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Rules for Wives, 1955

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This list of Good Housekeeping’s 1955 “Good House Wife’s Guide” has been getting a lot of attention on ye ol’intertubes. What are those guidelines?

1.) Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs.

2.) Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favorite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.

3.) Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.

4.) Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.

5.) Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc. and then run a dust cloth over the tables.

6.) Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.

7.) Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes.

8.) Children are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.

9.) Be happy to see him. Free him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him. Listen to him.

10.) You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first — remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.

11.) Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.

12.) Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where you husband can renew himself in body and spirit.

13.) Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.

14.) Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.

15.) Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

16.) Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

17.) Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment of integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

18.) A good wife always knows her place.

Of course the response has been the expected combination of incredulity, outrage, anger, and gladness that we don’t live in 1955. And that’s all fine. I feel that way too. “You have no right to question him”???? Wow. It is however worth noting a couple of things here. First, just because the ideology of the 1950s was this directly sexist doesn’t mean that it reflected the realities of people’s lives. That’s especially true when it comes to working class women who were laboring in the workforce, as well as taking care of the kids at home. Yeah, they were doing double work in a sexist society, but it’s not like women were staying at home being the submissive housewife. These rules did not reflect actual relations between men and women at home. However, there’s also no question that even working women came to believe that this sort of arrangement was the domestic ideal during this period, with polling showing that the vast majority of Americans believed women shouldn’t work if a husband could take care of them. It’s interesting to consider why such stark guidelines became popular during a period of relative peace and domestic prosperity and I suppose the back of the cocktail napkin answer is that after 20 years of turmoil, a return to normalcy was very appealing to people, even if that normalcy was an imagined and romanticized past. It’s been a long time since I’ve dealt with the historical literature on these issues, as neither my work nor teaching really covers any of this. No doubt readers can add more to the conversation. But in any case, it is worth noting that this sort of thing isn’t actually what was happening in the vast majority of American homes. And where it was, it tended to be in the homes of the wealthy, which is why Betty Friedan and her friends seem to have been more directly affected by all of this than the working and middle classes.

Speaking of the ideology of post-war middle class whites, watch this great film by the magazine Redbook if you haven’t. Or even if you have.

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  • Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night.

    Now that’s what I call patriarchy! Where can I get me some?

    I was a lisping three year-old in the suburbs the year that piece came out, and I can relate that those impossible standards, which were certainly in the air, did my parents’ respective emotional well-beings no good at all, and ended in crushing disappointment all around.

    • advocatethis

      I think with maybe just a little polishing around the edges these guidelines pretty closely reflected what my father expected from marriage through the sixties and seventies, which goes a long way toward explaining why that marriage didn’t survive into the 80s.

      What I find interesting is that, as Erik notes, even in the fifties this reflected a hope to a return to an imagined and romanticized past, more than any actual reality. Fifty years later we have people who take it on faith that this wasn’t just how people wished it were in the fifties, but how it was, and fervently hope to go back to it.

      • rea

        Of course this is not how people actually lived in the 50s–the very fact that self-help articles like this were written shows that.

        • BigHank53

          Yeah. There’s not much daylight between this fossil and Cosmopolitan’s most recent “Eight things that will drive your man wild in bed” cover tease. The editorial content is in the magazine so the audience will pick it up and see the ads.

        • efgoldman

          Of course this is not how people actually lived in the 50s–the very fact that self-help articles like this were written shows that.

          It’s basically the shooting script for the opening of the Donna Reed show.

    • JMP

      Didn’t they have pay phones in the 50s – not to mention that offices and bars both had phones? I know it wasn’t as easy to reach people then, but it wasn’t impossible either. And I can’t think of a reason a married man would stay out all night without telling his wife first which doesn’t involve cheating.

      • Dennis Orphen

        Some bars were named “The Office” so a man could truthfully say ” I’m staying late at the office” or something like that.

        • Redwood Rhiadra

          What do you mean “were”? There’s still one (actually sports bar/restaurant) a couple of blocks from my last workplace.

          http://www.theofficesancarlos.com/#about

          • Norrin Radd

            If you’re ever in LA, try out this place: Father’s Office. They’re known for their beer selection, but I love them for their burgers. Best burger I’ve ever had, bar none. Not even a close 2nd.

          • advocatethis

            That’s just a couple hundred yards from where the Circle Star Theatre was.

    • royko

      This one makes me wonder if the article’s legit. Sexist society aside, people had to function on a practical level, and that just seems hard to do when your husband may be late or not come home at all. I don’t really believe this was acceptable unless you were married to Henry Hill.

      • Rob in CT

        Apparently, it’s questionable, yeah.

        • CD

          More below, but yes, the first half appears to come from a mid-90s chain e-mail, with the rest added later. Nobody has offered a verifiable 50s source.

          There’s a long and rich tradition of advice books, etiquette manuals, and the like, and some nice history mining that archive.

          • recurse

            The first 12 definitely predate email. I first saw this offered as an object of amusement in the early 80’s in New Zealand.

      • DrDick

        Having grown up in that era, it represents a kind of nebulous ideal that was never really lived, but everybody pretended it was real. Much like the rest of the 50s.

        • efgoldman

          So I imagined my dad’s “Wedgewood Blue” (Turquoise) ’56 Plymouth Plaza with the four-pushbutton automatic transmission to the left of the steering wheel?

          • Brad Nailer

            My gramps had one. It was permanently parked in the garage right next to the basement and the coal-burning furnace.

