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The 1950's Good Wife's Guide


Advice from Pictorial Medical Guide (1954)

I found an old book from 1954 that my grandmother actually used in her 1950's housewife days. It is called "Pictoral Medical Guide", and was published in 1954 with writings by 42 specialists at the time. It's quite interesting and sometimes funny to see the differences in the expectations of women in that time compared to now.

Ready to be a wife?

"The girl about to marry may well ponder the question, "Am I marriageable?" A description of the mature adult is worked out by Henry Bowman in a recent book and is most helpful in answering the question:

Touchstones of Mature Behavior

1. A mature woman profits by her own experience and the experience of others.
2. She integrates what she knows and lives by that integrated knowledge.
3. She has some knowledge of social life, how it is organized, what the requirements are for living in a society.
4. She understands the finesse of social relationships.
5. She makes concessions to others, but at the same time she does not become too dependent upon them.
6. She has a reasonable respect for authority and tradition.
7. A mature woman lives in a world of reality.
8. She faces an unalterable situation in which she has a deep interest, with poise and a minimum of conflict.
9. She depends upon adult accomplishments for prestige.
10. She uses the present rather than the past as a point of departure.
11. She accepts her chronological age for what it is.
12. The mature woman is independent of her parents.
13. A mature woman does not depend too much upon flattery, praise and compliments.
14. She does not easily take offense at slights or what she interprets as slights.
15. She accepts the responsibility for her own acts.
16. A mature woman controls her behavior, acknowledging possible undesirable urges and appetites in herself, but controlling them.
17. She will endure present discomfort and sacrifice for future gain.
18. Her behavior is determined in part on the basis of principles rather than pleasure or pain.
19. A mature woman has an attitude toward sex, love and marriage compatible with adulthood.
20. She is heterosexual.
21. She carries into marriage the desirable elements of courtship but not the elements of uncertainty.
22. She is adequately prepared for marriage.

The Immature Woman

"Excesses are signs of immaturity--excess drinking, smoking, eating, fondness for clothes, gambling and quarreling. Other signs of immaturity are hysteria, temper tantrums, the desire to have too much attention, intolerance, and inconstancy. The hypochondriac woman always complaining of headaches, backaches, dizzy spells, choking sensations where there is no physical basis is an immature person. The foregoing immature reactions result in an unhappy marriage."

Preparation for Marriage

Home-making is a Fine Art:

"The girl who knows how to feed her family and care for her home begins married life with many odds in her favor. Training in what sex may mean to marriage will also help her make a successful wife."

Stretching Herself for the Wedding Night:

"It is preferable for the girl to stretch herself rather than to have the doctor resort to cutting the hymen or stretching under anesthesia. The self-stretching process, although it takes a little longer, can be accomplished without pain or discomfort, and in the stretching the girl acquires a great deal of information about her pelvis which will be important later on in her married life."

The Way to a Man's Heart:

"Recent polls have shown that men still consider skill in cooking and homemaking highly desirable in the women they marry." On polls in which men and women rated traits in a mate that they found most desirable, "men placed considerably more emphasis than women on: (1) good cook and housekeeper; (2) good looks; (3) desire for home life and children."

The Housewife at Work

Here is a chart taken from the book that I drew up:


Homemaking as a Career:

"If a wife can make a career of homemaking, content to double the value of her husband's income by her art and skill in buying, preparing and managing the raw materials that make her comfortable living, she need never feel that she is doing less than her share in the work of the world.  The services she provides for her husband and their children are, even in money value, generally the equivalent of the dollars and cents brought in by the man.  She can, if she will, take an intelligent interest in what is going on outside her home, both locally and in national and international affairs.  She must, if she is to be no handicap to husband and children, accept some responsibilities for communitiy or other outside doings which interest her enough to prevent her becoming a drag on her children as they grow up, or on her husband as he develops, or on her own development as a mature person."


"The Good Wife's Guide

  • 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 be thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they get home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.
  • Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.
  • 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.
  • Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Run a dustcloth over the tables.
  • During 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 to his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
  • Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Encourage the children to be quiet.
  • Be happy to see him.
  • Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.
  • Listen to him. 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.
  • Don't greet him with complaints and problems.
  • Don't complain if he's late for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through at work.
  • Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or lie him 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, soothing and pleasant voice.
  • 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.
  • A good wife always knows her place."

How to Create the "Perfect" Family Dinner

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


bisexual betty on November 28, 2018:

"you have to be heterosexual to be a good house wife" ...... yeah, no... nope. not gonna do it

RealTruth on May 28, 2015:

Well most of the women in the 50's did make a great wife, and today most of them are very Unfaithful, selfish, and spoiled too.

