19 important marriage tips for the ladies – most of which would just not fly today (1838)

Vintage advice - 19 important marriage tips for the ladies (1838)

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The advice below was written more than twenty years before the Civil War began, which read less like tips and more like rules for “proper” etiquette wives should use when dealing with their husbands.

It’s safe to say that many of these suggestions would, ahem… well, let’s just say they wouldn’t be appreciated by most women today.

Women's fashion in the 1830s

Etiquette tips for marriage: Counsel for ladies

1. Let every married woman be persuaded that there are two ways of governing a family. The first is by the expression of that which threatens force. The second is, by the power of love, to which even strength will yield.

2. Over the mind of the husband, a wife should never employ any other power than gentleness.

3. When a woman accustoms herself to say, “I will,” she deserves to lose her empire.

4. Avoid contradicting your husband. When we smell a rose, we expect to imbibe the sweetness of its odor — so we look for everything amiable in woman. Whoever is often contradicted, feels insensibly an aversion for the person who contradicts, which gains strength by time.

5. Employ yourself in household affairs.

6. Wait till your husband confides to you those of a higher importance, and do not give your advice till he asks it.

7. Never take upon yourself to be a censor of your husband’s morals, to read lectures to him. Let your preaching be a good example.

8. Practice virtue yourself, to make him in love with it.

9. Command his attention by being always attentive to him. Never exact anything, and you will obtain much.

10. Appear always flattered by the little he does for you, which will excite him to perform more.

Godey's Lady's Book fashion for women from 1830 - Evening dresses

11. Men as well as women are vain. Never wound his vanity, not even in the most trifling instance.

12. A wife may have more sense than her husband, but she should never seem to know it.

13. When a man gives wrong counsel, never make him feel that he has done so, but lead him on by degrees to what is rational, with mildness and gentleness.

14. When he is convinced, leave him all the merit of having found out what is reasonable and just; when a husband is out of temper, behave obligingly to him.

15. If he is abusive, never retort, and never prevail on him to humble himself; but enter the closet, and pour out thy complaints in pray to God in his behalf. The prayers of the righteous avail much.

Fashion from 1838

16. Choose carefully your female friends. Have but few, and be backward to follow advice — particularly if inimical to the foregoing instructions.

17. Cherish neatness without luxury, and pleasure without excess. Dress with taste, and particularly with modesty. “Whose adorning let it not ye that outward adorning, of plaiting hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel.”

18. Vary the fashions of your dress in regard to colors. It gives a change to ideas, and recalls pleasing recollections. Such things appear trifling, but they are of more importance than imagined.

19. “Likewise ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands.” “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the Church and gave himself for it.” “Submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”

How to choose a husband: Top tips for the woman planning to get married, from the etiquette experts of 1921
sea captain wife miniature portraits 19th century
Watercolor portrait miniatures of a sea captain and his wife, c1838

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