Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Plea For Red Heads

I recently came across the following article titled, 'A Plea For Red Heads,' It appeared in the nineteenth century journal, ‘The Guardian,’ and follows on from a previous article it published about 'a red-headed minister,' which I referred to earlier - see 'A Red-Headed Minister.' The article basically offers a defence of red hair. I’ll reproduce some of it here.
"The Editor of the Guardian certainly knows one red-headed minister. And in our own mind we now hold at least three others who are in the same sacred office, one of whom is a very worthy D.D., whose hair is real, genuine red, and whose temperament is almost exclusively sanguine. Of other names to us, of the same sort, of course we cannot speak with the same certainty. This is, however, itself, enough to set aside the force of the ill-natured remark."
"One reason no doubt why there are not many red-headed ministers, is found in the very natural fact that the proportion of red-headed people is rather small in comparison with the sum total of all other colors. Then, too, there may be much in the fact that the sanguine temperament of which red-hair is an indication, may naturally seek exercise for its activities in some other calling than the ministry. The department of law and active business may be in many cases a more congenial sphere. Some of the most successful politicians and public speakers, and partizan leaders show the sanguine temperament predominant, and many of them had red hair. Aside from many in our times, such was Jefferson, the great father of American Democracy[.]"
"From what has already been said, and from the examples given, it may be inferred that there is nothing in the sanguine temperament, and especially nothing in the fact of a person having red hair, that prevents or excuses any one from manifesting a religious life - especially such as is required of the ministry. We make this remark with reference to the common notion, which is only fostered by such paragraphs as that extracted from the Phrenological Journal, that there is something in the nature of the case which prevents red haired people from being as good as others. Under such public sentiment many who have this mark upon them, are looked upon by others and so learn to look upon themselves, as beyond the reach of grace, and thus proper candidates for all ill favor and sin - such sentiments prevailing, no wonder if the natural consequences were just such fruits as are anticipated."
"Novel writers, whenever they want to picture a mean, low, cunning, abandoned, ill-favored character, generally in their charity give him an abundance of red hair. If they can make it fiery red, and bristling, all the better for their purpose. Just as if deep feeling, passionate emotion and impulsive zeal were always vicious. The tendency of such notions prevailing, has been to make the subject of this character believe that there is no hope for them ever to rise above the misery of their red-headed fate."
"One thing we think is plain. It is no sin per se, to have been born with a red head. If it be a disgrace, as many seem to think, the fault certainly is not with the red heads themselves, but rather it must be charged upon the decree of God's providence. As well might they be derided, sneered at and mocked, because they cannot add one cubit to their stature or turn one hair white or black. Having red hair is then certainly not the fault of those upon whom the Creator had put this work. And yet persons who allow themselves with complacency to ridicule red-headed people would not consider it any special work or evidence of wit and piety, to poke fun at the born cripple, or blind or unfortunate dwarf."
"Red headed women are the especial object of the satirical and splenetic remarks of those who imagine themselves more favored in having black heads, or brown heads or flax heads, and even grey heads. If they can run a rig "on red haired girls" by sagely proposing to make lamp posts of them, and thus light up the city without the expense of gas…[s]o, too, prejudice against hair of this color can be fostered, and risibilities wonderfully tickled and excited by picturing a red-haired woman with a broom-stick, administering summary vengeance upon some object of her wrath."
"It was our lot to be born with red hair. Without our consent or approbation this mark, this temperament and this life were fixed upon us. For this we are not accountable. For what we have made of it since we had the choice of free action, we must be considered as responsible. Whether it was fortunate or unfortunate, we could not for many years determine. God made it red, and red we have left it, though very often we were made to feel that somehow it was a circumstance of which we ought to be ashamed...[o]ur plea is for justice to a persecuted class, till a cause for blame is made out against them. We want no more slighty or cutting paragraphs about red heads, till it be shown that it is a sin to be one of them."
The article was published in 1857.

Red Hair in the Fledgling United States

Just read a book called ‘The Great Upheaval’ by Jay Winik. It’s a book about the French Revolution, the early United States and the Russia of Catherine the Great. There are a few mentions of red hair in it.

On Thomas Jefferson, page 156:
“He also had striking reddish hair and captivating cool green eyes, which, despite his often dishevelled dress and surprising impulsiveness, gave him an imposing presence; Abigail Adams once described him as having a look “not unlike God.””
On the French diplomat Edmond Genet, page 466:
“A dwarfish man with reddened cheeks and dark red hair, he had flashing eyes, undeniable good looks, and an even more undeniable vivacity.”
And then on the American Politician, Alexander Hamilton, page 477:
“Small, blue-eyed, with hair as red as Jefferson’s[.]”