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129 ways to get a husband: Truly terrible tips from the 1950s

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Man and woman from the fifties at their wedding - Groom kisses the bride
Back in late 1957, a group of people brainstormed ways to help a woman catch a man… and the suggestions are just as cringeworthy, soul-crushing and outdated as you can imagine.

The first time I saw clips from this article, the advice was so ridiculous, I was sure it was fake. One of the suggestions was “Stand in the corner and cry softly. Chances are good that he’ll come over to find out what’s wrong.” That had to be a joke, right?

But no — it really was from an article called “129 ways to get a husband” that was reached nearly 8 million readers when it was published back in January 1958. The target demographic was single women, meaning teen girls as well as widows and divorcees. Not only did the story stretch over several pages, it merited a front cover mention, too.

For all we know, some of these suggestions actually worked. When it comes to family, though, let’s just say we really don’t want to know that Aunt Lorraine met Uncle Vernon by following any of these tips — especially 6, 17, 113 or 124.

Highlight reel! 12 of the top tips

129 ways to get a husband: A vintage article from 1958

In the United States today, there are sixteen million women over the age of seventeen who are not married, Presumably, the vast majority of them would like to be. They are sometimes alarmed by statistics that show there are only twelve million unmarried men on whom they can pin their hopes.

Happily, the real picture isn’t nearly that bad. In the so-called “marriageable-age” groups there are almost enough single men to go around. The problem is to find a good one and land him.

McCall’s decided to try a technique called “brainstorming” to see if there were any fresh ideas on the subject.

Brainstorming is being used by business. industry and our armed forces to sell goods, solve production problems and plan strategy. Parent-teacher associations, Kiwanis clubs and other community groups are brainstorming their way to wider membership and better service programs.

Wedding in the 1950s - newlywed couple

Sixteen people took part in McCall’s brainstorming session on “How To Find a Husband.” They were chosen largely because they were known to have good minds, lively ideas and mature experience.

Moderator was Lee H. Bristol. Jr., trustee of Alex Osborn’s Creative Education Foundation. Among the members of the panel were a popular songwriter, a marriage consultant, an airline stewardess, a police commissioner, a housewife, an investment banker, a psychologist, a bachelor, a newlywed and an engineer.

The panel was instructed in the basic rules of brainstorming:

  • Judgments are out. Criticism of ideas is a job for tomorrow.
  • Freewheeling, uninhibited thinking is what we hope to get — the more uninhibited, the better. Let yourself go!
  • The more ideas, the better. Sheer quantity is important.

Combinations of two or more ideas may be best of all. Try to “hitchhike” on another’s inspiration — two heads are better than one!

129 ways to get a husband - Truly terrible tips from 1958

Starting to share ideas

The bell tinkled, and suggestions on “how to find a husband” began to fly. Hands waved for recognition. Fingers snapped briskly to indicate an idea that was hitchhiked from a previous suggestion.

Occasionally a suggestion brought irrepressible giggles or snorts of laughter, but for the most part, participants worked at a panting pace.

Finally, the bell rang, and the brainstorming session was over.

The results were astonishing — a total of 404 suggestions! Some are tried and true but good to remember. Some are new and daring enough to set the most sophisticated bachelor in a gyroscopic spin!

Weeding out ideas that seem repetitious, impractical or too, too wild, we present 129 of the best suggestions.

Even a quick glance at the list will show you that the day has passed when a reasonably pretty girl can sit, hands folded, on her front veranda waiting for Mr. Right to come along.

As our brainstorming panel sees it, getting married today is a problem in social engineering.

129 ways to get a husband: Truly terrible tips from the 1950s

Advice on finding a man to marry, from McCall’s magazine in 1958

129 WAYS TO GET A HUSBAND: WHERE TO FIND HIM

1. Get a dog and walk it.

2. Have your car break down at strategic places.

3. Attend night school — take courses men like.

4. Join a hiking club.

5. Look in the census reports for places with the most single men. Nevada has 125 males for every 100 females.

6. Read the obituaries to find eligible widowers.

Women getting ready to go out - beauty and makeup from 1956

7. Take up golf and go to different golf courses.

8. Take several short vacations at different places rather than one long one at one place.

9. Sit on a park bench and feed the pigeons.

10. Take a bicycle trip through Europe.

11. Get a job in medical, dental or law school.

12. Become a nurse or an airline stewardess — they have very high marriage rates.

Pretty, thin, young and single? Check out these sexist stewardess job requirements of the ’50s & ’60s

