The Good Wife’s Guide

1950s woman serving tea for breakfast to her smiling husband

I am sure you have seen the infamous “Good Wife’s Guide,” allegedly published in Housekeeping Monthly on May 13, 1955, circulating online. To some, the article is shocking, and while it may seem outdated and irrelevant in today’s world, a timeless idea lies beneath the surface—a yearning to create a haven and a place of refuge within the home.

The “Good Wife’s Guide” outlines specific duties for housewives, from preparing dinner and waiting for their husbands upon returning to tidying the house and creating a pleasant atmosphere. In addition to these tasks, the guide emphasizes the importance of catering to a husband’s needs and maintaining a cheerful, loving demeanor. These expectations paint a picture of an era when women were expected to prioritize their husband’s happiness and well-being above their own.

I think that this article comes across as jarring to so many people because all of the wife’s duties and activities revolve around her husband’s comfort and desires. There is no denying that a mid-century woman’s province was understood to be the home. But unlike other vintage housekeeping routines and schedules that were created to help efficiently run a household, this article gives off subservience vibes.

The Good Wife’s Guide

  • Have dinner ready: Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal — on time. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him, and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospects of a good meal are part of the warm welcome needed.
  • Prepare yourself: Take 15 minutes to rest so you will be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair, and look fresh. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift.
  • Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up school books, toys, paper, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift, too.
  • Prepare the children: Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces if they are small, comb their hair, and if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.
  • Minimize the noise: At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise from the washer, dryer, dishwasher, or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see him. Greet him with a warm smile and be glad to see him.
  • Some Don’ts: Don’t greet him with problems or complaints. Don’t complain if he’s late for dinner. Count this as minor compared with what he might have gone through that day.
  • Make him comfortable: Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing, and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.
    Listen to him: You may have a dozen things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.
  • Make the evening his: Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner or other places of entertainment; instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure, his need to be home and relax.
  • The goal: Try to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can relax.

Is The Good Wife’s Guide a Hoax?

In response to the widespread circulation of “The Good Wife’s Guide,”, a well-known fact-checking website, investigated to verify its authenticity. According to their analysis, the article is likely a hoax that was never actually published in Housekeeping Monthly in 1955. The text and supposed scan of the article have been circulated extensively on the internet, but no concrete evidence points to its genuine publication.

The popularity of “The Good Wife’s Guide” cannot be denied, as it has generated substantial debate about the changing roles of women and men in society. While the article itself is considered a hoax, the discussions surrounding it provide valuable insight into societal expectations during that time period.

Adapting The Good Wife’s Guide For Modern Homemakers

In the 1950s, women were often expected to maintain the household, care for children, and tend to the needs of their husbands. The guide suggested wives should have dinner ready as soon as their husbands returned home and nicely present themselves, dressed up and freshened up. These expectations have evolved tremendously in contemporary society, with men and women often working outside the home and sharing household responsibilities.

While reflecting on the 1950s society, it is important to remember that the norms and aspirations of that time were different. The “Good Wife’s Guide” can be seen as a historical snapshot of the moment, illustrating a bygone era. It should not be taken as a rulebook for modern-day relationships. But it can be used as a starting point for discussing how the home can be a place of refuge and how both parties of a couple can work together to achieve that goal.

A modern relationship approach focuses on partnership, communication, and shared responsibilities. Couples should work together, designing their lives and relationships based on their preferences and values rather than rigidly adhering to cultural norms.

All that being said, while this was written during a time when women’s participation in the workforce was limited, this guide reflects the expectations of devoting one’s day to housekeeping, managing children, and fulfilling the needs of a husband, it does make for an entertaining conversation starter. Being a lover of all things vintage and kitsch, I made a fun printable with the guide sentiments on it. You can find it below, and it is free to print.

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