How the 1950’s Housewife Was Expected to Behave in the ‘Good Wives Guide’

5 min read
How the 1950’s Housewife Was Expected to Behave in the ‘Good Wives Guide’

The 1950’s housewife is one who loved floral aprons, kept a spotless house and baked all day.

One who served dinner to hubby as he walked through the door and single handily raised the kids while looking like a glamour puss. Well, that is, well “¦a crock of sh*t.

She definitely kept the house clean, raised the kids and had all the meals on the table, but look good doing it, I don’t think so. She wouldn’t have had time to run a comb through her hair with that amount of work. That’s an impossible achievement even by today’s standards and with all the mod cons we have.

We all thought the 50’s housewife was such a neat and tidy little creature doing her thing, looking demure and sweet all the time, but that was just the media back then trying to reinforce an idyllic picture of what the perfect stay-at-home mum should look like.

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She was actually suppressed from any free thinking and was basically chained to the kitchen sink.

Post war time in the 50’s was hard, especially on housewives. First of all, she likely went to work to support the war effort in the 40’s and discovered she could do more than anyone ever allowed her to do or believe, and then she was shoved back in the kitchen to serve her man and raise the children. Believe it or not, homemaking was considered a woman’s highest calling, the pinnacle of her life in the 50’s.

And all the cleaning, why? The entire cleaning routine involved about four hours a day, dusting, mopping, washing, bathrooms, bedrooms, living areas. Evenings and nights were filled with, dinner, more cleaning, bathing the kids and getting ready for the next day.

Not only were these wives expected to cook and clean and wait on hubby hand and foot, they were meant to “keep their hair and makeup attractive”. A quote from “The Basics: how to be a good wife” an actual 1950’s high school home economics text book.

Below is a guide on how to be a good housewife from a magazine, ‘Housekeeping Monthly’ from 1955. Enjoy, while I go puke.

Extract from Housekeeping Monthly, 1955…


1. Have dinner ready

Plan ahead, even the night before to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. 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 prospect of a good meal (especially his favourite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.

2. Prepare yourself

Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.


3. Listen to him

You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first remember his topics of conversation are more important that yours.

4. Make the evening his

Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.


5. Don’t complain

If he’s late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night, count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.

6. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes

Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.

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7. Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgement or integrity

Remember he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.
A good wife always knows her place.


In the 50’s you were considered a bad housewife if you did not comply with the above list.

The only real difference between then and now, our standards have definitely slipped and our husbands can go and f*$k themselves if they expect dinner the moment they walk in the door or ask me to get his slippers.

Our children have more toys, we all have way more possessions, back then TV was a luxury. We have way more clutter and distractions from each other like smart phones, iPad and internet. We certainly don’t dedicate four hours every day to cleaning, let’s face it, the modern housewife is lucky to spend an hour cleaning a week. My cleaning routine consists of a quick wipe down and I’m out the door.

Not very 50’s housewife and hubby would certainly not approve. And I’m not alone. We are all too busy to clean and have way better things to do then wear pearls and bake a cake for hubby’s approval. It’s all about Lorna Jane active wear and whatever we can fit into our daily lives, brushed hair or not.

And whoever says we should take a leaf from the 50’s housewife handbook can go and take a running jump.

How the 1950s Housewife Was Expected to Behave in the Good Wives Guide 1 | Stay at Home


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Michaella Tasker

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