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In a column about “working class lives,” he told of a clerk named Artie whose girlfriend was losing interest in him and beginning to see other men socially.

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“In the early 1900s, vice commissions across the country sent police and undercover investigators to check out spots where people went to make dates,” Weigel writes.

“As early as 1905, private investigators hired by a group of Progressive do-gooders in New York City were taking notes on what we can now recognize as the dating avant-garde.” She recalls the report of one such special agent, staked out at the Strand Hotel in Midtown, who noted that the women he was spying on did not seem like prostitutes, per se, but were concerning nonetheless.

“This was an asset whether you were selling handkerchiefs or selling yourself.” Elinor Glyn, writing for Cosmopolitan in 1926, referred to personality simply as “It,” which was, according to Weigel, “a mysterious kind of animal magnetism.” “With ‘It,’ ” Glyn wrote, “you win all men if you are a woman — and all women if you are a man.” Glyn’s article was adapted for a movie starring Clara Bow as “a shopgirl who has ‘it,’ ” and the concept of the It Girl was born.

Bow’s It Girl, of course, sought to marry the boss — in this case, the son of the store’s owner.

In 1900, the average female worker earned less than half of what a man would earn in the same position.” If you’ve ever wondered how it developed that men were expected to treat their dates, that’s how.

“‘If I had to buy all my meals I’d never get along,’ a young woman living in a boardinghouse in Hell’s Kitchen told a social worker in 1915.” But as these women were courted in public, efforts were undertaken to curb what authorities viewed as a potential public menace.

But how much worse would it be if the very act of it landed you in jail?

According to “Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a sprawling new history by Moira Weigel, the first female daters faced exactly that — mistaken, in their quest for love, for prostitutes.

“Previously, only prostitutes and actresses ‘painted.’ Victorians had viewed ‘natural’ outer beauty as a sign of clean living.

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