Passionate About Pittsburgh
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I Wouldn’t Have Survived as a ’50s Housewife


Let me preface this post with this statement: I hate housework.

In particular, I hate ironing…and when I say I hate ironing, I mean I loathe it with the burning intensity of a thousand suns. I do love to cook, but I hate to clean up the mess it makes. I abhor scrubbing the bathroom–especially the tub. I absolutely despise doing laundry. I’ll leave towels in the dryer for days on end, hoping a troupe of magical towel-folding fairies will suddenly appear and just take care of that for me. And delicate clothes—you know, the kind that can’t be put in the dryer and need to be stretched out on a drying rack—they’re my evil nemesis.

Now this doesn’t means I don’t do it. I do. I clean, I do laundry, I scrub toilets and take out the trash. HOWEVER, if I had the means, I would hire a housekeeper faster than you can ask, “Did anyone clean the litter box today?”

That’s why, when I came across this article on the rules housewives and mothers had to follow in the 1950s, I laughed. And cringed. And I wondered if and how I would have survived during that era.

For instance, the article, which was published in the May 1955 issue of Housekeeping Monthly, states that before their husbands get home, women should “touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking.” After all, the article states, “He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.”


Come on, now: I’m lucky I change out of the stained yoga pants I was wearing yesterday.

The article also states we should, “Clear away the clutter…just before your husband arrives. Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc. and then run a dust cloth over the tables.”

No comment.

Before hubby comes in, the article insists, you should also “prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes.”

Right. It takes my daughter 37 minutes just to GET to the bathroom to brush her teeth and comb her hair, so this is TOTALLY a fight I want to have every day. Not.

And ladies, let’s not forget that your problems are totally not important at all: “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.”

Oh, us ladies. We discuss such frippery, trifle matters.

And let’s not forget that our husbands’ time is their own, and we should never, ever worry about when they’re coming home from work: “Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you,” the article states. “Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.”

Because taking care of a horde of small children all day long isn’t stressful at all, right? I mean, it’s practically a day at the spa! It’s just a little bit stickier.

Finally, ladies: This guide wants to reinforce their point that we shouldn’t ever complain about our spouses…even if they stay out all night. “Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day,” it says.

Shouldn’t EVER complain? Like, ever? 

So there you have it. I have mad props for the women who actually took this advice, or who– at the very least–were expected to live by it. 

How about you, fellow modern mamas? Would you have survived as a ‘50s housewife?

Photo credits: Nationaal Archief [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons and classic_film 1950s Modern Kitchen, Electric Range, 1953 via photopin (license)

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