My mother has always said, I should behave more like a lady. So here from Constance Mortimer (er... real name Gavin), is What Every Woman Ought to Know, a self-help book with love and lifestyle tips from 1909 - 1910 aimed at introducing some decorum into the life of every modern girl and pitched as the ideal gift book for every discerning lady.
But actually, I'm not quite sure how I would feel about being given a gift like this, truth be told.
The book is described as "a fascinating compilation of considered counsel on relationships, etiquette, beauty, health, home-making, exercise and more, drawn from the problem pages of yesteryear's magazines".While many of the extracts were interesting, at times highly entertaining and at other times clearly out-dated, I would not be sure what sort of message the giver of such a book would be giving out.
I enjoyed reading some of the recipes for combating grey hair, advice for increasing height and tackling thin eyebrows, but in today's modern age I would not thank anyone who gave me a book with a section on 'Home Hints' aimed exclusively at women. So I won't be reading tips on polishing boots, cleaning felt hats and zinc baths.
Are these things I ought to know? Well, not really.
The well-researched book provided an interesting insight into the norms and values of society at the beginning of the 20th century and makes a valuable contribution to the study of social history. But I would query its relevance today as a self-help book providing 'hints and tips for ladies' as it says on the cover.
Consider one extract:
Will you tell me what is the woman's part in homemaking and what the girl should expect from the man he is to marry?
The woman is the homemaker. The man builds the house but the woman makes the home in the arrangement of th interior furnishings, in the ordering of household and by cheering influence of her presence. The woman should know how to sew, cook, to keep house and dispense hospitality. If both are willing to sacrifice for the other, the home will be a beautiful place. The wife will no doubt have worries in her first housekeeping days but she should not lose sight of the fact that her husband is having his troubles too in the business world. She should don a pretty frock for dinner each evening and see an easy chair and the papers are within easy reach of her husband. It's a little thing but it will mean a lot to him.
So while there is absolutely nothing wrong with some old-fashioned manners and respect for others, I can't said I'd be thrilled if any man handed me this book as a gift. I'd be unsure exactly of what he was telling me I ought to know.