Now, I did say to my friend Jenny that I would post on "the daily round" today and how it has changed throughout the decades, but I've (ahem) changed my mind. I've finally booked up the courage to post on something I've been itching to do for ages. You see ladies, amongst my collection of old cookbooks and homemaking books, I have some "top shelf material". That is to say, I have one or two vintage tomes that specifically (and explicitly) tutor on the subject of marriage and motherhood. The books are often simply titled "The Marriage Book" or "Marriage and Motherhood", and date mostly from the 1920s to the 1950s, a time when s*xual activity was not seen as taboo, but was kept within the confines of the marriage bed (largely). However, it would be a mistake to think that the books are simply manuals on how to conduct the intimate relationships, they go further than that, and because of this they offer a more comprehensive insight into the way every-day people led their lives than many of my household guides and recipe books.
In The Marriage Book, which carries the rather wonderful sub-heading of "for husbands and wives and all who love children", young men are encouraged not to consummate their marriage on the wedding night, and indeed this is advice which is often repeated in many of the vintage books I have on marriage.
There are times when, owing to nervous fatigue of the wedding and travel attending the honeymoon, the young woman is too tired to respond to any long caressing...he will find generally with the coming of morning that the expression of affection against which she would have reacted unfavourably the night before is now thoroughly welcome and met with responses.
The attitude of the writers suggests that although many women enjoyed "kisses and caresses" during the engagement period, they would be v*rg*ns on their wedding night and would need careful and gentle treatment before the consummating act.
Little by little this love play should be carried to greater intimacy, care being taken not to make the woman feel she is being hurried or pushed into more intimacy than she desires.
However, the woman was in no way tutored "to lie back and think of England".
She, on her part, if she has an honest desire to achieve normal, wholesome s*x relationship, will put on no false modesty, nor will fail to show her husband that she is enjoying what he gives her. After half an hour or an hour of loving, the woman is usually as eager for intercourse as any man...
As a modern reader I find it interesting that these books explode the myths surrounding s*xual activity pre the s*xual revolution of the 1960s. The Marriage Book shows us that women were expected to find enjoyment in the marriage bed, that men were expected to provide "half an hour or an hour of loving" before the act, and the men are told that at times a woman will "pass through several noticeable o******s before her passion comes to an end." So, Philip Larkin was wrong, "s*xual intercourse" did not "begin in 1963", it was there all along, but confined to a very private sphere, and placed firmly within the context of marriage. As an aside, we are told that even a married woman should "never be pushed into more intimacy than she desires"...how many of our young girls today can say they never feel harried or pushed into more intimacy than they desire?
Now, these books tend to focus on these intimate relationships in their initial chapters, but aim at being comprehensive guides. So we often find alarming juxtapositions of topic within the contents pages. Here are a few chapter headings, as an illustration.
S*x in Modern Life
Motives for Birth Control
Choosing a House
The Wife's Creed
Food for the Average Family
Don't for Mothers
Christmas Dinner Menus for Six Persons
Simple Patterns for Children's Wear
These books aim for all-round happiness in family life, and see each aspect of marriage as interconnected, they simply offer more personal advice on the general homemaking manuals of the period. I think we modern types see our lives are more compartmentalised: we don't necessarily see how our intimate lives are related to what we cook, how we manage finances, how we rear our children: but these 1930s manuals did, and I tend to agree, simply because our health and happiness does tend to rest on how we conduct our home-lives, and what constitutes a home-life is myriad.
Before I go, let me leave you with a rallying cry, from Marriage and Motherhood, a call to all patriotic British women which firmly places the book's context in the immediate post-war period. It is interesting to see how the "ideal" has changed over the past fifty years, and indeed how the "ideal" of womanhood is often changed to suit the economic and social climate of the period.
To make a success of marriage and motherhood is the ambition of every true woman, and in doing so she in not only realising personal happiness, but performing the greatest service to her country that is in her power. Happy homes are the bulwarks of a nation, for they provide the only environment in which really satisfactory citizens can be reared, and there was never a time when they were more needed.
Well, I hope you have enjoyed my trawl through the more unusual examples of my book collection. What are your immediate reactions to the advice given?