Women’s rights have come a long way since gaining the right to vote. It’s crazy to think these hilarious bits of advice were doing the rounds in the last century.

Did the ideal housewife ever exist outside the minds of advertising executives? Probably not. But these pieces of advice found in vintage newspapers, magazines and books will make you wonder exactly how many women tried to live up to the fantasy; and whether their husbands secretly wanted to have them committed. 

 

Be ready, and able, to entertain

In 1913 Blanche Ebbutt wrote a series of unintentionally hilarious life guides that were recently republished in a book called Don'ts for Wives. One of the highlights was her top tip of acting like the family dog: "Don't let him have to search the house for you after his day's work. Listen for his latchkey and wait for him on the threshold." Another gem warns against leaving hubby's side after he arrives home: "Don’t choose the very time your husband is at home to ‘see about’ all sorts of things in other parts of the house. Sit with him by the fire; smoke with him if it pleases you and him; read or be read to; sing or play cards with him, or chat with him about anything that interests him. It is your business to keep him amused in the evening." 

 

I'm fine, really 

Housewives following the rules found in the 1936 book Do's and Don't for Lovers were told in no uncertain terms to keep their health problems to themselves; or risk losing their status as a cherished doll. The book warns: "Don’t talk about any physical ailment or other trouble from which you may suffer. The mention of such is nearly always a blow to love. No man who looks upon a particular woman as an angel likes to hear his angel announce that she’s sure it’s going to rain because her corns are hurting so badly." 

 

Hold your tongue 

Edward Podolsky was very keen to let housewives know that their problems were, and always would be, trifling. In his 1943 book How to be a Good Wife, he explained: "Don’t bother your husband with petty troubles and complaints when he comes home from work. Be a good listener. Let him tell you his troubles; yours will seem trivial in comparison. Let him relax before dinner. Discuss family problems after the inner man has been satisfied." 

 

Know your place

A 1955 edition of Good Housekeeping prescribed blind loyalty for wives who wanted a happy marriage. The magazine pointed out, "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." 

 

There, there

Some girls in the 1960s were taught that a simple hello was a far from sufficient greeting for a husband returning from work. One textbook stated: "Make him comfortable: have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind."

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