When coffee was first introduced into England in the late 1600s, it was largely drunk by men only, and in coffeehouses rather than at home. Doctors welcomed this as a substitute for drinking alcohol in taverns, but married women were not so happy with the new drink. In 1674 a group of London women put out “The Women’s Petition Against Coffee.” The petition is reproduced below:
Representing to Publick Consideration the Grand Inconveniencies accruing to their Sex from the Excessive Use of that drying, Enfeebling Liquor. Presented to the Right Honorable the Keepers of the Liberty of Venus. By a Well-willer
London, Printed 1674.
To the Right Honorable the Keepers of the Liberties ofVenus; The Worshipful Court of Female Assistants, &c.
The Humble Petitions and Address of Several Thousands of Buxome Good-Women, Languishing in Extremity of Want.
Sheweth, That since ’tis Reckon’d amongst the Glories of our Native Country, To be a Paradise for Women: The fame in our Apprehensions can consist in nothing more than the brisk Activity of our men, who in former Ages were justly esteemed the Ablest Performers in Christendome; But to our unspeakable Grief, we find of late a very sensible Decay of that true Old English Vigor; ourGallants being every way so Frenchified, that they are become meer Cock-sparrows, fluttering things that come on Sa sa, with a world of Fury, but are not able to stand to it, and in the very first Charge fall down flat before us. Never did Men wear greater breeches, or carry less in them of any Mettle whatsoever. There was a glorious Dispensation (’twas surely in the Golden Age) when Lusty Ladds of Seven or eigh hundred years old, Got Sons and Daughters; ande we have read, how a Prince of Spain was forced to make a Law, that Men should not Repeat the Grand Kindness to their Wives, above NINE times a night; but Alas! Alas! Those forwards Days are gone, The dull Lubbers want a Spur now, rather than a Bridle: being so far from dowing any works of Supererregation that we find them not capable of performing those Devoirs which theirDuty, and our Expectations Exact.
The Occasion of which Insufferable Disaster, after a furious Enquiry, and Discussion of the Point by the Learned of the Faculty, we can Attribute to nothing more than the Excessive use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called COFFEE, which Riffling Nature of her ChoicestTreasures, and Drying up the Radical Moisture, has so Eunucht our Husbands, and Cripple our more kind Gallants, that they are become as Impotent as Age, and as unfruitful as those Desarts whence that unhappy Berry is said to be brought.