The Proverbs 31 woman is not only alive and kicking in the pages of Scripture, but she continues to be held up as a model of womanhood as well as a model of who godly single men should be pursuing.
Proverbs 31 woman n.
1. As in: the Proverbs 31 woman. The idealized wife described in Proverbs 31:10-31. This woman has also been called the Proverbs 31 lady, the ideal wife, and the virtuous woman.
The chapter’s closing lines acknowledge that few, if indeed any, women can fully attain to this model of virtue and industry: “Many daughters have done vertuously, but thou excellest them all” (Proverbs 31:29 kjv).
Note that some women are uncomfortable being compared to the Proverbs 31 woman (see citations for 1982, 1984, 1989, 1990, and 2010). And yet women also draw strength and inspiration from her example (see citations for 1983, 1984, 2001, and 2010).
The expression first appeared in print in the late 1970s, and it has since attained widespread use in conversation and in Christian literature written for a popular audience. The term seems to have originally referred to the specific woman in Proverbs 31, but within a few years the term was being applied to any virtuous Christian woman (see sense 2 below).
Sometimes abbreviated P-31 or P31 (see 1999 citation below; see also quotes for 2008, 2009, and 2010 in sense 2 below).
• 1979 Meredith Becoming One 154 : The Proverbs 31 woman is able emotionally and physically to work hard and sacrificially. 1982 Chapman Married Lovers, Married Friends 23 : Annie tells me she used to hate this Proverbs 31 woman because the dear lady seems to have it all together. 1983 Conway Women in Midlife Crisis 77 : The Proverbs 31 Woman is an example of a woman using her gifts and abilities wisely and in season. She has been wrongly accused of being a Super Woman, an ideal that none of us can expect to attain, nor would we want to. 1984 Briscoe Queen of Hearts: The Role of Today’s Woman Based on Proverbs 31 back cover : Do you fight a desire to dive under your pew when the pastor begins teaching about the Proverbs 31 woman? In Queen of Hearts, Jill Briscoe carefully explicates the entire text of Proverbs 31, thereby showing you how to imitate this woman. 1988 Cook Ordinary Women: Extraordinary Strength 15 : The Proverbs 31 woman is sometimes called “God’s ideal woman.” 1989 Lawhead The Lie of the Good Life: Fifty Women Tell the Truth 136 : If one more person talks to me about the Proverbs 31 woman … gosh, I just hate her! When you talk about women’s roles, it seems that everyone comes back to the Proverbs 31 woman! 1990 Mathews A Woman God Can Use: Lessons from Old Testament Women Help You Make Today’s Choices 155 : When preachers use her—especially on Mother’s Day—as a template laid over our lives, few of us measure up. That’s the problem most of us face when we read about the Proverbs 31 woman. 1994 Pidgeon We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby! So Where Do We Go from Here? ch. 4 : The well-known “Proverbs 31 woman” is the epitome of feminine purity, while the less-discussed “Proverbs 7 woman” is the epitome of uncleanness. 1999 Clairmont I Love Being a Woman 91 : I was consistently amazed, when I was growing up, at what my mom could concoct out of leftovers, spare parts, damaged goods, and meager findings. She looked “well to the ways of her household” ([Proverbs 31] verse 27), just like the P-31 woman. 2001 George A Woman’s High Calling 115 : I dearly love the Proverbs 31 woman and the entire chapter of Proverbs 31. This God-breathed, God-painted portrait of a godly woman living out her high calling shows us a mother teaching her son! 2010 McMenamin Women on the Edge 104 : Later, when Chris surrendered her life to the Lord at the age of 35, she didn’t have an older Christian woman in her life to mentor her. So she searched the Scriptures and found a role model there. She sought to imitate a woman in Scripture whom most of us feel intimidated by…. “Some people make fun of the Proverbs 31 woman,” Chris says. “Some women feel intimidated by her. But I really do aspire to be like her.”
2. As in: a Proverbs 31 woman. Any godly and virtuous Christian woman, whether married or unmarried, whose life and character seem worthy of praise, admiration, or even emulation.
Sometimes abbreviated P-31 or P31 (see citations for 2008, 2009, and 2010 below; see also 1999 quote in sense 1 above).
For more information about this term, see sense 1 above.
• 1985 Briscoe Liberated Traditionalism: Men and Women in Balance 179 : Gospel singer Cynthia Clawson echoes the modern lament of countless women in her haunting song, “Ruby.” The song presents the story of a woman who desperately wants to be a Proverbs 31 woman. 1988 Barnes Growing a Great Marriage 32 : Mama was a Proverbs 31 woman and didn’t even know it. She was a hard worker, often working at the shop late into the night. She watched for bargains in order to make our money go farther. 1993 Frederick Pearls in Due Season 101 : These words speak loudly and clearly to me of how much honor and dignity I, as an inmate’s wife, can give to my husband. Every wife should desire to be a Proverbs 31 woman, but an inmate’s wife brings her husband the highest tribute he could ever want when she stands beside him in what the rest of the world would call “an impossible situation.” 1997 Charisma 22/12 3 : I’m a mother of three children, ages 11, 8 and 3. I don’t work because of greed or materialism, as some people might suggest. Instead, I strive to be a Proverbs 31 woman. 2003 Banks The Multi-Faceted Woman xi : Of course, I understood that just reading the passage would not automatically change me into a Proverbs 31 woman, but I began by making a decision to become this woman and took my first step on the journey. 2008 Kendall A Man Worth Waiting For: How to Avoid a Bozo 155 : When one Boaz, a guy named Ben, first noticed an attractive single girl, they were sitting at their local singles’ meeting. He saw that she was nodding as they listened to a great speaker. This Boaz said to his roommates who were at the Bible study with him, “I bet that girl is a P-31 [code for a ‘Proverbs 31 woman’],” and they asked, “How can you tell?” He replied, “I have noticed that she nods when the speaker makes some deeper remarks….” Later, he discovered that this P-31 woman’s name was, ironically, Ruth. 2009 Steinberg Christotainment: Selling Jesus Through Popular Culture ch. 7 : David Socha writes in his corporate biography that he has a “Proverbs 31 woman” at home, and dozens of websites exist devoted to the P31 woman. What does it mean to be a P31 girl today? 2010 Thompkins There’s No Place Like Home 94 : Grandmama was a woman of few words, very modest and simple in her dress, not drawing a lot of attention to herself…. Taking care of her family and providing meals for them was top priority…. Her very spirit represented hard work and labor that most women in today’s society will never know…. She was a real jewel. Some may even consider her a P31.