"As the historian Beth L. Bailey argued in a 1988 book on courtship in twentieth-century America, calling, which took place in the female 'sphere' of the home, afforded women a degree of control that dating in the public, male sphere didn’t. Plus, it was up to women to pursue men. Bailey quotes a young man’s letter that was published in Ladies’ Home Journal in 1909: 'May I call upon a young woman whom I greatly admire, although she had not given me permission?' Not if he wanted to have a chance with her, came the reply. Compare this, as Bailey does, with the warning issued in a dating guide from the nineteen-fifties—representative of a genre that has survived with roachlike endurance to the present day—that for girls to ask guys out would be 'to usurp the right of boys to choose their own dates,' a custom that the guide claimed stretched back to the Stone Age, when, readers were blithely informed, men regarded women as prey and took them by force. The shift from calling to dating happened quickly, in the way that such shifts often do. The rich copied the poor; the middle class copied the rich...."
From "Work It/Is dating worth the effort?" in The New Yorker.