Ladies' Handbooksby Julie Oreskovich
The history of women in society and the household is fascinating, enlightening and sometimes amusing. Perhaps the most famous name associated with etiquette and how to behave is Emily Post, but she certainly wasn't the first to introduce the concept of proper manners and behavior.
While many of the ideas proposed to women 100 years ago seem odd to us modern day people, and should be taken with a grain of salt and a sense of humor, these rules and concepts were the norm at the turn of the last century.
In the 1800s, women's roles included spending their time reading, sewing, writing letters, overseeing the servants, managing the household and dressing appropriately according to one's social status.
Numerous books were written on this subject including home management, family economics, help for the new mother, how to court the other sex and occupations available to women.
This selection of fascinating literature features an incredible array of how-to books, guides and manuals for ladies, young women, wives, mothers, brides, housekeepers and more.
See our selection of Gentlemen's Guides.
For the Ladies
Nelson's Home Comforts (1903)
Many old fashioned recipes including collared eel and brain fritters.
Common Sense in the Household (1917)
A comprehensive guide to the cooking with additional chapters on servants, the sick room, and the nursery.
The Bride's Book of Etiquette (1930)
by Anna Steese Richardson
A complete guide to wedding customs, engagements, budgets, showers and more.
Ladies of the White House (1881)
Laura C. Holloway
The First Ladies from Martha Washington to Lucretia Rudolph Garfield.
The Successful Housekeeper (1882)
A manual of universal application, especially adapted to the every day wants of American housewives.
The Book of Household Management (1861)
Perhaps the most famous cookery book - includes information for the housekeeper, cook, maid and butler.
The Bazar Book of Decorum; The Care of the Person, Manners, Etiquette, and Ceremonials (1875)
Includes the obligation to cultivate beauty; how to make the ear and the hand beautiful; blushing, laughter, discreet use of the eye etc.
How to Behave (1857)
Advice on four topics including letter writing, conversation, etiquette and business.
Hold ‘Em Girls: The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Men and Football (1936)
by Judson P. Philips
Educating women about football so they won't ruin men's enjoyment of the game by asking too many foolish questions.
Home Comfort: A Complete Manual of Domestic Economy for Schools and Colleges (1899)
Household guide with chapters on everything from making puddings to preventing rust.
The Household Handy Book (1880)
Information for young women that may enable them to add pleasure and usefulness to their lives.
Manners Culture and Dress of the Best American Society (1890)
Richard A. Wells
Advice on letter writing, invitations, valuable suggestions on self culture and home training.
The Women of England: The Social Duties, and Domestic Habits (1839)
Sarah Stickney Ellis
Victorian conduct literature, emphasizing middle class ideologies of womanhood.
The Complete Servant - Maid or Maiden's Companion (1720)
A book on household management - probably the first female author to earn their living doing this.
What Can a Woman Do (1893)
Mrs M.L. Rayne
Late 19th century exploration of occupations open to American women.
The American Woman's Home (1869)
Catherine E. Beecher
From ventilation to decoration, exercise and food to sleep habits, manners and order to charity work.
Woman in her Various Relations (1860)
Mrs L.G. Abell
Standard duties of American women, followed by a defense of the traditional role of women in society.
The Mirror of Graces or the English Lady's Costume (1811)
by Mary Hill
Ellis was the most popular writer of Victorian conduct literature, emphasizing middle class ideologies of womanhood.
The Lady's Guide to Perfect Gentility (1856)
by Emily Thornwell
A useful instructor in letter writing, toilet preparations, needlework, care of wardrobe, teeth, hands, lips and complexion.
How to Manage a Country House (1662)
by Charles Estienne
Originally published in 1554, contains advice on different aspects of the country household