  • Joseph Slater

    See also Mabel Morgan, _The Total Woman: How to Make Your Marriage Come Alive _ (1973), which advised wives, among other things, to greet their husbands at the door dressed in saran wrap. Even the barely teen-aged me imagined that wouldn’t be very comfortable or convenient.

    • nixnutz

      Wasn’t that an episode of Maude?

      • JMP

        I remember that from Fried Green Tomatoes (can’t say I’ve ever seen Maude).

        • catclub

          Wrapping your dead husband in saran wrap?

          I missed that scene.

          • rea

            Only the leftovers.

    • (((Hogan)))

      Marabel Morgan, and wouldn’t my mother be proud of me for knowing that.

      • Joseph Slater

        Nice catch. In my defense, while I was alive in the early 1970s, I wasn’t a “housewife” so the only thing about this that stuck in my teenaged mind was the “dressed in saran wrap” bit.

    • Colin Day

      Just Saran Wrap? Like showing everything?

  • N__B

    Mrs__b received as a wedding present a similar type of guide written for Russian women circa 1880. Roughly one quarter of the text concerns liquor.

    • LosGatosCA

      Roughly one quarter of the text concerns liquor.

      Not vodka !!!

      • Denverite

        When I was in Russia, they’d bring out pitchers of vodka for the table, like places here do with water. A liter of Stoli was $1.50; the mixer was twice as much.

        • MPAVictoria

          A LITER!?! Jesus…

          • CaptainBringdown

            A.k.a. “aperitif.”

        • DrS

          $1.50?

          I know Russians have quite a rep as big drinkers, but at those prices, I think they are showing remarkable restraint.

    • “A 90-pound Russian woman can drink you under the table”
      – Anthony Bourdain

      (and I get the impression Bourdain has done some serious drinking in his life)

      • Denverite

        The one time I was there, I was drinking vodka with this dude I just met, and he pulled out a flask of Georgian moonshine. The 80 proof vodka wasn’t strong enough for his taste.

      • JMP

        That literally happened to me in college – actually she may have been closer to 80 lbs, she was all of 4’10 or 4’11. Trying to keep up with here and my (Ukrainian) roommate was not a good idea.

      • sharculese

        The last third of Kitchen Confidential is pretty upfront about how much booze and cocaine he was consuming at the time.

    • Dalai Rasta

      Heh, I initially read that as “Roughly one quarter of the text contains liquor.” Bet that would have been more helpful.

  • Lurker

    My grandmother was a stay-at-home mother for most of her life. Technically, this was the ideal towards which she strove. She built a home into which my grandfather, her children and an odd assortment of nephews and nieces could come, with food and fresh home-made bakery always at the table. My grandfather could concentrate in his work and my father and his siblings to their studies.

    But, by Jove, she was mean-tempered. Even if she worked like a house-slave, she definitely didn’t submit to his husband’s will. More like the opposite. But outwards, she made sure she remained the docile housewife.

    • DrDick

      A whole lot of that went on during that period.

    • DrS

      I think that this is also pined for by many conservatives, although they wouldn’t frame it that way. But look at how often they talk about how their wives tamed them and made them civilized. Or the way that the husband acts like he’s also a kid or the wife talks about her “third kid”, her husband.

      Btw, getting away from facebook has done wonders for me

  • LosGatosCA

    Extremely random thoughts:

    I’m sure this list was adapted from some geisha manual.

    With just a few added words/selective editing at critical places this could be a letter to Playboy/Penthouse.

    • NonyNony

      I don’t even need a Rule 34 to know that this kind of “Leave it to Beaver” cosplay is a fetish that a number of folks participate in even today.

    • John not McCain

      Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him.

      Just screams “strap-on”, so more like Hustler, what with it’s gay phone sex ads and all.

      • Gwen

        Heh, reminds me of a meme that was floating around where the punchline, basically, was “He told me to make him a sandwich so I made him a sub.”

  • The Temporary Name

    5.) Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc. and then run a dust cloth over the tables.

    How old is she?

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Heh heh. I read that passage and could only ponder, “How much dust could have fallen since yesterday?!”

      • In the 1950s, the mills (etc.) in the Cleveland Flats were still producing enough particulate pollution that a noticeable amount of dust could fall in one day, at least on the (not near, but not far) West Side. Some days you couldn’t hang your laundry out to dry on the clotheslines outdoors.

        Or so I think I remember.

      • les

        The 50’s in the upper Midwest–Dakotas, Minnesota–my Mom stored glasses, cups, etc. upside down in the cupboards because they’d get so much dust in them otherwise. Constant winds, houses weren’t so tight, hardly a tree from one side of the state to the other–dust was everywhere, always.

  • joel hanes

    Ralph and Alice Kramden are perhaps a better guide to the actual state of matrimony-without-kids in mid-20th-century America.

    • I’d say they’re a pretty watered-down version at that.

      At least if my grandparents were any indication.

    • Norrin Radd

      +1

    • Sly

      Not just in terms of matrimony-without-kids.

      I think there’s a reason why networks turned away from family sitcoms that embraced the “Father Knows Best” routine and turned towards those that firmly embraced the “Father is a Dumbshit But Thank God Mom Will Save Us” routine established by The Honeymooners.

  • NonyNony

    Stuff like this is part of the explanation for the record divorce rates of the 1970s.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      Well, that and legal reforms!

