Humor Magazine

Into the (Personal) Archives: How to Manage a Husband (1919)

By Humorinamerica @HumorInAmerica

My mom once told me that the secret to a happy marriage is to do all of your construction projects while your husband is at work.  She knew well what she was talking about — over the years, she cut into walls to create built-in cabinets; she put up new shelves in rich and vibrant woods and hung hinged doors on other shelves that she wanted covered.   All construction debris was cleared neatly away, though, each day before my father got home — and this year marked their 65th year together.

What my mom never had to tell me, though, is that the real key to a long and happy relationship is a sense of humor.  Life is far too important to take seriously.

When my father passed away last month, among his things we found a treasure that his mother had saved from her wedding shower on June 5, 1919.   The gifts to her included a collection of spices in tins to start her kitchen in her new household — and a book of personal and spicy advice, written in acrostics, called How to Manage a Husband.  By the Experienced and the Inexperienced.   When I started reading, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but when I got to the “T” in “Edith,” I knew that the women of that long-ago post-war generation were no different.  I’ll never think of my seemingly serious and elegant grandmother in quite the same way again.

Edith's advice apparently still had appeal in the 1940s.

Edith’s advice apparently still had appeal in the 1940s.

Eat everything prepared and
Digest it
Invite no quarrels
Tie him to a tree if unmanageable
Help in everything

Make the ice cream
Overcome mishaps
Receive his friends
Thank him
Overlook much
Never give up


Never leave him
Entertain him
Love him
Love him a little more
Independent thinking
Eliminate waste

Serve him plenty of food
Hang him if necessary
Attract no one else
Get up early in the mornings
Educate him to help with the work
Never nag


Okay, so I did a double-take on this one.  “Hang him if necessary”?  One hopes that Nellie was one of the “inexperienced” . . . . 


Marry him soon
Raise him with a spoon
Smile whenever you can

Worship with care
Work as you dare

Flatter him rarely
Rile him never
You will succeed


Leave him not (good English)
Always be cheerful (You not really need that advice for you are naturally)
Urge him not to look at the women
Read him the paper
Agree when it is to your advantage

Be careful not to look at any one but the policeman
Arrange his bow tie straight
Tell him the truth
Excuse him only once
Serve him good eats


Make him think he is having his own way.  Only — Don’t.
Always keep in in good humor
Render him assistance
You want to have his meals ready on time

Catch his meaning before you start to nag

Beat him up if he stays out late
Rejoice at his success
Enjoy what he likes
Call him in plenty of time for work
Keep the house in good order
Eliminate fault finding
Remember his disposition


Merry and gay
Rule all the way
Set the table

Fix the furnace
Greet him with a smile

Teasing not allowed
Rise early
Alimony not allowed
Mend his socks


Some of the women included advice for the groom, as well:

Arrive home on time for meals
Never forget to put out ashes
Never forget

Help with the dishes
Learn to put things in place
Make things pleasant


Encourage her efforts
Listen when she speaks
Smile and sing
Interest in her interests
Entertain her when she is tired

Make home pleasant
Rise on time
Tend the heater
Invite her to something “special” occasionally
Never nag

Vacuums in 1910.  Who knew?

Vacuums in 1910.  Managing a husband in 1919.  Who knew?


Make him dry the dishes
You must greet him with a smile and
Run the vacuum cleaner
Arrange the furniture (he)

Tend to the fire (he must do this)
Open the windows (“)
Run the washer (“)
Arise early (according to the old proverb)
Make him cut the grass

While I’ll never be as active as Edith or as bloodthirsty as Nellie, I do follow my mom’s advice, spoken and unspoken.

Laughter not only makes the best medicine — but also the best marriages.  And the best friendships.

©  Sharon D. McCoy, 13 June 2013

A special thank you to Beth McCoy, for permission to publish How to Manage a Husband.

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