It’s all about the homemaking

Good Housekeeping’s Guide for Young Homemakers
William Laas, ed.

The forward of this book sort of says it all: “Homemaker–no other word in the language so precisely suggests what a young married woman is expected to do.”   Actually this is an interesting book and kind of household ‘how-to’ encyclopedia.  There are several pages on ironing and laundry.  Caring for furs is another large article.  And just in case you are feeling inadquate about all the knowledge you lack as a young wife, you can still be pretty for your husband by following the beauty hints!


Guide for Young Homemakers


  1. thanks for your pages! perused many a library and often wondered..why are these books still here?? eeek.

  2. Isn’t it presumptuous to pre judge the reader’s ability to see this for the dated chauvinistic waffle it actually is?
    In which light; it serves an entirely unintended purpose as an accesible and enlightening social document!
    I caution you gainst, in your reformatory zeal, ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’…

    1. Sullivan, every time a librarian leaves a book on the shelf, another one must remain unbought and unshelved. It’s not just a matter of providing entertaining reading material. It’s a matter of realizing that no one is going to finance bigger and bigger buildings forever, and so professional librarians make judgements about what patrons would like to see and can still use. I’m guessing a book like this just isn’t going to do much for someone more than 40 years later, other than generalities.

  3. Yes, I would love to know more about the “dentistry” and “driving tips” section (imagining how-tos with hubby’s drill and reminders like “turn car on first.”)

  4. Why do I think that the section entitled “Working Wives” is just a blank page?

  5. Seems to me like a modern update is in order. Perhaps “Good Housekeeping’s Guide to Young Single Mothers.” Topics could include “Filing for that bastard to pay child support” and “How to keep your income low enough to qualify for WIC, TANF, and Section 8”.

  6. Love the site and I understand the need to weed out books that no longer have relevance but to the cultural historian like myself, books like these are great insights into the roles and expectations of a particular period or social group. Hope that this site brings more funding to libraries, while still maintaining old and obscure books.

  7. Actually the books in this blog are not the ones that should be weeded out. They should certainly be moved to a dedicated section, but they are still good for a chuckle for a modern reader and have serious value for history students.

    There are much better candidates for removal, like science books with disproven theories or out of date travel books with lists of since-defunct restaurants.

    Although, if libraries are serious about preserving culture, digitizing would be a much better solution than just throwing away for any title.

    1. Digitizing *would* be a great choice for a lot of books. How much of your budget can you spare for upwards of $2000 per book? That’s just basic digitization; nothing fancy. Oh, and you’ll need to shell it out every 10 years at least, in order to keep formats current. And get changes to international copyright law so it can take place on a large scale. And train lots and lots of people to do it; it’s not a matter of running a book through a photocopier.

      Look — no one likes to give up library books. But almost no one (I think Andrew Carnegie was an exception) wants to pay for bigger and bigger buildings to house all the stuff no one wants to get rid of. And pretty much no one wants to face that libraries can’t exist to give people a chuckle outside of the humor section. Very few places can afford an archive — and even archives have to get rid of things sometimes.

      There really aren’t a lot of sacred cows in collection development. Plenty of people have argued for keeping those out-of-date travel books for the cultural reference. Whether or not theories are disproven is sometimes a matter of opinion.

  8. I can remember bringing home a library book called something like “Crafts for Girls” when I was a kid. My mom was appalled that it dated from the 1940’s (this was in the mid-’80’s) and full of the most sexist language.

    So I can see some unsuspecting kid thinking “Hey, I want to learn to cook!” or whatever and bringing this home without realizing how outdated it is.

  9. What a hoot this website is!

    This reminds me of a quote I received in my email today. It reads,

    “Library Science is the key to all science, just as
    mathematics is its language – and civilization will rise or fall, depending on how well librarians do their jobs.”
    –Robert A. Heinlein.

    Thought that was fitting!

  10. “EMERGENCIES (including childbirth, poisoning, storms and disasters)”

    Hahahaha! What a great list of disasters.

  11. I actually love to read books like this. I am completely fascinated by the window onto the gender politics of the world (60s) I was born into.

  12. Actually, even making the assumption that this book is gender biased, I would imagine that very basic life skills are discussed that young people today lack. Today’s technology is not a panacea and our economic troubles only highlight the need for common sense, thrift, and being responsible for one’s own “imprint” on the world. I would love to read this book, and agree that it should not merely be “tossed” , but retained as an important cultural artifact, even if in digital form.

