A blog entry posted today at The Atlantic online—"The Myth of the 'Underage Woman'," by Megan Garber—argues that "underage woman" is an oxymoron:
The phrase is wrong in every sense: There is no such thing as an “underage woman.” Underage women are girls.
This led me to wonder how long the notion of "underage woman" has been floating around in English. A quick Google Books search finds instances from at least as far back as Jürgen Haller, Hormonal Contraception (1972), which includes this passage:
- Basically, a physician must decide for himself whether or not he is willing to prescribe oral contraceptives for an unmarried and legally underage woman.
It seems very plausible that the term "underage woman" arose in connection with legal notions of a person's "age of consent"—whether with regard to marriage, access to contraceptives or abortion, sexual activity, or something else. But it is unclear to me what the original context for this expression was. Hence my questions:
When and in what context did the term "underage woman" originate?
Is "underage woman" an oxymoron, as the Atlantic blogger asserts, or is there a way to understand it as a meaningful subcategory of the much larger category "woman"?