension, the world.

The committed, monogamous label of “going steady” emerged as the ideal relationship, and dating returned to its traditional role as a marital trial.

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