Friday 19 October 2018

Mary Kenny: The mating game

Old marriage bureau guidelines are still relevant for the Tinder generation

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

Matchmaking today is done often via the internet - often successfully too - but previously, it was the job of the matchmakers either in person or through "marriage bureaux". London's best-known - and first official - marriage agency was started by Heather Jenner and her business partner Audrey Parsons in 1939 and the archives they left behind are a priceless record of how men and women looked for partners over the next decade.

As soon as they opened for business, letters flooded in from both sexes. The men might be in some form of overseas service and were starved of female company. The women were often desperate not to be "left on the shelf", or to escape from domineering families, who also wanted their daughters "off their hands".

Jenner and Parsons realised that despite this urgent desire for coupledom, people were often mismatched in eligibility (and many newspaper "lonely hearts" adverts at the time were fakes). So the art of matching one individual to another emerged. Later in life, when she had made over 3,000 marriages (and claimed that only two had failed), Heather Jenner set out her list of common ground to ensure maximum marital harmony: (1) social position (2) income (3) religion (4) nationality (5) age. Then, type of personality, health, interests, location, acceptance of a person's past life.

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