Gettin’ Hitched

When You MarryWhen You Marry
Duvall & Hill

Submitter: I’m a ref librarian at a community college & I thought you might like to consider this book for your blog. It’s a GREAT one from 1953 called “When You Marry” & it’s really AWFUL!!! %-) We have a collection that we’ve been weeding for several years now & my boss always seems to find these great tomes – I think the worst one he found was called The Negro in the Meat Packing Industry – that was a few yrs ago & mercifully, we’ve since stricken it from our shelves!

Holly: I’d love to get my hands on that “Negro in the Meat Packing Industry” book!  Anyone out there have it?  As for THIS little gem, there are copies in WorldCat dating back to 1946.  This is NOT useful for people getting married today!  It’s an interesting study in history and sociology, maybe, but not for public library shelves.  You know, when those starry-eyed brides-to-be come to the library asking for wedding books?  They’re going to laugh at you if you give this to them.  Especially Part 3: “Where Babies Come From.”  These days, the public schools teach that in about fourth grade.

When You Marry back cover

When You Marry contents

When You Marry contents


  1. Looks like this book has been well used, though. I love how they cut the tape to keep from swallowing up the title.

  2. I’d LOVE to read this book! What interesting sociological research.

    More interesting still — someone seems to have circled the section on “Wedding Plans,” and ticked the section “Facts and Feelings About Divorce.”

    The “Where Babies Come From” section is, clearly, unmarked. ;o)

  3. They thought the world was uneasy in 1953?? WWII recently over I guess. But families were a thousand time less likely to experience divorce then, and at least a thousand times less likely to be headed by single parents.

    1. Even so, it’s easier to focus on certain things like divorce/single parents/etc. and see each one as “Oh no, it’s the end of marriage as we know it!” After all, the past always looks like the Gold Age, when everything was good and right.

    2. That’s actually not true. Divorces spiked sharply after WWII. At its peak in 1946, the divorce rate actually exceeded the present rate by a fair amount (4.3 per 1000 population compared to only 3.5 in 2008). And that’s not counting the number of single-parent families created by the hundreds of thousands of US combat-related deaths.

      Related reading:

    3. Divorce may have been less common, but being forced to stay together with someone who may have been abusive or just wrong for you was much more common and just as damaging. And there were many, many single and widowed mothers after the war.

  4. “Where Babies Come From” does attract the eye, but my favourite chapter title is “Dating: Practice Makes Perfect”.

    So, there you have it: go out with as many people as possible, play the field, that way you’ll be ready when the real thing comes around.

    1. Wow. I never knew that humans had 48 chromosomes. I thought that was only in werewolves, lol.

  5. I wonder if ‘families in an uneasy world’ refers to people being frightened to have children, in case there was another war? There must have been many lonely WWII widows at that time, and the Cold War would have been on people’s minds. In some ways, even though the divorce rate is much higher, we are much luckier that that generation.

    Oh, and I want scans of the ‘Where Babies Come From’ section. I’ve always wanted to know that! 😉

    1. “There are no childless families, just childless marriages, because it takes a baby to make a family out of a marriage.”

      I kid you not. First sentence of the section. (Thanks to Vincent for the link!)

      This section is, unfortunately, not about what I thought. it presents an understanding of basic genetics and the gestation process that would have fit in well in Germany a couple decades earlier.

      1. “There are no childless families, just childless marriages, because it takes a baby to make a family out of a marriage.”

        They don’t say. My happily childfree family would provide a lovely counterpoint. Adults are family, too. Must say I’m not terribly excited to revisit 1953….

  6. I hate to see this book weeded. Books like these are practically a piece of history because they reflect the standards and social mores at the time. I’d like to see the meat packing one, too!

  7. Honestly I don’t think many young adults back then needed a book to tell them where babies come from, either. We tend to have this romantic view of people living sixty or seventy years ago as being more naive, simpler than we are today, mainly because we don’t want to think of our parents or grandparents or their generation as young and lustful. But all you have to do is read a literary novel from the forties and fifties by Norman Mailer or Philip Roth to realize people weren’t any different back then, in terms of sexual knowledge or practices.

    1. I think they liked to tell them just to be sure. The Army chaplain gave this book (I believe it was this same one) to my grandfather when he married my grandmother as well as some other helpful instructional material on ‘how to start a family’ – yes, that’s a thinly veiled euphemism.
      I told him I thought it was positively hysterical and he said, “Well we weren’t as well educated back then…good kids didn’t talk about that stuff.”
      I’m sure there were some wildly progressive and liberated folks, but I think there was a fair amount of misinformation, just as there is today. If you have kids that have gone through middle school you’ve probably heard plenty of it. 🙂

  8. I read a book about teens and women who were forced to give up their babies in the 40s and 50s. I was stunned to find out that A LOT of them had no idea what labor and delivery would be like (or even that it is painful) and one girl didn’t know where the baby would come out.

  9. Wow, take a look at the online text posted by Vincent. The chapter on babies has a quiz that addresses common concerns of the newly married couple. Here are two of the more jaw dropping ones:

    7. A Negro child may be born to an apparently white couple if one of them had a Negro ancestor.
    (False) Only if both parents have Negro blood, and in a considerable degree, can a Negro baby appear. Stories to the contrary are either myths or cases of doubtful paternity.

    9. Women have just as much native intelligence as men.
    (True) All intelligence tests now indicate that women have as much mental capacity as men, but that any intellectual inferiority on their part is due to less opportunity to develop themselves.

    There’s also a whole chart to show what type of children you will have “if a Negro mates with a White”, including illustrations of “Children of various shades”.

    Holy prejudice, Batman!

    1. I can see the totally ignorant Dad needing this book to to explain why “Junior” wasn’t a shock to Mom. “Appear,” my a–!

  10. I would like to see an example of one of those “stimulating check lists guaranteed to elicit snappy discussions!”

  11. Reading through this book, is literally like watching social and scientific evolution occurring right before my very eyes.

  12. I went to a Baptist school and church growing up – this book was in our library and was being used as late as 1984 as a serious work. Wow. Just… wow.

  13. Amalah posted excerpts from this book on her blog a while back, if you want to read more. I believe it’s, but if you Google “Amalah,” you’ll find her. She scanned many pages. The book is mindblowing, isn’t it?

  14. I’m intrigued by the chapter titled, “Marriage Isn’t What It Used to Be.” And that’s one of the main reasons to weed this book!

  15. Thank you, Vincent, for that link. I find it a rather engrossing book, actually, and not at all what I was expecting.

    Also a lot of it (mind you, I’ve only read the first chapter and the beginning of the 2nd) seems to stand pretty well, although I object to the notion that the “working class” has less problems than the middle class. I would think the whole having less money thing would be a pretty notable problem.

  16. Oh man. That book would be so perfect for my blog. I have a lovely collection of horrifically archaic and/or just plain wrong sex-ed books and marriage manuals.

    Love the site!

  17. Wow. That chart for “If a Negro mates with a White” is just so necessary and culturally relevant…

    The book also talks about abortions being illegal except in medically necessary cases. Definitely outdated.

  18. I like the way borrower has marked WEDDING PLANS and FACTS AND FEELINGS ABOUT DIVORCE – !