7 Tips for Keeping Your Man (from the 1950s)

George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images
George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images

There's always someone around to offer marital advice, but historically, words of wisdom to wives have a tendency to be daft and maddening. Still, that's not to say variations on these ideas can't be found in advice columns and books today. Want to keep and please your man? Here are seven tips from the early and mid-20th century. It's about to get real.

1. Don't Talk.

Oh, did Mavis from next door insult your prize-winning squash? Did little Timmy get sent home for starting fires again? Does that shooting pain in your left arm just keeps getting more intense? Keep it to yourself! Your man works all day and the last thing he needs to hear about is how yours went. Refer to the first four commandments on "How to be a Good Wife" that Edward Podolsky gives in his 1943 book, Sex Today in Wedded Life:

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.

Remember your most important job is to build up and maintain his ego (which gets bruised plenty in business). Morale is a woman's business.

Let him relax before dinner. Discuss family problems after the inner man has been satisfied.

In his 1951 book Sex Satisfaction and Happy Marriage, Reverend Alfred Henry Tyrer has more to add to that—do not ask for things. This is called "nagging":

I verily believe that the happiness of homes is destroyed more frequently by the habit of nagging than by any other one. A man may stand that sort of thing (nagging) for a long time, but the chances are against his standing it permanently. If he needs peace to make life bearable, he will have to look for it elsewhere than in his own house. And it is quite likely that he will look.

Unless your husband wants you to talk. Then don't you dare disappoint him. Says Reverend Tyrer:

If [the husband] is intellectually inclined, and from time to time seeks to explain little things to her so that she may have at least a bare knowledge of what it is that interests him, and, without the slightest comment, she takes up again the fashion magazine she laid down when he commenced to speak, we may be pretty sure that there is going to be a 'rift in the lute' sooner or later in that house.

2. Bad cooking will drive your man to seedy saloons.

My god, woman, this turkey tastes like wet toilet paper stuffed inside a burnt basketball! Have you no pride? Oh, you had a late volunteer shift at the hospital and then went straight to Timmy's intervention? No excuses! Heed Reverend Tyrer!

A social service meeting, an afternoon tea, a matinee, a whatnot, is no excuse for there being no dinner ready when a husband comes home from a hard day's work.

Housekeeping accomplishments and cooking ability are, of course, positive essentials in any true home, and every wife should take a reasonable pride in her skill. Happiness does not flourish in an atmosphere of dyspepsia.

Or listen to the even more plain-spoken Dr. William Josephus Robinson from his 1922 book Married Life and Happiness:

Bad cooking is responsible for dyspepsia, dyspepsia is responsible for grouchiness and irritability, grouchiness and irritability lead to quarrels and squabbles. And bad cooking, which is the usual thing in the average American home, has been responsible as much as any other factor for driving the husband to the saloon, and to other places. And when she does cook, she should cook, and not be, as somebody said, a mere can opener.

If you didn't want your husband to become a syphilitic alcoholic, you should have learned to make the damn pot roast properly.

3. Be the Hot Steak, Not the Cheap Pork.

Speaking of cooking, Reverend Tyrer has a metaphor for you.

Picture a woman preparing a fine meal for her husband.

She remembered his choice of meat and was careful to get an extra-fine cut … her best cutlery and dishes and finest linen are all in evidence, and a little colorful decoration has been tastefully displayed … and as he comes into the house she greets him with a smile of welcome and a touch of manifest love.

Now, say that linen was a bed sheet, the colorful little decoration was fuzzy handcuffs, and you had the privilege of being that extra fine cut of meat. What does all that equal? A husband who doesn't cheat on you!

But say that same wife "is constantly setting him down to indigestible meals, cold and unappetizing, with nothing properly cooked, set out on a kitchen table with a dirty cloth, she need not be surprised if her husband frequently telephones from the office that business will prevent him from being home for dinner."

All because you weren't properly cooked when he was hungry!

4. Don't be a Sexual Vampire or a Frigid Franny.

Of course, as Dr. Robinson warns, it is possible to be over-cooked. Then you become a "sexual vampire" and you will drive your husband to his grave, feasting on his life force.

Just as the vampire sucks the blood of its victims in their sleep while they are alive, so does the woman vampire suck the life and exhaust the vitality of her male partner—or "victim."

It is to be borne in mind that it is particularly older girls—girls between thirty and fifty—who are apt to be unreasonable in their demands when they get married; but no age is exempt; sexual vampires may be found among girls of twenty as well as among women of sixty and over.

The opposite of that, of course, is to be frigid. That means you take no particular pleasure from sexual acts with your husband. Oh, "we should talk it out openly and honestly," you say? Maybe see a doctor, a therapist?

Terrible idea. What do you think that will do to your husband's ego? Listen to Dr. Robinson and save your marriage!

Now, if you are one of those frigid or sexually anesthetic women, don't be in a hurry to inform your husband about it. To the man it makes no difference in the pleasurableness of the act whether you are frigid or not unless he knows that you are frigid. And he won't know unless you tell him, and what he doesn’t know won't hurt him. Heed this advice. It has saved thousands of women from trouble.

5. Pink panties are a must.

And while we're on the subject of you performing convincingly in the boudoir, you better be costumed correctly, too. Dainty pink panties are so important, in fact, that Dr. Robinson wrote about them in at least two books. First, in his 1917 book Woman: Her Sex and Love Life:

This may be considered too delicate or too trifling a subject to discuss in an important sex book. But nothing is too delicate or too trifling that concerns human happiness, and you will believe me if I tell you that nice underwear or dainty lingerie plays a very important role in marital life. … If anything in a woman's toilet should be immaculately fresh and clean it is, I emphasize, her underwear. Silk and lace and delicate batiste should be preferred, if they can be afforded, and attention should be paid to the color. As a rule, a delicate pink is the color that most men prefer.

