Here’s my original post introducing the 1905 Ladies’ Handbook of Home Treatment. Thanks for all your chapter requests! I offered you a glimpse of Chapter One: here’s the whole thing, for your edification, chortleification, and irritation.
The one thing that struck me while transcribing this did take me by surprise. It was not that things have changed dramatically. It was that so many things remain so essentially the same, despite what we generally feel to be the massive social transformations of the twentieth century in Australia. I spotted a good few current dating and relationship “rules” in this chapter.
I also delighted in the euphemisms.
The Founding of a Home.
SPRINGTIME! All nature is astir. The birds in the garden and in bush are seeking mates and building nests. Deep-seated instinct guides them in their tasks, instinct implanted by their Maker, without whose notice not one sparrow falls.
Youth is life’s springtime. New aspirations thrill the youthful mind. Strange emotions set the young heart throbbing and mayhap seeking for a mate. Youthful imagination plans a home and builds at least a castle in the air. All this is true to nature, and is right.
But man, unlike the birds, has been endowed with noble faculties of mind which should be exercised in all life’s choosings. And so in this, a most important choice; reason should guide and counsel should be sought. This is particularly true of the young woman who thinks of choosing her life-partner. She would do well to open wide her heart and lay her plans before a wise and sympathetic friend, either her own or another’s mother, who by experience has learned many of life’s hardest lessons.
“But”, says the maiden, “shall I not follow the promptings of my heart in the bestowal of my affections?” We would that it were as safe for young men and maidens to follow inclination in the choice of their companions as it is for the birds to follow instinct. This plan would solve many a knotty problem, and could be safely followed provided all were pure and sound. But although man was made upright in morals and mind as well as in body, he has perverted his ways and even his natural instincts. Impulse and inclination must therefore be guided by mature reason and sound judgement. How unwise, then, it is for a young woman to become attached to a man of unknown character and worth. Should she “fall in love” with such a man, the wisest course she can pursue is to fall out again with all possible haste.
In choosing a partner for life there are many things to be considered. The young woman should choose a man of high ideals, noble character, and purity of life; a man of sound constitution and good heredity. He should be of suitable age, of pleasing disposition, and her equal, though not her superior, in social position. But though a man possess all these and other virtues, if she love him not, she can have no assurance of happiness if wedded to him.
Nature has ordained that in matters of love man should be the pursuer, woman the pursued; man the wooer, woman the wooed. Although the maiden may, when asked, with gracious dignity bestow her affection upon her lover, she may not reveal her love unless it be sought. Man naturally prizes most that which is most difficult to win. The women, then, who seems most unattainable is likely to be the most earnestly sought.
Should a young woman count among her friends a man whom she not only admires but loves, she should conduct herself with such womanly reserve as to win first his respect. A man cannot respect the woman who places a low value upon herself, and without respect there can be no true love.
Among the happiest days in a woman’s life are the days of her wooing. If her heart is won by a man of sterling worth and unimpeachable character, there is a joyousness in her surrender. With assurance she entrusts herself to his love and care. The days of courtship afford excellent opportunity for intercourse of heart and mind, for an exchange of the inmost thoughts and feelings. Such intimate and mutual acquaintance makes for happiness in wedded life.
While every young girl should strive to fit herself for the duties of womanhood, a special responsibility rests upon the young woman who is a promised wife, and, if God wills it, a promised mother. She is shortly to join her lover in the making of a new home, in the founding of a family. Upon her will largely depend the happiness of her home and the character of their family life. It behoves the bride-to-be to undergo a rigid self-examination. She should, as it were, “take stock” of her various gifts and qualifications. Should she find her character lacking in any of the virtues which are necessary to the success of the wife and mother, she would do well to strive for their attainment. She should also seek with all diligence to cultivate the womanly graces which already adorn her character.
While the promised wife should be bright and joyous during the happy time of waiting, she should never lose sight of the responsibilities which will come to her with marriage. Many a bride has made a miserable failure of marriage because she was wholly unfitted to discharge its sacred duties. The sensible maiden will, like the wise virgin, fill her lamp with oil before the bridegroom cometh. She will store her mind with useful knowledge, and will train her fingers until they become deft in such housewifely arts as cookery, sewing, mending, and sick-nursing. It is only by giving due consideration to these important matters that the young woman may approach her marriage with a reasonable assurance of making it a joyous success.
The intended wife should also give due attention to her health for her own sake as well as for the sake of her husband and children-to-be. A little time spent daily in strenuous health culture will bring its own reward. Fresh air, sunshine, wholesome food, daily bathing, suitable exercise, and sufficient rest will impart to the prospective bride such exuberance of life and spirits as will tide her safely through the early months of married life into the joyous realm of motherhood. During the engagement days, young people are often inclined to keep late hours and to indulge in such irregularities of habit as result in loss of strength and vitality. The young couple who prize their future happiness will guard their health almost as sacredly as they guard their character.
There is one other matter which is usually considered to be of paramount importance to the engaged girl – the bridal trousseau. It is no doubt necessary that the bride-elect provide herself with suitable clothing and household linen, but that she should sacrifice her health and buoyancy of spirits in so doing is quite unnecessary. It were far better that the bride enter upon life with a plain and scanty outfit and blooming health than with an extensive and elaborate wardrobe and shattered nerves.
When possible, the engagement period should be sufficiently long to permit of deliberate preparations for marriage. The young woman who is obliged to make hasty preparations for her marriage is likely to approach her bridal day in a state of feverish unrest instead of that serenity of mind so conducive to peace and happiness.
The wedding day dawns, and in the sight of God and man the lovers plight their troth. With their hands and hearts united, they take upon their lips the solemn vow which makes them one while life shall last. The marriage ceremony over, it is but right that the wedded pair shall take leave of their friends and withdraw for a little time to some retired place where they may with quiet enjoyment begin their united life. If this retired place be their new home-nest, which has been the object of such loving thought and devotion, it is all the better for the young husband and wife. There is a peculiar sweetness in beginning wedded life in one’s own home, provided it be sacred from the intrusion of even servants or friends. The honeymoon may be spoiled by being converted into a veritable round of receptions, dinner-parties, and other social functions.
It is equally undesirable that the early days of married life be marred by the annoyances and vicissitudes of travelling. Many a bride has been exhausted by and extended tour when she might have preserved her health had she passed the early weeks of wedded life in a quiet, secluded spot. In many cases it would be better if the wedding journey could be postponed until the young husband and wife reach the state of mutual understanding and serene enjoyment of married life. The honeymoon should, if possible, be guarded from the intrusion of business cares or other causes of anxiety. It should be set sacredly apart for the enjoyment of intimate companionship, the communion of good books, and the practice of the simple life in God’s great out-of-doors.
“God’s Great Out-of-Doors”