Monday, 15 December 2008

The JOYS (?) of being a 50s Housewife!


Well, apart from the inconvenience of no dishwashers, automatic washing machines, hoovers that whizz around corners on a ball thingy (and how did we ever live without that I wonder?) and all the other labour and time-saving devices and desired objects that have come into being in the last fifty years, what was it like to be a housewife in the 1950s?
According to 'Housekeeping Monthly' from 1955, there was a whole raft of rules and regulations to follow if you wanted to be a good wife. Apart from the obvious, such as taking that extra 15 minutes before your dearly-beloved, heard-working breadwinner of a husband came home to 'touch up your makeup and put a ribbon in your hair' (that'll be after you've removed rollers and hairnet presumably!); made sure the children are clean, being seen but not heard and that their toys are not cluttering up the family home; ensured that cushions are plumped and placed regimentally in their allotted positions... apart from these, what should the 'little lady' do?
Naturally she will keep schtum because her conversation is not going to be anywhere near as interesting as her husband's is it? And it goes without saying that what He has to say is far more important as well. Nor should she question His decisions, judgement or integrity. He is the man of the house, and apparently, this elevates him to almost God-like status in his own home.
The advice goes on in similar vein ending with the words, 'A good wife knows her place.' Hmmm...
Now I don't know about you, but if I appeared 'gay' as they describe having a happy, smiley face to greet Himself with, and wore a ribbon in my hair, my husband would think I'd been at the sherry again. If I had lit a fire because it was cold and I wanted him to feel more comfortable, he'd worry I was about to set the house on fire again... this being a rarely-referred to incident involving a woodburner and an unlined chimney in our old house back in the 80s. (His workmates thought getting a phone call saying the house was on fire, fire brigade on their way, was one heck of a novel way to get a morning off work!)
And if I didn't tell him anything of my day, but kept quiet waiting for him to speak, there would be long silences since he prefers to leave work behind and that's it once he's home and he'd assume I had laryngitis since I am never quiet for long!
Oh, and the picture has nothing to do with the blog... I just thought we could do with cheering up on this cold and grismal day and remind ourselves of warmer days to come.

11 comments:

Cait O'Connor said...

I think these tales of wives long ago make for very amusing reading but actually it is quite scary isn't it, how women were treated? Tis why I became a feminist in the sixties.

pinkfairygran said...

I agree about the scary bit, lack of respect for women generally, and just the demeaning way they were expected to behave.. my mother was a housewife in the 50s as I was born 1950, and she certainly didn't do any of the things she was expected to do.. though I think my father would have preferred it if she did. Luckily he was away most of the time, so no conflict arose from his expectations and hopes and her intentions!

Pondside said...

Well thank heavens it's a new age - I wouldn't have done well in the 50's! My mother was unlike any other I knew at the time - high heels, starched dresses, ribbons ofr keeping quiet for her. She set a great example but shocked a few people while she was at it!

Quilting Cat said...

Must have been a very narrow sort of existance, no workplace chatter, what did they talk to their spouses about?

Faith said...

Love that word - 'grismal'!

Well, I don't think that there is anything wrong with having the place and yourself warm and cheerful for when your husband comes in from work if you are at home yourself. I also plump cushions and light the fire! Draw the line at a ribbon in my hair though.

Mid Life Hopes said...

Well this one sure brought a smile to my face, and a chuckle too.
My hair is too short for a ribbon!
Though my husband is deserving of this kind of behavior, he is much more blessed by not expecting it.

:)

Angel said...

I love to read things like this! So interesting. Makes me smile to think how things used to be.

Lovely picture btw
warm wishes
x

Mos and Nikou said...

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Cheers,
Nikou

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