  • man, those older guys were living the dream!

    I couldn’t imagine getting away with #’s 11 or 14.

    “Going out drinking after work. Be home tomorrow, maybe, or maybe not. Have breakfast ready. Bye.”

    My wife would be changing the locks and calling a lawyer.

    • (((Hogan)))

      Slick had missed Bonnie’s roll call one night in Tulsa because he drank himself Bulletproof and became involved with a persuasive homewrecker who vowed he would not have to remove his socks.

      Slick limped home about seven o’clock the next morning. His plan was to sneak into the house through the back door before anyone awakened and curl up on the couch and pretend to have slept there.

      But Bonnie was already in the kitchen cracking eggs for her sister and mother, both of whom lived there–another of Bonnie’s jokes.

      “Where in the holy hell have you been all night?” Bonnie had bellowed.

      Slick gingerly solved the riddle. He had worked past midnight on the transmission of a Chevrolet. He hadn’t wanted to disturb anybody when he came home. That’s why he had slept in the hammock in the backyard.

      “I’ll have mine over easy,” he said.

      “You lyin’ bastard!” Bonnie exploded. “I took that hammock down three weeks ago!”

      “Well,” Slick had murmured sleepily, wandering off, “that’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it.”

    • Randy

      Which shows that this article is obviously a hoax. If you looked at any magazine cartoons from the 50s, you would know that a husband who came home late could expect to be met at the door by his wife, who was in a housecoat and curlers, and carrying a rolling pin.

      • efgoldman

        who was in a housecoat and curlers, and carrying a rolling pin.

        In alternate versions, a large frying pan.

        • Dennis Orphen

          BSpencer’s gravitar.

    • tsam

      I couldn’t imagine getting away with #’s 11 or 14.

      They didn’t. But they REALLY REALLY wanted to.

      • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

        Hence, the male editor’s “suggestion” to include them in the list, in hopes that millions of housewives would think This Was The Way It Should Be.

        • Dennis Orphen

          I like the way you think.

    • William Berry

      You can always give this one a shot:

      On your way home at five am, call ahead and tell your wife: “Forget the ransom, honey, I’ve escaped!”

      • Dennis Orphen

        I like the way you think, too.

  • Denverite

    Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.

    This isn’t what this is talking about, but “don’t criticize your spouse for working late or working long hours” is pretty good — and hard to follow — advice. 99% of the time, the spouse would rather be at home. Heaping spousal complaints on top of the suckitude that is working long hours is even suckier at best, and a lot of the time, can come across as not respecting the spouse’s judgment as to what is and isn’t required to keep his or her job.

    • Yep. It’s important to have a discussion to set boundaries and expectations both ways in terms of work hours. My wife and I did that… eventually.

      • Denverite

        My problem is that “this job is going to require long hours, are we OK with that” is easy enough to say yes to ex ante, but when it’s 8:00 pm and the spouse is still at work and can’t help the kids to bed, that previous acquiescence tends to go out the window.

        • Agree. Although in our case, it wasn’t the long hours as much as the variable hours. She would get as upset if I said 6:00, and it ended up being 6:30, as she would if I said 7:30 and got home at 8.

          I learned not to be an optimist. That way, she’d be happy I came home earlier than I said, no matter what time it was.

    • sharculese

      This is just a thing that’s generally true. I had to give my mom, who spent almost all of her adult career in the federal government, a stern talking to before she realized that the ‘advice’ she kept giving me on what demands I should be making of my employers were more stressful than helpful.

      • MPAVictoria

        This just reinforces my belief that everyone should belong to a Union. Regular hours are so important to a health home life.

        / 8 hours for work, 8 for sleep and 8 for what you will.

        • sharculese

          I’m not someone who can work regular hours. I find that kind of consistency stifling.

          It was more things like her telling me to cancel on a client because it was raining too hard.

      • lizzie

        I know nobody cares, but I work for the federal government and most people assume that means I work a 40 hour week, which is not the case. A normal workweek is 50 hours, I’ve worked the last two weekends, and I’ve put in I think 85 hours so far this pay period (with 3 more days to go). I know a lot of people have it way worse, but I just want to take this opportunity to say that not all federal workers work 40 hour weeks.

    • Rob in CT

      Yeah, I have to be careful about this with my wife, who works a lot harder than me. It can be frustrating when she’s managing some crisis during our family vacation, but it’s not like she’s enjoying it either.

    • Quaino

      Yup. I had a bad change of management last year right before our daughter was born to the point I started working 10-16 hour days. My wife was pretty understanding, most likely because we agreed I was quitting at year end (health insurance with a new baby and year-end bonuses are nice), but there were a few nights when she was on edge and I’d roll in at 10PM that things got a little terse and would have been ended significantly worse should we not have had our aforementioned agreement.

      But hey, yeah, fuck unions and keep government out of business, amirite?

  • cleek

    15.) Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

    16.) Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

    this is the part where she stabs him in the neck for being an uncaring asshole, right?

    • tsam

      17) Don’t show too much enthusiasm for the poisoned drink you made, let him consume it on his own time to not arouse suspicion.

      • Lurker

        “Teach him to like the taste of almond, so he doesn’t suspect cyanide.”

    • cdevine

      Nah, she just waits for the drink to kick in and smothers him with the pillow.

    • My mother reportedly told my father early on:

      “You have to go to sleep sometime

      • Philip

        My great grandmother on how my great grandparents stayed happily married for north of 7 decades: “divorce never; murder often!”

