Dating Through the Century: Timeline


Lauren David, Reporter

19th Century:

  • Wasn’t called dating until 1896 (originally called courtship)
  • All about marriage, but never really about love
  • Pre-arranged by parents
  • Proper first dates would be a gentleman caller to the home of woman
  • Chaperoned during these visits
  • Parents let serious couples be alone at times
  • These meetings will continue until interest is reached
  • Proposal will be offered
  • Spouse must be beneficial (status, money, etc.)

Fun Fact: People who wore makeup (Known as ‘painted faces’) were typically actresses and prostitutes. Most women did not wear any makeup, since a natural look represented clean living.


Early 1900s:

  • Started meeting in public (men bought women food, gifts, etc.)
  • Going out was the best way to get privacy
  • Consumer goods became a big part of dating
  • Buying food and such became a way to determine if partner is compatible (share common interests)
  • Fashion is also now a big part of dating for women

Fun Fact: Men and women going out on dates in public was a new concept at this time, so police were not sure what to think of it. They believed something sinister was occurring, so many women were arrested because of this.  



  • No parental supervision
  • Chose activities for dates, based on what they preferred
  • Popular choices included:
    • Going to a dance
    • Going to an amusement park
    • Driving in a fast car
    • Attending a movie
  • Dating multiple people became common



  • During World War II, many men were drafted into the army, so finding a man to date became tricky
  • If drafted, the two would promise of a relationship upon their return
  • Term ‘going steady’ was created, solidified by a class ring or letterman jacket
  • First dates typically happened after a guy called a girl on the phone
  • Guy tries to charm the girl
  • A lot of getting to know each other
  • Any money spent was spent by the guy (custom)
  • If first date did not go well, there was always another opportunity with someone else



  • Pre-dating etiquette was less restrictive
  • Affairs were common
  • 1962 book published: ‘Sex and the Single Girl’ by Helen Gurley Brown
  • Inspired girls to be more adventurous
  • First dates to amusement parks a thing of the past

Fun Fact: At this point in time, the ‘Biological Clock’ panic appeared. This means that there were now expectations on when to marry and when to have children. This added a lot of stress when dating.  



  • Term ‘hooking up’ was created
  • More about getting together and seeing what happens
  • Girls seeked more attention from men
  • Confusion on whether to date at all



  • Mix of ‘hooking up’ and formal dates
  • Texting a major role in dating, learned more about the person through texting than face-to-face
  • More casual
  • All up to what the person wants, whether it be for status or for love

Fun Fact: Couples typically wait six-eight dates before announcing that they are in a exclusive relationship. However, the most common time for a couple to break up is three-five months into a relationship.