VICTORIAN RULES FOR BEING A GOOD WIFE

‘Your marriage will be happier if you do not have aspirations.’

Have you ever wished you could live in an earlier, more romantic era?

The following pieces are from various guides for married women, published during the Victorian age.

Don’t have sex for pleasure.

Doing so led to diseases like cancer, or at least that’s what some Victorian-era experts thought. It’s perfectly fine if pleasure is a side effect of the attempts to procreate. After all, it’s good for your husband’s ego and prowess. But you’re not a prostitute, so you shouldn’t be seeking marital relations for pleasure alone. If you do, you’re going to get cancer. Or something worse.

Having intercourse for carnal reasons alone is like allowing your husband to use you like a prostitute. A full three-fourths of diseases in women are the result of engaging in non-reproductive sex. Bearing children is what women are made for. Having children is an investment. You finance your retirement with mother’s milk. Not only that, by the time your oldest daughter is seven, she’ll be doing a quarter of the housework.

Do not confront your husband if he is cheating with some pretty little thing.

Alexander Walker, in his 1840 book Women, Physiologically Considered, As To Mind, Morals, Marriage, Matrimonial Slavery, Infidelity, and Divorce tells the story of a woman who discovers her husband has a mistress. She found that the girl, who was poor and thus easily seduced, was living in a shabby apartment. So, she arranged to have it nicely decorated, as befitted a woman worthy of her husband’s taste. Ladies, that is what you do with a cheating husband. Men have their foibles. After all, you are the one he has to support. Because he owns you. Besides, it’s pious and godly to understand that men have their needs.

Good wives don’t go out alone.

It makes you look like a streetwalker. We all know what a streetwalker is, right? A streetwalker is any woman walking the streets by herself in the Victorian era. If you go out alone, you are virtually indistinguishable from a beggar or a whore. So, go with him. Or find an old crone to accompany you. Or a bunch of married women. Moral safety in groups.

A good wife understands the importance of a well cooked and timely meal.

Food had to be coaxed from the earth or chased down and killed. You could buy canned food, but there was no FDA, no regulation, and Louis Pasteur didn’t teach the world about bacteria until 1864. Ketchup was tinted with rust to make it redder, and bakers increased the weight of their bread by adding chalk or grit. I wish I was kidding. Also, no refrigeration, and it’s up to you to ensure that your family doesn’t get food poisoning because, honey girl, food poisoning tends to make men very grumpy. A man who partakes of a badly cooked dinner is sure to be dyspeptic, quarrelsome, snappish and unamiable. Take warning, oh ye wives! and look to the dinners of your husbands, and know how dinners ought to be cooked.

Don’t complain about feeling unequal.

You are not equal, and you’re never going to be. You have to do what he says, no matter how absurd, tyrannical or misguided. You will be told what you can and can’t do and what you can and can’t have. And it’s your own fault. Because you have the same chromosomes as Eve, who brought sin into the world. So, there you have it. That’s why men are superior.

Your marriage will be happier if you do not have aspirations.

You may have talents. You sing like a bird, you’re a brilliant writer, a fantastic teacher, but that makes you bad marriage material. So, hide those aspirations. Good wives don’t have careers. That’s an insult to your husband. A very, very grave insult. First, it implies you think he isn’t competent enough to provide. Secondly, it indicates you’re not 100% invested in him and the family you create together. And that’s what you were born for.

So, there you have it, ladies. Aren’t you glad you live now?

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