Scholarship hostesses showed how to do a tea properly

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Nov 20, 2018 - 12:00 PM

Photo: Ladies properly attired in dresses of the period proudly present the menu for the afternoon tea gathering. From left are Martha Frame, Kim Forslund, Marilyn Iglesias, Kim Johnson and Theresa Denby. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

Ladies properly attired in dresses of the period proudly present the menu for the afternoon tea gathering. From left are Martha Frame, Kim Forslund, Marilyn Iglesias, Kim Johnson and Theresa Denby. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

In its efforts to raise money for the annual scholarship awarded to a Mathews High School senior pursuing a career in the medical field, the Captain Sally Tompkins Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy recently held a Tea Through Time.

In the historic home of Dickie and Bert Burroughs on Church Street in Mathews, chapter members gathered, in appropriate attire 19th century America, to welcome, serve and host the guests. Two of the hostesses, Marilyn Iglesias and Kim Forslund, Ladies Victorian, shared the history and etiquette of the ritual of tea during the early years of our nation. 

Marilyn has often portrayed Captain Sally Tompkins. She opened the entertainment portion of the social event by relating the history of tea from China to the Boston Tea Party to the Civil War and beyond.

Kim presented the “L’’tiquette” to be observed when attending an afternoon tea. “Your arrival will be formal and timely. Go straight to the dressing room, repair from travels; adjust stays or corsets, secure your hat, be sure bodice is fitted and resting where it should be. Gloves are on. Any adjustment after leaving dressing room is considered gauche. Socialize; do not talk about politics and business but social events. Gossip is a fair topic. Hats remain on, gloves only removed and placed under your napkin in your lap. If leaving the table, place napkin by the left side of plate. Tea cups are held by the handle with one hand. Finger should never be curled through the handle. Pinkies up. Bring cup to mouth. Do not bend forward to meet it.

“Food is bite sized. Place condiments on side of plate, not directly on food. Break scones, not cut them. Apply butter or jam to one bite at a time. Never make a sandwich. Never dunk biscuit in tea. Swallow food before sipping tea. Sweets are eaten last. Put milk in your tea cup first, then add tea/water and the lemon, orange, cube of sugar, etc. Gently blend the tea in a figure 8 motion. Spoon hitting the cup is extremely bad form. If you no longer desire tea, lay your spoon across top of cup.” 

Now, ladies, you know how to conduct yourself properly at a tea and in today’s world, it’s done without corsets, staves, hats and gloves, making attending teas a lot easier and more comfortable.

The Captain Sally Tompkins Chapter 2626 of the UDC was chartered in 2000. It was preceded by the Captain Sallie Tompkins Chapter chartered in 1906 but deactivated in 1955. Because of the misspelled name the new group could be chartered as a new chapter, correcting the mistake.

The dedicated 30 ladies who sponsored this tea know how to host a tea, serve properly, cook very well (you will note that from the recipes here) and how to keep their scholarship up and running. They netted $1,000 plus. But sponsoring a scholarship is just one of their accomplishments. They support Newspapers in Education, fire and rescue departments, Market Days and the county schools. They also donate their time as hostesses for historical properties, events and organizations in the Tidewater area.