    • N__B

      Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.

      Schrödinger’s Cocktail.

    • Dennis Orphen

      I think they burn the bed these days. Or is that only for adultery?

      • smith

        I’m pretty sure that’s for when he regularly beats her to a pulp.

  • Buckeye623

    Andrea Tantaros, how dare you, you hussy! To be clear: The link is a new lawsuit, a new level from the ones filed recently..

    The problem, as always, was never the harassment.. her issue was that she had the temerity to report it.

    • cleek

      but my wingnut friend assures me there was nothing to any of the allegations and that it was just a way to get Ailes out.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Close, but no. It was a way to get Ailes out, and there is something to the allegations.

        http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2015/06/rupert-is-going-to-need-me-to-elect.html?m=1

        I’m more than a year behind reading on Digby’s blog now, but this last-summer bit is fun news to read from the future. . This confirms my suspicions that the Murdoch clan – and many other people – knew what Ailes was doing all along, but now is a perfect time to get rid of him, so orders are given and out comes the dirt.

    • Brett

      That’s sad, especially considering how vehemently anti-feminist Tantaros. She probably thought it could never happen to her – maybe those other weak women would get buckled, but not her.

      In any case, I’m glad she’s pushing for the suit and not taking the “seven-figure settlement” they supposedly offered her. Ailes might be gone, but that didn’t dismantle the sexist culture at Fox.

      • Dilan Esper

        It’s important to remember (and I think the left is doing a good job on this with respect to the Fox News allegations) that the rules against employment discrimination are meant to benefit all working women. There’s no requirement that one be a feminist or even agree with the law. Even someone with the politics of Sarah Palin or Laura Ingraham or Michelle Malkin has the right to go to work and do her job without this shit.

        Tantaros’ job may have been to be a right wing tool, but she had every right to be able to do that job without being harassed, and there is no hypocrisy or impropriety whatsoever in her bringing suit to redress any harassment that occurred.

        • Brett

          I absolutely agree. That wasn’t meant to shame Tantaros – like I said, I just found it kind of sad.

        • BiloSagdiyev

          I suspect Tantaros will remain a right wing tool for many years to come…

      • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

        The part that bothers me is that she continued to condemn other women even after her own harassment began.

        I wonder if she’d still be attacking other women if Ailes et al hadn’t retaliated against her for complaining in-house.

        • Dilan Esper

          I think you have to be very careful about wanting women to behave like the perfect victim. One of the reasons these things go on as long as they do is that women don’t want to lose their jobs by speaking up. And, indeed, when Tantaros spoke up, look what happened to her.

          And when you speak up, it’s not just that you get punished in your own job. “You’ll never work in this town again” sometimes happens, which is one of the reasons why the casting couch and sexual harassment endures in the entertainment industry and Hollywood.

          There’s nothing wrong with criticizing Tantaros’ political views on the merits. But when this happened to her, she was a victim, and was placed in the same sort of bad position of having to risk everything to blow the whistle that every harassment victim is placed in. That’s a tough situation and we shouldn’t judge women for how they respond to it.

          • Brett

            In Tantaros’ case, she’s unemployed and had a book deal in the pipeline. I can’t really blame her for not wanting to spike her only meal ticket for the time being, although if she wins against Fox she’ll have enough money to retire comfortably (or if she gets a higher settlement).

  • Randy

    It’s interesting to consider why such stark guidelines became popular during a period of relative peace and domestic prosperity and I suppose the back of the cocktail napkin answer is that after 20 years of turmoil, a return to normalcy was very appealing to people, even if that normalcy was an imagined and romanticized past.

    I think this nails a lot of what we think of as the stereotyped 50s domesticity. Adults of that era were kids during the Depression, and came of age during WWII. The Leave it to Beaver fantasy household looks an awful lot like the fantasy household from a Collier’s magazine ad in the 30s. It’s as if the goal was to reach the goal you wanted 20 years earlier.

    Also, the article is very likely a hoax: http://www.snopes.com/history/document/goodwife.asp.

    • this is a bummer!

      oh well. There have to be some true lists of “good housekeeping tips” from the 50’s/60’s that come close to this, right?

    • tsam

      Yeah, I’m sure I saw a few other versions of this debunked by Snopes before. However, it’s easy to believe in it–the sentiment behind it is pretty accurate for the period.

      • Captain Oblivious

        Being old enough to remember…

        No, not really.

        It does, however, reflect the sentiments of the GHK editorial board, who were ultra-conservative, even if the article’s a hoax.

    • unrelated to anything but snopes, I found this when I clicked on the main page.

      What an idiot. He can’t even do a photo-op right. Why bring Play-Doh at all? The clownshow never stops.

      • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

        The number one priority of flood victims is usually clean water, since despite being surrounded by it, you can’t drink any of it and the water company is either out of service or contaminated. The exceptions are mostly people who need daily or at least regular doses of drugs that aren’t available anymore, and people with other medical emergencies or who aren’t able to take care of themselves.

        Just about everything else that’s missing may make you miserable but won’t kill you very quickly.

        • N__B

          MacGyver could set up a filtration plant using nothing but Play-Doh.

          • BiloSagdiyev

            If life hands you lemons, make little naked Donald Trump statuettes out of Play Doh.