Maria on September 24, 2014:

I wish it could be like that today.

Every woman has the right (now!) to decide what she want's to do - even being a Housewife!

Michael on August 21, 2014:

Maybe if the women of today used this as guide, it could restore values in the home. I'm not saying to live by it, just remember the 1950's women did a great job with the home and children.

Lisa H on August 15, 2014:

I find it depressing that a number of women wish that this state of affairs existed (if it ever really did in actuality!). Being a loving, giving and supportive partner is wonderful. Abasing yourself before another human being and denigrating your own needs is not. I hope the women who wish that they could be "50s Housewives" understand the difference.

Jennifer G on July 25, 2014:

@Hels The name of the book is Pictoral Medical Guide, which was published in 1954. Amazon has a hardback copy for sale if you desire to purchase it.

Hels on October 15, 2013:

Who published this book, The Good Housewife’s Guide, 1954? I want to cite it but noone seems to know where the book came from and if it was ever given to high school students. Was there a named author?

a on June 11, 2013:

Nad: ya more would last if people tried to make eachother happy but this guide is all about making the man happy and basically worshipping him i dont agree with this at all

Kuro on June 03, 2013:

Lynn: Who gets to decide what we're "supposed to do"? Shouldn't it be each woman deciding to do what's best for HER?

Nad on June 03, 2013:

I love it ......its selfless, maybe more marriages would last if we were more about making eachother happy and not just ourselves happy, after all if your first priority is u than maybe you're not ready for marriage or children

bobby on March 03, 2013:

Wow, if I told my girl to read this and adhere to the ridiculous regulations on here i would be in a lot of trouble. Don't question the master of the house? Don't ask any questions that might upset your man? Women, you are worth so much more than that.

Lynn on March 01, 2013:

I'm not old and I agree with this. Feminism in the last 50 years has sent my generation down the toilet. Girls don't save themselves till they are married, so they just sleep around and shack up and wonder "what went wrong". Wemen working 40 or 50 hrs a week, sending their kids to be raised in a daycare with 30 other kids and wonder "what went wrong". Wemen come home tired and beat to heck from working and wonder why they can't hold together a marriage "what went wrong". Simple be a wife and mother and quit slaving! Take care of your home, kids, husband and needy, sick, elderly, poor. That's what we are supposed to do.

Beth on January 26, 2013:

I think there's a lot of good advice here, some of which more recent generations have been conditioned to reject to their own detriment.

If the missus stays at home, i concur with all the household management tips. If both work, the list is an ideal, but duties should be more balanced. If he's the at home dad, it's fine for him to adhere to such guidelines. I divert away from "his topics are more important than yours" advice; office politics come secondary to Timmy's chronic fever getting worse any day. Common sense should be liberally applied.

Basically, though, this overall is not freakish or mysogenistic. It's a good basic structure for domestic partnership. The status of parental employment affect the dynamic, and ladies should have equal and respected voice in family management, as well as the responsibility and maturity to be a Wife. This, of course, assumes that the Gentleman has the Responsibilty and Maturity to be a Husband.

50/50 on January 23, 2013:

*barf!* Those poor women! x( I can't believe this was actually "normal" at one point in time.

Madeline on January 20, 2013:

I would live like this! I'm a sophomore in high school and I dress everyday as if I were living in the fifties. I get a lot of compliments too, surprisingly. This was a great way to prepare for my 'future', hopefully. (;

None on December 27, 2012:

I would love if life was still like this and I am 20

Stacey on December 13, 2012:

Wow I'm guessing the agreeing women were all alive in the 50's haha.

Harly on May 31, 2012:

Wonderful, However this is what perfection looks like. Some point I find to be very very valid like negativity and booger and think shouldn't be talked about at dinner. Everyone has there role and place everyone does there part. Please please please wash before dinner Grace to how nice! Only time grace is said is at holidays :(

Caitlan on May 20, 2012:

I agree with Amy, Darci, and Rhonnie. To a tee. I consider myself, or desire to be, a 1950's housewife, and proud!

Rhonnie on May 18, 2012:

I think like that! The world was a better place when people thought like that.

Darci on May 18, 2012:

I wish it was still like that and try to make life as close to the 50's as possible for my husband. He works hard and deserves to relax.

Amy on May 07, 2012:

I actually wish that things were like that again. Seems so nice and loving. Even if its not real. It would be nice to have such a wonderful thing to look forward to every night.

Real Estate Lady from Las Vegas, Nevada on January 05, 2011:

Wow, can you believe people actually thought like that? Thanks for sharing this, some of it's funny, some makes me awfully glad I wasn't a "wife of the fifties!"

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