13. Ask your friends’ husbands who the eligible men are in their offices.

14. Be nice to everybody — they may have an eligible brother or son.

15. Get a government job overseas.

16. Volunteer for jury duty.

17. Be friendly to ugly men — handsome is as handsome does.

Bobbed hairstyle from the 1950s

18. Tell your friends that you are interested in getting married. Don’t keep it a secret.

19. Get lost at football games.

20. Don’t take a job in a company run largely by women.

21. Get a job demonstrating fishing tackle in a sporting goods store.

22. On a plane, train, or bus, don’t sit next to a woman — sit next to a man.

23. Go to all reunions of your high school or college class. There may be widowers there.

24. Don’t be afraid to associate with more attractive girls; they may have some leftovers.

25. Go back to your hometown for a visit — the wild kid next door may have become a very eligible bachelor while you were away.

1955 autumn - teens dating and fall harvest

26. Don’t room with a girl who is a sad sack and let her pull you down to her level.

27. Get a part-time job in a convention bureau.

28. Change apartments from time to time.

29. When traveling, stay at small hotels where it is easier to meet strangers.

30. Learn to paint. Set up an easel outside engineering school.


129 WAYS TO GET A HUSBAND: HOW TO LET HIM KNOW YOU’RE THERE

31. Stumble when you walk into a room that he’s in.

32. Forget discretion every once in a while and call him up.

1956 woman giving a man a kiss

33. Carry a hatbox.

34. Wear a Band-Aid. People always ask what happened.

35. Make a lot of money.

36. Learn several funny stories and learn to tell them well — but make sure you don’t tell them to him more than once.

37. Walk up to him and tell him you need some advice.

38. Dropping the handkerchief still works.

50s women in 1951 - Dating and marriage (1)

39. Have your father buy some theater tickets that have to be got rid of.

40. Stand in the corner and cry softly. Chances are good that he’ll come over to find out what’s wrong.

41. Don’t let him fish for your name the next time you meet. None of this “guess who” stuff.

42. If you’re at a resort, have the bellboy page you.

43. Buy a convertible. Men like to ride in them.

44. Learn how to bake tasty apple pies. Bring one into the office and let the eligible bachelors taste it.

Woman making pie for her guy in 1952

45. Laugh at his jokes.

46. If there’s a wallflower among the men you know, why not cultivate him? For all you know, he may be a diamond in the rough.

47. “Accidentally” have your purse fly open, scattering its contents all over the street.