    • Rugosa

      I was born in 53, so remember the late 50s and the 60s. Also was raised strict working class catholic. The actual list might be fake, but there were definitely articles on the “Women’s Pages” in the newspaper and in women’s magazines that touted the general drift of it. #17, “you have no right to question him” is right in line with what we were taught in catholic school – you were supposed to obey your husband, including having sex on demand. A cute debate topic in our high school marriage course was, is it OK for a woman to wear slacks if her husband doesn’t want her to? (Of course not. silly. He buys your clothes, he gets to say what you wear.)

      • Lev

        Oh definitely. The lyric from “Stand by your man” about how he’s doing things you don’t understand is basically the same sentiment. Also untrue and gross.

        Didn’t realize until recently that the song came out in 1968 but of course it did.

        • Karen24

          Written and performed by a woman who also had a big hit with “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad.”

        • Yankee

          “Wives and Lovers”, 1963. I thought the hit was Bobby Darin but it turns out to be “Jack Jones”. Smarmy dude! Also not much of a singer.

          ETA: all the pop people covered it

          • Dennis Orphen

            Jack Jones, not much of a singer? I CANNOT LET THAT GO UNCHALLENGED! (Theme from The Love Boat for those, like myself, who don’t have time for every link)

            But well played to mention Wives and Lovers, one of many fine Burt Bacharach/Hal David compositions.

            • FWIW, I was once told by one of Telly Savalas’s nephews that Telly considered Jack Jones to be the best of the crooners.

        • smith

          Written and sung by a woman who was married five times.

    • CD

      I was about to say. This has been debunked repeatedly.

      The first nine points seem to come from a mid-1990s chain e-mail. Someone later decided to improve it with another nine points. The site Erik links to took that, with the attribution now changed to _Good Housekeeping Magazine_ rather than a “home economics textbook” in the 1990s version of the hoax, and stuck a bunch of pictures in. Notice that nobody has an original source citation. (I’m familiar with this because it has cropped up occasionally in student papers over the years.)

      A few minutes of googling phrases should show you that pattern. Does LGM really want to be repeating hoaxes?

      • efgoldman

        Does LGM really want to be repeating hoaxes?

        Don’t we deserve some laughs and relief from Little Orange Lucifer?

        • rea

          Speaking of repeating hoaxes, let’s talk about Trump’s latest comments!

          • Dennis Orphen

            I have a bad case of Trump Fatigue. Can we talk about something more interesting instead, like folding socks?

      • LosGatosCA

        Does LGM really want to be repeating hoaxes?

        I don’t think of it as a hoax, any more than I think the Onion is not a factually based newspaper.

        It’s not. Right? The Onion? It’s supposed to be funny, not true. I think?

        • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

          I’m sure it was more due to economics, but in Chicago one of the underground paper’s final edition said they were quitting because reality had gotten too weird to parody anymore. (IIRC, Watergate was starting to unravel.)

        • CD

          The OP credulously presents it as a genuine document from the 1950s, and repeats the fake attribution to the 1955 Good Housekeeping as fact. Most of the responses above accept it as a genuine document from that era.

          Look, archives linger, and students find this stuff. There’s plenty of genuine stuff to discuss, no? Why be circulating fakes just because they fit our ideological tastes?

        • Dennis Orphen

          The whole point of the Onion is it’s funny because it tells the truth.

          • efgoldman

            The whole point of the Onion is it’s funny because it tells the truth.

            Yeah, but some people :::cough/CD/cough::: apparently have a severe case of tight ass.

      • Ken_L

        This 1963 hit song was no hoax, nor was it regarded as satire at the time:

        “Wives And Lovers”

        Hey, little girl
        Comb your hair, fix your make-up
        Soon he will open the door
        Don’t think because
        There’s a ring on your finger
        You needn’t try any more

        For wives should always be lovers, too
        Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
        I’m warning you

        Day after day
        There are girls at the office
        And men will always be men
        Don’t send him off
        With your hair still in curlers
        You may not see him again

        For wives should always be lovers, too
        Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
        He’s almost here

        Hey, little girl
        Better wear something pretty
        Something you’d wear to go to the city
        And dim all the lights
        Pour the wine, start the music
        Time to get ready for love

        Oh, time to get ready,
        Time to get ready
        Time to get ready
        For love.

  • Brett

    I don’t think it was a return to normalcy so much as a reactionary push-back against the loosening of sexual mores and opening of women’s roles in the 1940s. The Fifties were like that in many ways – see the rise in anti-communist efforts both governmental and non-governmental, the spread of confederate memorabilia on public display in the South, the increase in strikes because of companies pushing back against unions that had gained strength in the Thirties and Forties, etc.

    It wasn’t entirely propaganda (my mother grew up in your stereotypical suburban one-income family with a homemaker mom), but a lot of it was.

    • CP

      I always figured this was a big part of fifties ideology. In a massive economic depression, let alone a world war, the traditional clean pristine social order and concept of How Things Ought To Be is bound to get a little roughed up – you do whatever it takes to put food on the table, and later on, whatever it takes to win the war, even if that involves shocking things like, say, women working men’s jobs. Once the dust from that settles, then comes the backlash.

    • robert e

      Yes. My understanding is that there was belief in government and in industry that a postwar recession was almost inevitable, resulting in many, many able bodied men returning home and unable to find work. One result was a campaign to encourage all those working women to go home, and stay home, a cultural backlash against not only Rosie the riveter, who’d been filling in during the war, but against a feminist tide that had begun with the suffrage movement and had long been associated with socialism, anarchism and Communism.

