“What Pin-Money You Will Have!” by Diana Birchall — 38 Comments

  1. When I was first introduced to my husband’s family before we married, my mother in law still referred the the wages she earned from her part time job as her pin money. She died 6 years ago last month and your article brought back sweet memories of her using that phrase, thank you so much. By the way, she lived in Wales, UK.

    • I study the gender wage gap in my research, and indeed, many of the remnants of what we see persisting between men and women’s wages comes from that presumption–that men require a “family wage” while women need “pin money”. It was commonly used around the turn of the century here in the states as well. 🙂

      • Thanks for the information, Beth – I used to hear people use the term, though I haven’t in years. And it seems to mean different things too, ranging from what was settled on a wife, to just a loose term like “mad money.”

    • (Slaps forehead) Of course you are right! Mr. Phillips is the attorney – I had the impression Mr. Gardiner was one too, because Miss Bingley says, “”I think I have heard you say that their uncle is an attorney in Meryton,” and her sister answers, “Yes; and they have another, who lives somewhere near Cheapside.” Which could mean another attorney. But Jane Austen is specific, having Lizzy think, “these strong objections probably were, her having one uncle who was a country attorney, and another who was in business in London.” And Austen also explains that Mrs. Bennet, “had a sister married to a Mr. Phillips, who had been a clerk to their father, and succeeded him in the business, and a brother settled in London in a respectable line of trade.” So that settles that. However, I remain convinced that it was Mr. Gardiner who acted for Mr. Bennet in the marriage settlements, or helped and advised him. I don’t have the impression that Mr. Bennet would bring Mr. Philllips into it. He wasn’t the one who helped in the Lydia debacle – it was sensible Mr. Gardiner who was consulted.

      • I disagree. uncle Gardiner was Involved with Lydia because it was happening in London and everything that could be kept secret from Meryton needed to be. Gardiner had the knowledge and resources to search the city, and once she was found, his lawyers were instantly accessible. Calling Uncle Phillips into London at any point would be risky, Aunt Phillips would require explanations and that would never end well. Besides, Gardiner and Darcy left Bennet out of the real settlements anywayo it isnt really a question of which Uncle assisted Bennetm but rather which Uncle Darcy had access to. .

        For Elizabeth’s paperwork, Uncle Phillips would be the one on hand to deal with reviewing what Darcy’s lawyers sent, even if Uncle Gardiner might be consulted by mail. To not involve Uncle Phillips and instead draw out the process by mail or carrying the papers back and forth would have seemed odd.

        And in the case of straightforward mariage settlements, i am not sure Mr. Bennet would need advice beyond the technicalities of signing and filing the paperwork which require an attorney.. He is a bit lazy and inattentive to others generally, but he isnt incapable of understanding and negotiating when he wants to bother.

  2. I thought that Uncle Philips was an attorney and that Uncle Gardiner was a tradesmen. Mr. Darcy like Mr. Gardiner so I can see him feeling comfortable with negotiating Elizabeth’s settlement with him.

  3. Wouldn’t her Uncle Phillips have been the attorney?

    A great article. It explains pin money better. I knew about the origin, but the amounts were a little unknow to me. Thanks!

  4. My maternal grandmother was raised in a moneyed family (vs. the paternal side who were tenement farmers…lol) and would refer to her “allowance” from her father and then her husband. I always found that funny that in the day and age she lived, she was still getting her allowance. Makes sense in reflection, but seemed funny at the time.

    • I know, because at least in the States we think of an “allowance” as what you give little kids. But they certainly did call what a woman was given, an allowance, in the old days. As in “dress allowance.” Interesting. Thanks, Stephanie.

    • Even in this day and age, my husband and i have, at times, given ourselves allowances, paid into individual accounts, rather than allowing both of us constant access to the joint account.

  5. Yes, women were so dependent on men in those days and up until Women’s Lib and even beyond we continue to see inequalities. How many of us go home from a full day at our career and prepare dinner or do other chores – even take care of children. My husband was one who wanted an accounting of all I spent until I put my foot down. I assigned myself “pin money” and would not account to him about it.

  6. Good for you, Sheila! Even in my own lifetime, when I was a little girl in the 1950s, I remember girls talking about what they wanted to do when they grew up. Almost all of them said “I want to get married and be a mommy.” Older girls, in college, would talk about careers, but only “until I get married.” (Seriously!) By the time I was in high school, in the 1960s, things had already changed, and girls no longer talked about just working till they got married, they were starting to think about becoming lawyers. And my husband and I, married 40 years now, made changes such as you describe.