Teen girls dressed up for back to school in 1955


129 WAYS TO GET A HUSBAND: HOW TO LOOK GOOD TO HIM

48. Men like to think they’re authorities on perfume. Ask his advice on what kind you should wear.

49. Get better-looking glasses — men still make passes at girls who wear glasses — or try contact lenses.

50. Practice your drinking with your women friends first.

51. If you dye your hair, pick a shade and stick to it.

52. Wear high heels most of the time — they’re sexier!

Teen girl in 1956 trying on her first high heel shoes

53. Unless he happens to be shorter than you are!

54. Tell him he’s handsome.

55. Take good care of your health. Men don’t like girls who are ill.

56. If you look good in sweaters, wear one on every third date.

57. Dress differently from the other girls in the office.

Teen boy and girl in 1956

58. Get a sunburn.

59. Watch your vocabulary.

60. Go on a diet if you need to.

61. When you are with him, order your steak rare.

62. Don’t tell him about your allergies.

63. European women use their eyes to good advantage. Practice in front of a mirror.

64. Buy a full-length mirror and take a good look before you go to greet him.

Woman putting on makeup from 1955

65. Change the shade of your stockings, and be sure to keep the seams straight.

66. Get that fresh-scrubbed look by scrubbing!

67. If he has bought you any trinket or accessory, wear it.

68. Use the ashtray; don’t crush out cigarettes in coffee cups!

69. Polish up on making introductions; learn to do them gracefully.

70. Don’t be too fussy.

71. Stick to your moral standards.

72. Don’t whine — girls who whine stay on the vine!

Man and woman on a date outside in 1950


129 WAYS TO GET A HUSBAND: 129 WAYS TO GET A HUSBAND: HOW TO LAND HIM

73. Show him you can have fun on a cheap date — but don’t overdo it!

74. Don’t let your parents treat him like a potential husband.

75. Ask your parents to disappear when you’re entertaining!

76. Double-date with a gay, happily married couple — let him see what it’s like!

77. Tell his friends nice things about him.

78. Send his mother a birthday card.

From the 1950s How to laugh, just for girls

79. Ask his mother for her recipes.

80. Talk to his father about business and agree that taxes are too high!

81. Buy his sister’s children an occasional present.

82. On the first date, tell him you aren’t thinking of getting married!

83. Don’t talk about how many children you want.

Man and woman standing by a river in 1959

84. If he’s a fisherman, learn to scale and clean fish.

85. Don’t tell him everything about yourself at the start. Hold something in reserve.

86. When you’re out strolling with him, don’t insist on stopping at every shop window.

87. Don’t tell him how much your clothes cost.

88. Learn to sew, and wear something you have made yourself.

Vintage Singer sewing machines from the ’50s: They’re sew classic

89. Don’t gossip about him.

90. Never let him know he’s the only one, even if you have to stay at home one or two nights a week!

91. Don’t be a pushover when he’s trying to make a date.

92. Very early in your dating, why not get a favorite song that you both regard as your own?

50s teen girl with old 45 RPM singles records music

93. Find out about the girls he hasn’t married. Don’t repeat the mistakes they made.

94. Don’t discuss your former boyfriends.

95. If you are widowed or divorced, don’t constantly discuss your former husband.

96. Be flexible. If he decides to skip the dance and go rowing on the lake, go — even if you are wearing your best evening gown.

16 breathtakingly gorgeous vintage evening gowns with long skirts so full they’d make a Disney Princess jealous

97. Hide your Phi Beta Kappa key if you own one — later on, junior can play with it.

98. Turn wolves into husband material by assuming they have honor.

99. Resist the urge to make him over — before marriage, that is!

1956 Girl and boy at old 50s bus stop

100. Learn where to draw the line — but do it gracefully.

101. Remain innocent, but not ignorant.

102. Make your home comfortable when he calls — large ashtrays, comfortable chairs.

103. Learn to play poker.

104. If he’s rich, tell him you like his money — the honesty will intrigue him!

Woman in fancy blue retro evening dresss from Ebony Dec 1959

105. Never let him believe your career is more important to you than marriage.

106. Buy him an amusing or particularly appropriate present every once in a while. But don’t make it too expensive.

107. Clip and mail him some funny cartoon that means something to both of you.

108. Don’t tell dirty stories.

109. Stop being a mama’s girl — don’t let him think he’ll have in-law trouble, even if you know he will!

110. Point out to him that the death rate of single men is twice that of married men.


129 WAYS TO GET A HUSBAND: WILD IDEAS — ANYTHING GOES

111. Go to Yale.

50s women in 1951 - Dating and marriage (2)

112. Get a hunting license.

113. If your mother is fat, tell him you take after your father. If he’s fat, too, tell him you’re adopted!

114. Stow away on a battleship.

115. Rent a billboard and post your picture and telephone number on it.

116. Paint your name and number on the roof and say, “Give me a buzz, pilots.”

1950s marriage advice to young women: If you want to find a husband, a survey says these are the best jobs to get

117. Start a whispering campaign on how sought-after you are.

118. Sink at a fashionable beach at high noon!

119. Ride the airport bus back and forth from the airport.

120. Bribe Ferris-wheel operator to get you stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel.

Oct 26, 1953 - Woman getting dressed - Fashion is for the slender

121. Stand on a busy street corner with a lasso.

122. Carry a camera and ask strange, handsome men if they would mind snapping your picture.

123. Ask your mother to take in male boarders.

124. Make and sell toupees — bald men are easy catches!

Talking behind her back: 11 really mean vintage ads that could give anyone a complex

125. Advertise for male co-owner of a boat.

126. If you see a man with a flat, offer to fix it.

127. Carry a tow chain in the trunk of your automobile.

128. Let it be known in your office that you have a button box and will sew on bachelors’ loose buttons.

129. Don’t marry him if he has too many loose buttons!

1956 - Whatever became of the girl I married


“Sure to be one of the most talked about articles in many a day is the one called ‘129 Ways To Get A Husband,’ which appears in the January McCall’s… A panel of 16 experts, using a technique that has inspired thousands of bright business ideas, tried it on love and marriage, and came up with 129 Ways To Get A Husband.

“Under the heading Wild Ideas — Anything Goes, we find: ‘If your mother is fat, tell him you take after your father. If he’s fat, too, tell him you’re adopted!'” – Orlando Evening Star (Orlando, Florida) – January 10, 1958

McCalls magazine cover from 1958 with tips for 129 ways to get a husband

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