  • Crusty

    There’s another point underlying all of this, maybe Erik picked up on it subconsciously- how frickin’ horrible is this guy’s job? I mean, Don Draper and Roger Sterling looked like they had a great time at work, but look at this-

    “His boring day may need a lift…”

    “…try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.”

    “Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.”

    • sharculese

      Don and Roger were also the top guys in an industry that was exploding, and they almost always found someone else to blame when things went wrong.

      The baseline isn’t what their day was like, it’s what Harry Crane’s was like.

      • Crusty

        Sure, he got dumped on a little more, but I think he still found time to have a few drinks, have sex with the support staff at least once and then get back to his actual work of holding casting calls for models and actresses.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Also, Harry was kind of a putz. His day would have gone better if people weren’t tired of him being a putz.

        Also, you forgot the cult-member shtupping! Of course, he wasn’t so much of a putz as to join the cult. That would be Kinsey.

    • Lev

      But “this goddamn job” is also a very good excuse for behaving like an asshole if it can’t be checked up on. My friend had a dad like that when we were growing up–not around much, an angry bastard when he was around, always blaming “the job” for being that way. Found out later that he had just about the cushiest job imaginable: he was essentially a middleman type who played golf three times a week and spent more time at the bar than in the office. Made six figures to boot. I mean, maybe you could make a case that being “on” all the time was draining, I don’t know, but still.

    • Dilan Esper

      There’s another point underlying all of this, maybe Erik picked up on it subconsciously- how frickin’ horrible is this guy’s job?

      One of the most understated points in American culture and political debates is that most jobs suck.

      When television shows deal with work at all, the characters tend to have interesting jobs. Hannah Horvath and Carrie Bradshaw were writers. Barney Miller was a cop. Numerous private eyes, politicians, sports figures, and artists.

      But in the real world, most people do not do interesting work. They do manual labor, or perform menial services, or mine, or drive, or operate machinery, or pick crops, or do other non-stimuating activities. If you really love your job, you are extremely privileged (and I include myself in this).

      I think the culture of the 1950’s may have picked up on this a bit more– think of Ralph Kramden driving his bus and then taking out all of his frustrations on poor Alice. That show was very sexist, but it also reflected an underlying reality.

      And when making policy or just thinking about cultural issues, it’s really important for those of us whose jobs do not suck to do a reality check every once in awhile and understand that most people are not going to enjoy whatever they do for a living very much. (It’s also a useful check on the privilege of some of the more entitled segments of the younger generations.)

      • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

        Roseanne seemed to me to be closer to real life than a lot of what got reported on the news broadcasts.

        • Dilan Esper

          I agree. Roseanne was a really great show for a lot of reasons, and that was one of them.

      • Dennis Orphen

        Let’s not forget Ed Norton, down in the sewers all day.

        • N__B

          The Incredible Hulk wasn’t that bad.

      • BiloSagdiyev

        When television shows deal with work at all, the characters tend to have interesting jobs. Hannah Horvath and Carrie Bradshaw were writers. Barney Miller was a cop. Numerous private eyes, politicians, sports figures, and artists.

        Thank you. And while we’re at it, I’d like to see some cops or teachers on TV who work in a place with flourescent lighting and linoleum floors! TV sets can be just strangely silly.

  • Lurker

    I looked at the film there. It is surprising how much my own life looks like that. Well, I don’t make consumerism my life mission, but still, the area where I live looks a lot like the suburb pictured, complete with the lily-white population (rather naturally). Even the architecture is not that different. It looks a lot like the place where I grew up.

    An interesting facet, though, is that the houses seem mass-produced. There is very little of the pioneering idealism that you find in a residential area that is being built by the inhabitants. There are a few shots showing planning a house, but no romanticism about the master of the house building the very house, with the wife painting and children playing with planks and bricks. Or a street-scape showing empty plots and houses in different phases of construction. That kind of images were extreme popular in 1840’s and -50’s European newsreels, because they were signifying reconstruction, and even now, they are considered positive imagery.

    Am I correct assuming that most 1950’s suburb houses were mass-produced by construction companies?

    • I think they more or less still are.

      Our subdivision, laid down in the late 70’s/early 80’s has about 3-4 different styles of houses, and other than painting them different colors, they didn’t do anything to disguise the redundant looking nature of the street.

    • Brett

      Yep, that was the rise of tract housing. Some of the stuff that had been developed for individual home-building was actually banned or heavily restricted in the early 20th century, such as self-started home-building kits.

      • Lurker

        Ah. I see. Here, the big construction companies don’t manufacture single-family housing, because the municipalities apportion the available plots to the willing individuals by means of waiting lists or by lot. (In rural areas, you just walk to the municipal office and ask for a plot and they sell it to you.) Thus, it is always a single family doing the building.

        Nowadays, the most popular method seems to be buying a home construction kit, and having part of the work done by a contractor, with rest of works done by the owner. It is terribly inefficient. I have seen marriages of my coworkers ruined after they have spent all their evenings and nights building, and days working at the day job. When my wife and I built our house, we contracted most of the work out, and just project management, painting, gardening and cleaning were about as stressful as the first few months of having a baby.

