How to Be a Good Wife
Distributed for Bodleian Library, University of Oxford
Don’t forget that very true remark that while face powder may catch a man, baking powder is the stuff to hold him.
Marriage can be a series of humorous miscommunications, a power struggle, or a diplomatic nightmare. Men and women have long struggled to figure each other out—and the misunderstandings can continue well after they’ve been joined in matrimony. But long before Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, couples turned to self-help booklets such as How to Be a GoodHusband and How to Be a Good Wife, two historic advice books that are now delightfully reproduced by the Bodleian Library.
The books, originally published in the 1930s for middle-class British couples, are filled with witty and charming aphorisms on how wives and husbands should treat each other. Some advice is unquestionably outdated—“It is a wife’s duty to look her best. If you don’t tidy yourself up, don’t be surprised if your husband begins to compare you unfavorably with the typist at the office”—but many other pieces of advice are wholly applicable today. They include such insightful sayings as: “Don’t tell your wife terminological inexactitudes, which are, in plain English, lies. A woman has wonderful intuition for spotting even minor departures from the truth”; “After all is said and done, husbands are not terribly difficult to manage”; or “Don’t squeeze the tube of toothpaste from the top instead of from the bottom. This is one of the small things of life that always irritates a careful wife.”
Entertaining and charmingly illustrated, How to Be a Good Husband and How to Be a Good Wife offer enduringly useful advice for all couples, from the newly engaged to those celebrating their golden anniversary.