And again, five years later, in Married Life and Happiness:

That the underwear should be spotlessly clean goes without saying, but every woman should wear the best quality underwear that she can afford. And the color should be preferably pink. And lace and ruffles, I am sorry to say, add to the attractiveness of underwear, and are liked by the average man.

6. Let him have a little fun now and then.

What if your man strays during your marriage? Well, Dr. Robinson is here for you again. He says that ultimately, a wife will react to infidelity as her heart dictates. But he still offers some advice: Get over it.

But in case of an occasional lapse on the part of the husband—there a bit of advice may prove acceptable. And my advice would be: forgive and forget. Or still better—make believe that you know nothing. An occasional lapse from the straight path does not mean that he has ceased to love you. He may love you as much; he may love you a good deal more.

7. Remember your husband is the boss of you.

It is fitting to close with a simple truism from the renowned Eugenicist Prof. B.G. Jefferis, in his Searchlights on Health, The Science of Eugenics:

The Number One Rule. Reverence Your Husband.—He sustains by God's order a position of dignity as head of a family, head of the woman. Any breaking down of this order indicates a mistake in the union, or a digression from duty.

Stop talking, slap on some pink drawers, and start worshipping!

This story was updated in 2019.

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6 Amazing Facts About Sally Ride

U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

You know Sally Ride as the first American woman to travel into space. But here are six things you might not know about the groundbreaking astronaut, who was born on May 26, 1951.

1. Sally Ride proved there is such thing as a stupid question.

When Sally Ride made her first space flight in 1983, she was both the first American woman and the youngest American to make the journey to the final frontier. Both of those distinctions show just how qualified and devoted Ride was to her career, but they also opened her up to a slew of absurd questions from the media.

Journalist Michael Ryan recounted some of the sillier questions that had been posed to Ride in a June 1983 profile for People. Among the highlights:

Q: “Will the flight affect your reproductive organs?”
A: “There’s no evidence of that.”

Q: “Do you weep when things go wrong on the job?”
A: “How come nobody ever asks (a male fellow astronaut) those questions?"

Forget going into space; Ride’s most impressive achievement might have been maintaining her composure in the face of such offensive questions.

2. Had she taken Billie Jean King's advice, Sally Ride might have been a professional tennis player.

When Ride was growing up near Los Angeles, she played more than a little tennis, and she was seriously good at it. She was a nationally ranked juniors player, and by the time she turned 18 in 1969, she was ranked 18th in the whole country. Tennis legend Billie Jean King personally encouraged Ride to turn pro, but she went to Swarthmore instead before eventually transferring to Stanford to finish her undergrad work, a master’s, and a PhD in physics.

King didn’t forget about the young tennis prodigy she had encouraged, though. In 1984 an interviewer playfully asked the tennis star who she’d take to the moon with her, to which King replied, “Tom Selleck, my family, and Sally Ride to get us all back.”

3. Home economics was not Sally Ride's best subject.

After retiring from space flight, Ride became a vocal advocate for math and science education, particularly for girls. In 2001 she founded Sally Ride Science, a San Diego-based company that creates fun and interesting opportunities for elementary and middle school students to learn about math and science.

Though Ride was an iconic female scientist who earned her doctorate in physics, just like so many other youngsters, she did hit some academic road bumps when she was growing up. In a 2006 interview with USA Today, Ride revealed her weakest subject in school: a seventh-grade home economics class that all girls had to take. As Ride put it, "Can you imagine having to cook and eat tuna casserole at 8 a.m.?"

4. Sally Ride had a strong tie to the Challenger.

Ride’s two space flights were aboard the doomed shuttle Challenger, and she was eight months deep into her training program for a third flight aboard the shuttle when it tragically exploded in 1986. Ride learned of that disaster at the worst possible time: she was on a plane when the pilot announced the news.

Ride later told AARP the Magazine that when she heard the midflight announcement, she got out her NASA badge and went to the cockpit so she could listen to radio reports about the fallen shuttle. The disaster meant that Ride wouldn’t make it back into space, but the personal toll was tough to swallow, too. Four of the lost members of Challenger’s crew had been in Ride’s astronaut training class.

5. Sally Ride had no interest in cashing in on her worldwide fame.

A 2003 profile in The New York Times called Ride one of the most famous women on Earth after her two space flights, and it was hard to argue with that statement. Ride could easily have cashed in on the slew of endorsements, movie deals, and ghostwritten book offers that came her way, but she passed on most opportunities to turn a quick buck.

Ride later made a few forays into publishing and endorsements, though. She wrote or co-wrote more than a half-dozen children’s books on scientific themes, including To Space and Back, and in 2009 she appeared in a print ad for Louis Vuitton. Even appearing in an ad wasn’t an effort to pad her bank account, though; the ad featured an Annie Leibovitz photo of Ride with fellow astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jim Lovell gazing at the moon and stars. According to a spokesperson, all three astronauts donated a “significant portion” of their modeling fees to Al Gore’s Climate Project.

6. Sally Ride was the first openly LGBTQ astronaut.

Ride passed away on July 23, 2012, at the age of 61, following a long (and very private) battle with pancreatic cancer. While Ride's brief marriage to fellow astronaut Steve Hawley was widely known to the public (they were married from 1982 to 1987), it wasn't until her death that Ride's longtime relationship with Tam O'Shaughnessy—a childhood friend and science writer—was made public. Which meant that even in death, Ride was still changing the world, as she is the world's first openly LGBTQ astronaut.