    • GeorgeBurnsWasRight

      I spent my later childhood (for most of the 1960s) in a newly-built house that was one of 3 styles you could choose from, with only minor variations permitted. Other nearby housing developments, as they were called, had 3 or so slightly different choices, but the variations were mostly size and exterior finish. I could visit any of my friends and never had to ask them where the bathroom was, because it was always down a hall that led to the side the bedrooms were on.

      It was in a formerly tiny city that was expanding rapidly as farm land was turned into housing tracts. We were fairly early in the rush, and the second school had just been completed to take the load off the moderately-large single school building which had handled all K-12 students previously.

      By the time I was in high school, they were opening up two or more schools a year (and each school had far more students than either of the first two.) My school changed athletic divisions 3 times in the 4 years I was there because we kept outgrowing the leagues, which were based on enrollment.

  • Turangalila

    This stuff always makes me think of Lenny Bernstein.

  • gawaintheknight

    Some of that attention has come from Snopes.

    http://www.snopes.com/history/document/goodwife.asp

    • Scott P.

      Yeah, after reading it, my feeling is it’s a good Poe, but in fact is a hoax. Some of the ‘advice’ is a little on point to be something that would have been published in a general women’s magazine, even in the 1950s.

      • efgoldman

        but in fact is a hoax.

        Yes, but…
        The Donna Reed ideal is not so very far from what was expected of an Army (and I assume other service) wives in the ’50s. My mom was one. Someone (I think the wife of one of his COs) gave a copy of this book to all of the newly arrived wives on post.
        Not only were they expected to take care of their husband, but there was also the really strict social hierarchy based on hubby’s rank.
        She did it, but she hated it.
        Not surprisingly, most of the dependents’ quarters had huge, well-stocked, well-used liquor cabinets.

  • Crusty

    My mother-in-law still refers to the idea of “making a meal” as something a wife should do for her husband. She’s come to mean it as more of a euphemism for just treating your spouse nicely, but the meal is still at the core of the idea.

  • Stephen Reineccius

    4) Be a little gay.

    Once I hit that one, I just realized I was too gay to be a good housewife for my husband. Cursed homosexuality making me “completely gay”.

  • CP

    17.) Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment of integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

    18.) A good wife always knows her place.

    The article may be a hoax, but this is essentially the fundie, “Biblical” view of how women should act. My fundie cousin’s wedding included the Bible passage with “wives, submit to your husbands,” and a later discussion on Facebook between him and friends involved both he and his wife energetically defending the opinion that “look, of course you should consult the wife’s opinion and not make decisions alone and all that, but at the end of the day the family needs a leader and what he says is final.”

    (And even accepting this premise, the leader must always be the man, because… something).

    Yeah, people really do think like this. Exactly like this.

    Personally, I think the list could use a post-script: “Don’t you ever stand for that sort of thing! Somebody tries to kill you, you try and kill him right back!”

    • Karen24

      This. Additional evidence

    • Srsly Dad Y

      One of my brothers (b. 1953) is a prototypical irreligious meditating hippie musician, and his wife is similar, but he once told me that he’s the boss at home, because it “avoids a lot of problems once you figure that out.” For all I know my SIL may agree.

      • efgoldman

        he once told me that he’s the boss at home, because it “avoids a lot of problems once you figure that out.”

        Old, old Alan King joke:
        “In my house, I’m the boss. I make all the important decisions.”
        “Oh, really? Well, what decisions does your wife make?”
        “Stuff like, what car to buy, what house to buy, where the kids go to school.”
        “Well, what are the really important decisions you make?”
        “Wear to send the aircraft carrier fleet, whether we should keep sending people into space, that kind of thing.”

        • Srsly Dad Y

          “We have an agreement. I don’t try to make decisions in her life and … I don’t try to make decisions in my life.”

      • Dennis Orphen

        It’s usually the other way around.

    • shawn k

      The extreme version is Christian domestic disciple, where the husband spanks the wife as well as the kids. Apparently some of the wives will intentionally leave out a dish or something to start the spanking/sex cycle. Of course they all insist that this is in no way related to S/M. Not in the least.

      http://www.christiandomesticdiscipline.com/home.html

      • BiloSagdiyev

        Website? Thank you! Is there a newsletter or video?

        I’ve been saying it for years, the GOP is a big kinky S&M freak show. Normally they’re just sadists or masochists on other, more mundane issues.

    • B. Peasant

      My wife is Polish, and the list seems to fit well with her description of the ideal Polish housewife.

      Being a cultural Marxistrelatively egalitarian Norwegian, I don’t hold with that kind of crap, though
      I have to confess I do accept a cup of tea if she offers to bring me one.

  • Anna in PDX

    In the Redbook film, there was a shot of a woman reading an article entitled something like “woman’s sexual responsibility in a marriage” by someone with the first name of Maxine. I wonder what that article looked like…

    That was followed by another article about a woman wondering if she should quit her job to make her family happier.

    There was also a weird clip of a guy holding out his shoe towards his … wife? Daughter? Hard to tell. What was that about?

    The whole thing was quite interesting to watch. Particularly because in the titles, they said “in black and white” (show a black and white scene of a white family) “and color!” (show a color picture of a black family)… and I was waiting for more people of color but there weren’t any that I saw in the whole 20 minutes of the film.

    • In the Redbook film, there was a shot of a woman reading an article entitled something like “woman’s sexual responsibility in a marriage” by someone with the first name of Maxine. I wonder what that article looked like…

      You made me look.

