Advice to Wives, 1895

Do you do anything deliberately that annoys you, for fun? I’m not sure why exactly, but getting aerated about some bugbear of yours, in a safe kind of way, is quite cathartic in the same way that crying can be.

It’s why I read the Daily Mail’s Sidebar of Shame and it’s why my husband watches “The Big Question” on a Sunday. We would be disappointed if suddenly either one was populated with reasonable points of view that coincided with our own.

And, being completely honest, it’s why I initially started researching old marital advice columns for an intermittent series I will be doing on the blog, and which started with this post. I was heartened to see that much of the advice was actually quite wise and even applicable now, sometimes with a bit of tweaking. But, yes, I was irrationally disappointed that huge swathes of outrageous archive sexism weren’t as widespread as I expected.

Apart from this one. It’s from the Isle of Man Times in 1895, and, you know, nothing against the Isle of Man and everything, but….


I’m a feminist. I would be a card-carrying one if that was possible and I don’t really understand why any woman wouldn’t identify as one, although I know some that don’t. It’s all about being treated equally to men, socially and economically, and I’m not sure why anybody wouldn’t want that for themselves. So this article is the Euro Millions jackpot for outraged feminism. I love it, while being sincerely glad I never met the author.

Although I rather suspect there’s more than a few individuals who might agree with its sentiments even today – just witness the experiences of various well-known women on Twitter these days. It’s so outrageous – “He’ll probably think you an idiot; but that’s inevitable anyway,” – that I couldn’t work out if it was actually serious. But the author anticipates this – “don’t think this is a Joak,” he tells us. I still can’t decide whether it really is, though. I suspect not – this was a topical issue, after all, and attitudes like this were no doubt why The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies was founded two years later, in 1897.

A final note – I would rather like to see my husband’s face if I’d made some delicious hash for dinner, only to eat it myself and give him his own dinner of green turtle instead.

Isle of Man Times, 8th October 1895

Isle of Man Times, 8th October 1895

Advice to Wives

Don’t argue with your husband: do whatever he tells you and obey all his orders.

Don’t worry him for money, and don’t expect a new dress oftener than he offers to buy you one.

Don’t sit up till he comes home from the club; better be in bed, and pretend to be asleep. If you must be awake, seem to be glad that he came home so early. He’ll probably think you an idiot; but that’s inevitable anyway.

Don’t grumble at him because he takes no notice of baby; men weren’t built to take notice of baby.

Don’t mope and cry because you are ill, and don’t get any fun; the man goes out to get all the fun, and your laugh comes in when he gets home again and tells you about – some of it. As for being ill, women should never be ill.

Don’t be mad because he smokes in bed, and goes into the best room with his dirty boots: your’s is the only house in which he can do these things, and you mustn’t be disagreeable.

Don’t talk to him of his mother-in-law; he’ll like it better if you talk to him of yours.

Don’t give him hash for dinner, eat the hash yourself and get him green turtle and chicken.

Don’t answer back, don’t spend money on yourself, don’t expect him to push the perambulator, don’t expect him to do anything he doesn’t want to do, don’t do anything he doesn’t want you to do. Then if you’re not a happy woman, your husband will at least be comfortable, and his friends will all be mad with envy.

And don’t think this is a Joak. It isn’t; it’s gospel, and the only way to have a happy home.

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3 Responses

  1. Excellent advice, but wasn’t it rather irresponsible to publish it without a corresponding piece for husbands to help them avoid the mistake I’ve just made of printing out this list and attaching it to the cooker door?

  2. Estelle says:

    Haha! You’re on your own with that!

  1. August 13, 2015

    […] of a kick out of things that wind you up. I had it in abundance in this curmudgeonly-in-the-extreme Advice for Wives article from […]

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