A daughter is a daughter all of her life – folksaying

The following is a folk saying that was told to my family friend, G, in the 1960s right before she had her son. It was told to her by her mother, an Irish woman.

Text: A daughter is a daughter for all of her life, a son is a son until he takes him a wife.

Context: My family friend G told me this proverb when I was interviewing her for folklore. She said this was a well known folk saying in 1960s San Francisco, and references the idea that a daughter is always closet with her mother, even through marriage. But, a son comes second to his mother after marriage. According to G, this is because wives often get jealous if their husband is always talking to their mothers and telling their mothers things they do not tell their wives. G said this folk saying was also referenced to in another context, when a woman had a daughter, people would often say “good, now the mother will have someone to be close to throughout her life.” G also believes that even without wives being involved, men are more separate and independent, where as woman enjoy discussing and catching up more often, thus increasing the validity of this folklore.

Analysis: The idea of a wife being the leader of the house has long been a historical one. While less true now, as women have entered the working world at increasing rates, often the mother was the leader of the household, and the children were raised in her image and with her culture. Also, usually if visits are planned with the husbands side of the family, visits are ran by the wife and approved by her, as she is in charge of the schedule and making sure the house is ready for visitors. Similarly, religion is passed through the mother, not the father. All in all, this idea, that the husband has to do as his wife wishes, not his mother wishes, has long been held. It is also worth noting the differences between this, Irish/Italian/western belief, that everything is run through the mother and the son departs his family, and eastern beliefs that call for dowries and women essentially being sent off to live with their husbands and their family, leaving their families and customs behind.

An example of this folk saying is available in the book Love the One You’re With, by Emily Giffin.