On the table at work in the canteen where we have our tea breaks I noticed a tiny book. I picked it up and it was a copy of a book by Blanche Ebbutt, which was first published in 1913 by A&C Black. The book’s title is ‘Don’ts for Husbands’. I subsequently found it on Amazon, and it’s a laugh a minute. You have really got to pity the poor wives back at the turn of the last century. Here’s a few tips for ‘modern’ 1913 husbands:
- A man must carve the joint of meat and not delegate this to his wife. Apparently this shows he is the head of his table and master of his house.
- A man mustn’t nag his wife if she has burnt the cake or forgotten to sew on a button.
- A man must let his wife learn to understand money matters.
- A man must be sympathetic, even if his wife’s troubles appear trivial.
- A man must not let his wife become a domestic machine (good advice, that one!).
- A man mustn’t insist that his wife is always at home when he comes in.
- A man must help his wife to choose ‘good’ fiction to read.
- A man mustn’t discourage his wife and call her a ‘blue-stocking’ if she chooses to take up serious reading.
- A man mustn’t pet his wife if her little finger aches.
- A man must not discourage his wife from taking language lessons or any other lessons she finds of interest.
These are just a few of the tips. Some of the advice in the book still rings true today, but on the whole women were treated like air-heads and second class citizens, and it was obviously unseemly if a woman was more intelligent than her husband.
I don’t think I would have been very nice to know if I’d been a married woman in 1913!