'Don't expect new dresses all the time': Old fashioned newspaper advice on how to be a good wife unearthed in new collection
The collection has been unearthed by the British Newspaper ArchiveThe secrets to keeping your husband happy include avoiding nagging
14:54 GMT, 26 December 2012
Wives – want to keep your husband happy
The secrets are to obey him, avoid nagging, not spend any money on yourself and not to let him catch you curling your hair.
He does not want to hear any news of his mother-in-law, only about his own mother.
And if he is lying in bed, ill, for heaven’s sake do not fuss around him in a silk dress, else it will rustle and annoy him.
Such invaluable advice apparently rescued many a marriage in days gone by.
Advice: The Sunderland Daily Echo from October 19 1893, left, warned women that nothing annoys man more than 'to be urged to tell, when he doesn't want to' while the Derby Daily Telegraph, right, carried a headline 'Vicar's advice to wives in March 1832
The tips were a regular feature in a series of local newspapers published daily or weekly across Britain in the 1800s and early 1900s.
Now they have been brought together in a set of articles unearthed by the British Newspaper Archive, a British Library project to preserve 40million pages from historical newspapers.
From the digitised newspaper pages, researchers have found what can only be considered offensive articles by modern standards, with advice for wives ranging from, ‘Don’t expect new dresses all the time’, to warning them: ‘Don’t mope and cry because you are ill – women should never be ill.’
The Isle of Man Times, on October 12, 1895, told its female readers: ‘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 he came home early. He’ll probably think you an idiot; but that’s inevitable anyway.’
Collection: The British Newspaper Archive has put together a collection of articles from the 1800s and early 1900s offering advice on how to be a good wife. The Isle of Man Times from October 12 1895 is pictured, left, and the Western Gazette from August 1 1930 is pictured right
Another pearl of wisdom from the same ‘Advice to wives’ column was: ‘Don’t answer back; don’t spend money on yourself, don’t do anything he doesn’t want you to do.
Then, if you are not a happy woman, your husband at least will be comfortable.’
The Derby Daily Telegraph of Monday, March 7, 1932, carried a front page report headlined: ‘Vicar’s advice to wives’, in which Dr W. M. Irwin, the vicar of Duffield, Derbyshire, said during a Mothering Sunday sermon: ‘Long faces and nagging did not get you your husband, and long faces and nagging will not keep them.’
The advice was often published alongside news stories about train crashes, crime stories and political scandals.
In an article entitled ‘How To Keep A Husband’, the Sunderland Daily Echo of October 19, 1893, counselled wives not to ask too many questions, advising: ‘Nothing annoys him more than to be urged to tell, when he doesn’t want to’, and: ‘Nothing disgusts a man sooner than to learn that the girl who charmed him by her daintiness and attractiveness has developed into a wife who affects wrappers and curl-papers.’
Historic wisdom: The Bath Weekly Chronicle from April 13 1940, left, and The Derby Daily Telegraph from March 7 1932, right
On January 19, 1834, the Derby Evening Telegraph warned wives nursing their sick husbands not to try cheering them up ‘by repeating gossip, or by telling him that coal has risen 10s, and that your coal cellar is empty’, adding: ‘Don’t wear your newest and most rustling silk dress or, if you do, don’t fuss about the room more than you can help’.
In the Western Gazette, in Dorset, the following tips to ‘young wives’ were offered on August 1, 1930: ‘After you marry him – study him. If he is secretive – trust him. When he is talkative – listen to him. If he is jealous – cure him. If he favours society – accompany him.
'Let him think you understand him – but never let him think you manage him.’
Of course, it takes two to make a successful marriage, and the Bath Weekly Chronicle and Herald helpfully offered this advice to husbands in its edition of April 13, 1940: ‘Do you still court your wife, bring her an occasional gift of flowers and remember her birthday and the wedding anniversary Remember these and she will darn your socks.’
Debra Chatfield, of the British Newspaper Archives, said: ‘These outrageous advice columns seem funny to us now, but at the time such advice was taken quite seriously by those who read them.
‘Reviewing newspaper articles from the past is a great way to track social attitudes towards gender roles, politics and popular opinion, and these articles are among many gems to be found in the archives.’
Between now and 2021, millions of old newspaper pages will be uploaded for public view on the project’s website www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk.