Loss of virtue in a female is irretrievable; that one false step involves her in endless ruin; that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful; and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex.

– Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 47. The teenage tearaway of the Bennet family Lydia has run off with George Wickham. Her sister Mary draws what she believes is an important moral lesson from Lydia’s elopment. She speaks of the frailty of a woman’s reputation, warning her other sisters that once a woman loses her virtue it cannot be recovered. Here she is echoing how highly prized a woman’s virtue and moral reputation were at the time, if she aspired to have a decent life for herself and maintain the respect of society.