    • Congratulations on your long marriage. We will be married 47 in August. And I do see most of the younger generation having both genders working with children in day care…or if they can afford it…a nanny. I babysit for my grandchildren a lot but not every day so they make other arrangements.

      • Congratulations to you, too, Sheila, and many more happy years for you both! I don’t have grandchildren, only grandcats, as my son never married. As usual I found consoling and philosophical words in Jane Austen for my disappointment about not having grandkids. From P & P, where Lizzy tells Lady Catherine, “You both did as much as you could, in planning the marriage; its completion depended on others.” I don’t think there are wiser words anywhere about parents’ wishes and expectations of children.

  7. My grandma told me once that when her children were small, my grandpa was always hassling her about the money she spent at the grocery store – for 2 adults and 4 kids- until she made him go shopping on his own and then he was like

    *cricket* *cricket*

    haha – and that was for household expenses, not personal ones.

  8. Thanks for a wonderful post, Diana, it was such an eye-opener! I was fascinated with the figures, both from Jane Austen’s real life and that of her characters’, and the conversation between Elizabeth and her husband was so warm and affectionate! Just beautiful!

    • I’m so thrilled you enjoyed it, Joana – that means a lot, coming from such an accomplished Jane-author as you! I enjoyed the research, but thought we’d have to have a little drama too!

  9. Is this an excerpt from a P&P sequel? It’s lovely and the voice is so true to the spirit of the Darcys!!! Love this and thanks for sharing!!

  10. Thank you so much, Claudine – delighted you liked it! No, this was just a little one-off sketch, like most of the short stories and sketches I write for this website. But I am RETIRING (hear the bugles?) next week, and expect to write full time now – with more books in prospect! That’s really what I want to do. Thanks for asking.

  11. Interesting I use to sing a folk song in which the lover said “I give to you a paper of pins for that is how our love begins if you will marry me”. I. never understood why this was so until I read your article about the custom of pin money..

  12. Thanks as always for your informative posts. I really enjoyed this one, which brings to mind all those interesting observations of how women have not been financially independent in society, for very long. I especially enjoyed the excerpt, so nice to see Darcy is not having to micromanage the pin money, and understands how Elizabeth feels she has to help Lydia. I heartily endorse the idea that you need to expand this into a longer story! Especially if you’re going to have all that free time! Congratulations on your retirement!

  13. Kathy, thank you SO much for the retirement congrats! Warner Bros gave me my retirement party yesterday and it was indescribably overwhelming to have such a fuss made – I admit I loved every minute! And now, I truly will have lots of time in which to write stories, which is exactly what I want to do most.

  14. I enjoyed reading the results of your research. Buying pins…. here I was thinking the women were buying pins and brooches, but instead they are simply buying papers of pins, presumably because they are losing their sewing pins in the carpet.

    Poor but observant Darcy: “Is it about your sister?” he asked shrewdly.

    I can just see you writing a series of stories in which each Bennet sister causes A Problem For Lizzy. Oh, and Mrs Bennet and Mr Bennet must also cause their share of problems for Lizzy.

    I look forward to your post-retirement writing career. Remember to use plenty of sparkles!

    • Thanks for the wonderful idea, June – I may have to appropriate it! Lizzy’s sisters would give her sufficient problems to keep her occupied for quite some time. Plenty of sparkles, yes, ma’am!

    • Pins arent just for sewing! Womens (and girls) clothing was sometimes pinned together at certain points rather than having buttons and buttonholes, or laces. This reduced the time and effort in the making AND allowed for minor adjustments through the month or into the early stages of pregnancy. It made for a smooth, closely fitted and less noticeable closure than other methods. It also made it easier to pass clothes on to a wider size range of younger sisters, servants or poor relations. As the industrial revolution progressed, and machine made buttons, or hook and eye fasteners, became cheaper, and sewing machines reduced the time needed for sewing the garment itself, using pins as everyday clothing fastener dropped away because more time could be spent on the handwork required for fastenings..

      Look at paintings of woman of the era: apron tops are the most notable instance, notice there are often no neck straps or ties, the apron is pinnned up at the bodice and tied round the waist. Fichus might also be pinned into place, some styles of bodice are pinned. I am not sure, but i think even sometimes some trimmings on clothes or bonnets might be pinned on rather than sewn.

  15. Thank you so much for this informative post. I now better understand how “pin” money was figured out according to “salary” and what it was used for.

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