Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


December 8, 2013

Put a ribbon in your hair

- — “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.”

What a ribbon? Are you kidding me?

“At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum.”

Well, OK. I didn’t really want to do house work right now anyway.

 Supposedly these two responsibilities for a wife were taken from Housekeeping Monthly’s May 1955 issue. Originally, the list appeared in Helen B. Andelin’s book “Fascinating Womanhood.” So they say.

I found the list by accident. It appeared in one of my social network feeds highlighting the differences in 1950s and today. The list made me laugh. I don’t wear ribbons and I am all about household chores in the evening, day time and weekend. Really anytime, as long it gets done.

I would have failed the wife test in the ’50s. Luckily, the list is fake. According to, the list never appeared in the magazine, nor can be it be found in the book. However, the book does give a list of do’s and don’t for wives. At least that list doesn’t require a woman to wear a ribbon in her hair. Snopes is a website that researches online information, sorting out the real stories from legends and myths.

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In the ’50s, the roles of women were geared toward the family.  PBS “People and Events: Mrs. America: Women’s Roles in the 1950s” states, “The U.S. marriage rate was at an all-time high and couples were tying the knot, on average, younger than ever before ... this was the era of the happy homemaker.” To help women achieve a dream of a husband and large family, many women writers introduced etiquette books and how to books on marriage and family.

Women laugh at those old books now. Some roll their eyes and scoff at the idea of so-called advice. Others get mad and start talking about women’s rights. But years ago, I found something similar in my grandmother’s attic. We were cleaning out boxes of books after she passed away. Romance, thrillers, a lot of Bibles and then the book on marriage and the role of a woman. I was in my early 20s. I spent about 15 minutes looking through the book. It was pretty funny, I admit. But more than anything, I marveled at how times have changed for women. We work outside the home, help pay the bills, share chores with husbands and raise families together. Do any of those books or lists still apply today? Were there books for men during that decade? A newlywed is still a newlywed, regardless of the era or decade. A lot of people can’t see pass the dated responsibilities — like putting a ribbon in their hair — to see the positives. Be happy. Greet with a smile. Listen. Those are good qualities for mankind.

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I am still discovering the joys of being a newlywed and learning about my husband. I am in awe on how much a husband can eat. I can’t believe he steals blankets during the night. I thought it was OK to leave a few lights on in the house, but he doesn’t. We disagree on the TV. ( I knew this before the wedding. I think. ) He likes the “The Walking Dead” and I would rather watch all the Christmas specials. None of those lists or books from the ’50s mentioned anything about dealing with zombie movies. Too bad. But when it comes to hair styles, I will know exactly what to do. Purchase a ribbon for my hair.  And then turn on the washer  and dryer.

My husband will be totally confused. But I will be the perfect wife. Maybe.

Jamie Parsell-Null is the Lifestyle editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at jparsell@bdtonline or on Twitter @BDTParsell.

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