Couple Lives Like Victorians, Internet Sneers

Sarah Chrisman says she simply loves the lifestyle, but others are calling her out
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 10, 2015 2:08 PM CDT
Couple Lives Like Victorians, Internet Sneers
Could you live like you were in the 1800s?   (Shutterstock)

If someone wants to dress every day in a corset, store perishables in an icebox, and forgo electricity and other modern comforts, she should be able to do so without fear of reprisal. That's Sarah Chrisman's take in her Vox essay, in which she defends the Victorian-era lifestyle she and her husband, Gabriel, have adopted in their 1888 home in Port Townsend, Wash. Chrisman, who's authored a couple of books on 19th-century living, documents their day-to-day existence in meticulous detail, both in the Vox piece and on her website. "Every morning I wind the mechanical clock in our parlor," she writes. "Each day I write in my diary with an antique fountain pen that I fill with liquid ink using an eyedropper." The list of olden activities goes on, and she explains this existence was the result of seeing the "value in older ways of looking at the world" and their desire "to challenge society's dogmas of how we should live."

But she writes they've also suffered indignities at the hands of "a world that can be terribly hostile to difference of any sort. Societies are rife with bullies who attack nonconformists of any stripe. … We have been called 'freaks,' 'bizarre,' and an endless slew of far worse insults." Some have rushed to the couple's defense, but not everyone is charmed. Rebecca Onion points out on Slate that Chrisman isn't actually living the hardscrabble Victorian life—wearing a corset because you think it's quaint, for example, is a lot different than being forced to wear one while you have TB or to seem more "womanly." And Amanda Marcotte writes for Raw Story that "Chrisman's piece was an object lesson in the dangers of nostalgia," noting that Victorian life was pretty awful for women and that "if you think that you know what it's like to be a lady in 1880 because you reject store-bought bread and love using an inkwell, then you don't know the first thing about what it was actually like to be a lady in 1880." (Read Chrisman's entire piece, as well as the Slate and Raw Story rebuttals.)

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