The Ladies Handbook. How To Cultivate A Happy Home and Not Express Emotion While Doing So.

Tomorrow a lovely friend of mine is getting married.
Her relationship, like mine and many others didn’t quite skip down the merry path of ‘convention’. You can read her stories here.

Although, what is conventional anymore?

While thinking about this this morning I remembered that I have a book in the house called the Ladies Handbook. It was published in Australia, mine is a 1947 edition. It is a handbook that teaches women all manner of things from choosing a worthy husband, keeping a happy home, breastfeeding, measles, menstruation, venereal or social diseases and menopause. Sounds good, huh?

Ladies Handbook

There are a lot of points made in the book that I certainly don’t agree with, however there are also a few points that make me think Yes! or Hmm nearly there.

Chapter one: The Founding Of A Home.

Let’s have a little look at the wisdom that this book bestows.

”But,” says the maiden, ”shall I not follow the prompt-ings of my heart in the bestowal of my affections?” We would that it were as safe for young men and maidens to follow inclination in the choice of their companions as it is for the birds to follow instinct. This plan would solve many a knotty problem, and could be safely followed provided all were pure and sound. But although man was made upright in morals and mind as well as in body, he has perverted his ways and even his natural instincts. Impulse and inclination must therefore be wisely guided by mature reason and sound judgement. How unwise, then, it is for a young woman to become attached to a man of unknown character and worth! Should she ”fall in love” with such a man the wisest course she can pursue is to fall out again with all possible haste.

I find this paragraph particularly funny today as I just read a story on the ‘Longest married couple’ who are about the celebrate their 81st wedding anniversary. They ran away to Harrison, New York together to avoid Ann’s father’s plans to marry her off to a man 20 years older. They eloped on November 25, 1932. John Betar was ‘such a man’. Don’t ya just love it?!

Let’s move on to the next little gem.

She should, as it were ”take stock” of her various gifts and qualification. Should she find her character lacking in any of the virtues which are necessary to the success of the wife and mother, she would do well to strive for their attainment. She should also seek with all diligence to cultivate the womanly graces that already adorn her character.

While the promised wife should be bright and joyous during the happy time of waiting, she should never lose sight of the responsibilities which will come to her with marriage. Many a bride has made a miserable failure of marriage because she was wholly unfitted to discharge its sacred duties. The sensible maiden will, like the wise virgin, fill her lamp with oil before the bridegroom comes. She will store her mind with useful knowledge, and will train her fingers until they become deft in such arts as cookery, sewing, mending and sick-nursing. It is only by giving due consideration to these important matters that the young woman may approach her marriage with a reasonable assurance of making it a joyous success.

Ah it seems so simple. To have a happy and joyous marriage all I need to do it learn a few skills. It seems as if I’ve got it all wrong, I’ve been using my brain, my personality, love and respect to keep my marriage thriving instead of my fingers that should already be deft at letting out the waistline of my husbands pants since all I’ve been doing is cooking.

What happens to the girls that have no interest in these things or do but can’t perfect the skills? Are they doomed to fail as wives or to remain *whispers* single? I like to think that they are the women who paved the way to make it perfectly acceptable for us not to enjoy doing these things or to enjoy them and be terrible at them at the same time.

Chapter two: Making Marriage A Success.

Home is the kingdom over which the wife should seek to reign as queen. So wholesome and attractive may the home be made by a contented, cheerful woman that the husband will leave it with reluctance, and will return to it at night, after the day’s toil is ended, with naught but thoughts of quietness and peace. The possession of a sunny disposition is indeed a wife’s most valuable asset, for it makes herself and all around her happy.

Okay, first off I have to get this out of my system – HAHAHAHAHAHAHA, YEAH RIGHT!

I don’t seek to reign any kingdom, let alone reign my own home. Sure, it would be nice if every morning my husband was reluctant to leave the house but since he has what we call emotions, sometimes he is more than happy to run to the peace of the office. Hell, you’ll  probably find me running along side him. Home life can get crazy at times. I love the idea that one can return home with naught but thoughts of quietness and peace. Where does he live? A library?

Now ladies, remember when this fountain of knowledge mentioned that all we need for a joyous marriage is the ability to sew, cook, mend and nurse the sick? Well apparently they forgot to mention that we also have to let go of any sort of emotion except for a sunny disposition. After all it is a wife’s most valuable asset.
Does this mean that if the house is a mess and we’re upset/mad/frustrated that our husbands will not return home after the ‘day’s toil has ended’?

A successful marriage, we may then conclude, is one which enables the average woman to be a good wife and a good mother; one which enables her to rear her children in soundness of body, mind, and soul. All that interferes with this result tends to make a marriage a failure.

Why is she to rear their children on her own? Is it because her husband is still fooling himself that his home is filled with quietness and peace, while his wife is upstairs wrestling her kids out of the bath and into bed? Perhaps.

I hope that these ‘interference’s’ mentioned do not just fall on the shoulders of the wife. Although, for all we know maybe she had a stressful day, didn’t have dinner ready and was feeling a little frustrated when her husband came in from work. Maybe she forgot where she left her sunny disposition and in that case yes, the marriage is a total and utter failure .

The only thing that I seem to agree on is the first page on breastfeeding your baby, the rest of the chapter just gives women information on how to fail at breastfeeding. We’ve certainly come a long way, but we are not there just yet.

Oh and there is one other, although unrealistic idea that a nursing mother should ‘secure, if possible, at least eight hours of refreshing sleep in the twenty-four’. That sure would be nice.

I am none of these things, my husband knew that and still married me. *gasp* I love being married and so does my husband and we make it work, together as partners even when I don’t have a sunny disposition.

I could quite easily keep going through this book and sharing its beauty with you but alas, I have things to do that don’t include cooking, sewing, mending or tending to the sick.

Kirilee, I hope that you and Andy enjoy your day tomorrow, I know it is going to be beautiful because of how much you love and respect each other. Hopefully you’ve picked up a few pointers…..although maybe not, I love your non-conforming and more than one emotion ways too much.


I put together a gallery of the first two chapters, for those who wanted to read a little more.

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  1. I knew I was going to hate this book by the title – I am not a “lady”, I am a woman!

    I love your writing style.

  2. I loved this! I’m so not those things! We consider ourselves very traditional, and I do cook, but on a crazy day I’m not afraid of frozen pizza. My sunny disposition, yeah, that’s often gone by noon at least (if it even shows up with out my cup of coffee). Sewing, mending, cleaning? Yeah those things are not happening!


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