describes the "woman still unmarried beyond the usual age of marrying" sense of the term as "Disparaging and Offensive".A usage note goes on to say that this sense "is ... It implies negative qualities such as being fussy or undesirable".Writer and spinster Louisa May Alcott famously wrote that "liberty is a better husband than love to many of us".
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In modern peacetime societies with wide opportunities for romance, marriage and children, there are other reasons that available women remain single as they approach old age.
Psychologist Erik Erikson postulated that during young adulthood (ages 18 to 39), individuals experience an inner conflict between a desire for intimacy (i.e., a committed relationship leading to marriage) and a desire for isolation (i.e., fear of commitment).
Some writers have suggested that to understand why women do not marry, one should examine reasons women do marry and why it may be assumed they should marry in the first place.
According to Adrienne Rich, "Women have married because it was necessary, in order to economically, in order to have children who would not suffer economic deprivation or social ostracism, in order to remain respectable, in order to do what was expected of women because coming out of 'abnormal' childhoods they wanted to feel 'normal', and because heterosexual romance has been represented as the great female adventure, duty, and fulfillment".
Also included is a sense of the word used specifically in a legal context: "a woman who has never married".