      It’s “The Sexual Responsibility of Woman”, by Maxine Davis, published in book form in 1956, and apparently in some form by Redbook in volume 111, p. 91(ff?). A 1976 review of it and similar books in Texas Monthly (full view available from Google Books) spills the beans: her responsibility is her own orgasm (achieved during or after, maybe even before?, sex with her husband). Tiens, alors!

  • John F

    3.) Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking.

    If my wife had a ribbon in her hair I’d be confused…

    8.) Children are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.

    ??????????? At this point I’d be happy if they looked up from their IPads for 2 seconds to acknowledge my existence when I come home.

    13.) Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.

    That would pretty much eliminate all our conversations Monday thru Friday

    17.) Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.

    Well, my wife has never questioned my integrity, judgment yes, integrity no…

    • Srsly Dad Y

      If you count structural integrity …

  • BethRich52

    Anyone who watches the Redbook video will see the subarban hellhole we baby boomers were raised in. Also, where are the shop mobiles now that we are old and rickety?

  • My hunch is that this is a compilation of multiple sources, plus some have been rewritten in a sharper tone (I don’t think “You have no right to question him” would appear so explicitly in a contemporary piece, although the sentiment was certainly there).

    Here’s an example of a ‘lite’ version of this material in a comic book — romance comics are a rich trove of chauvinistic bullshit, even well into the ’70s.

  • Julia Grey

    I could tell it was a hoax from the extremism of some of the suggestions, and that “even if he stays out all night” business. Please. Even Fifties housewives wouldn’t put up with that, and it doesn’t fit the high moral tone and Ideal Family vibe that such an article would have been going for.

    That said, I have a vague memory of reading something(s) VERY like this in the early to mid-SIXTIES, when I was an impressionable pre-teen/early teenager. Similar cultural products informed my attempts to be Super Woman and The Perfect Wife even into the 80s, in spite of women’s lib.

    Pervasive norms are…pervasive.

  • Jake the antisoshul soshulist

    Religious fundies pay a lot of lip service to submissive wives, but reality is quite different. Only the most extreme, like the Duggars, really do more than lip service.

  • DrDick

    As I frequently tell my students, they do not live in the world I grew up in, and we can all be very grateful for that.

    • Julia Grey

      A-Men.

  • rea

    Wives & Lovers, Bacharach-Davis

    Hey, little girl, comb your hair, fix your make-up, soon he will open the door,
    Don’t think because there’s a ring on your finger, you needn’t try any more.
    For wives should always be lovers too,
    Run to his arms the moment that he comes home to you.
    I’m warning you,
    Day after day, there are girls at the office and the men will always be men,
    Don’t stand him up, with your hair still in curlers, you may not see him again.
    Wives should always be lovers too,
    Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you.
    He’s almost here, hey, little girl, better wear something pretty,
    Something you wear to go to the city,
    Dim all the lights, pour the wine, start the music, time to get ready for love.
    Time to get ready for love, yes it’s time to get ready for love,
    It’s time to get ready, kick your shoes off, baby….,

    • Dennis Orphen

      Played and sung in 3/4 time.

  • ajay

    “Too good to check” is supposed to be a joke about journalists, not a maxim of good practice for academics.

  • Ruviana

    The list is a bit out there but when I was twelve I spent a lot of time reading this book. I thought it was awesome, and then “the sixties” happened, thank goodness.

  • Tehanu

    I was 12 in 1960 so I remember the late ’50s pretty well (which is why I could never watch Mad Men; I just couldn’t stand being in that world again) and this kind of advice is all too similar to the advice I, as a teenage girl, got about boys. “If a boy asks you for a date and you don’t want to go out with him, you mustn’t hurt his feelings. Tell him you can’t because you have to wash your hair.” Since my parents, loving though they were, weren’t very good about teaching us to handle emotions (for good reasons I won’t go into now), stuff like this out of pamphlets, basically saying that you should never, never be honest about your emotions, was the only guidance I got — and it fucked me up for decades. People who think the ’50s were great can go back there and good riddance.

  • petemack

    The Rolling Stones did not write “Mothers Little Helper” in a vacuum.

    • BiloSagdiyev

      That’s right! Keith Richards wrote it inside a dishwasher.

  • AMK

    Clear away the clutter….gather up the schoolbooks, toys, paper etc.

    This is already my routine before my (more successful, higher-earning) girlfriend comes over. If this was 1955 and we had to play house, I would be wearing the dress no question….and based on actual success in the workplace and ability to “provide”, that would be the case for a majority of millennial men. But of course, there’s no expectation to play house like that now anyway.

  • Gretchen

    My mother definitely tried to live like this- not as far as the foot rubs and letting him stay out all night, but she thought she needed to have a clean quiet home and a good dinner waiting and his needs were far more important than hers. Those of you doubting this are too young to remember that it was really, really like this. It’s unbelievable how much has changed in my lifetime. I was born in 1953, so I was one of those kids who couldn’t bother Daddy when he got home from his hard day.

  • BiloSagdiyev

    There’s something to be said for the kids not screaming and crying when daddy has PTSD.

    22) Don’t sneak up behind daddy unannounced. He’ll think you’re a sneaky Japanese* soldier coming to kill him.

    * Longer form of the actual word used then.

  • sean_p

    My favorite part of this: get his drink ready, make dinner, wash and change the kids’s clothes, light a fire, fix your makeup, clean the house, and… take 15 minutes to rest. Lololol

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