  13. I would love this book – it is exactly the kind of thing I like to pick up at library sales. I’m sure that there are lots of practical tips that has disappeared into the ether. So many girls and boys were not taught how to do simple sewing, cooking or housework because doing “women’s work” was denigrated in the ’70s and beyond. Oh, I sound like an old lady.

    1. Re “women’s work”: In my quasi-hippie days (late 60’s-early 70’s), there was much emphasis on “doing it yourself” and learning the skills that would make you self-sufficient in your solar commune on a mountaintop somewhere, such as sewing and making your own yogurt (and sheep shearing, for that matter). The downplaying of these skills came later, when yuppie parents were so eager to give their kids prenatal Mozart and kindergarten-prep classes that there wasn’t time for practical lessons. I’m continually amazed at the number of young people who don’t know how to sew on a button.

  14. It seems that many commenters are not aware that universities and some public libraries do have sections where books that are deemed useful for “generalities” or other bits of knowledge are kept, this section is called “Special Collections.” The usual public library shelves cannot be home to every book that exists – this is not the mission of public libraries. For this reason, librarians sometimes have to make the tough decision that some books must be removed.

    – Oleg K.

    p.s. – I’m pleasantly surprised to see that there is another Oleg making a comment on this post. It’s unusual that I run across other Olegs, especially in the blogosophere, though Oleg is a very popular name in Russia…

  15. Well…that was 1966. Let’s not get too snippy about the content of this book. And as for the scorn for “figure care”–well, what do you think all the emphasis on exercise and “working out” that we encounter daily is all about? It’s mostly, in my opinion, about the fear of aging that many women have. And men too. It’s also about “looking good” and having a “sculpted body.” If that isn’t “figure care” I don’t know what is. And what do you think Botox is all about, and all the other ads we see in Pasatiempo, for example? Hmm? Could those–horrors!–be “Beauty Hints”??
    And the “forward” of the book is probably the “foreword” sometimes also known as the “introduction”, I think. “Foreword” is another outdated concept, isn’t it? Right? It morphs into “forward” fairly often, I believe. But “forward” still isn’t the right word. (Yes, I belong to the Grammar Police.)

  16. Wow, this is great! Nothing wrong with letting the little lady know what’s expected of her!

    And right after this was published, along came the permissive society, bra-burning, women’s lib, and its inevitable end result–Madonna! Where’s my time machine?

    (Please note, this is intended as humour—don’t load me down with hate mail. I get enough of that from people who actually know me.)

  17. I’m not a librarian, but I have worked in library circulation departments and bookstores for many years. I think the point of this blog, if I may say so, is not necessarily that any of these titles are so terrible, it’s just that they’re not good enough anymore to justify the shelf space they take up. In this particular case, it’s not that homemaking tips aren’t a worthwhile subject, it’s that there are so many current books on this topic that are better than the one above. (Cheryl Mendelson’s Home Comforts comes to mind.) If your library has room for a special section of older titles, fine. On the other hand, if keeping a book like this means that there isn’t room for a similar title which might actually circulate, than to the Friends of the Library sale it goes.

    1. Absolutely right! I think this site is hilarious, but it’s obviously going right over the heads of most of the non-librarians. Anyone with stuff like this in the general collection of a public library needs to read up on why & how to weed.

  18. Really, to be fair…a modern version of this book would probably be a darn fine thing to give to a generation of kids who never even knew schools once taught home economics. I know a ton of kids that don’t know how to cook, do laundry, balance a checkbook…and they’re woefully unprepared for what happens when helicopter mommy isn’t there to clean up after them.

  19. The “It’s all about the homemaking” is a very worthwhile book to keep in the library and I have a feeling that it is much more relevant to modern life than many of the books that languish on the shelves.

    Not because it can provide people with a whole lot of wisdom (perhaps there are a few nuggets) but because it is a window into our past and insight into what my parents would’ve been exposed to.

    No, this is definitely not a book to eliminate from a library’s collection. It is one to be celebrated for its ability to provide a window into the past. Perhaps it might prove informative to contrast it with a similar contemporary tome, and, it would surprise me little if the modern self-help book differed little in substance from the one that is now 43 years old!

    Happy reading.

  20. I WANT THIS BOOK. I want it BADLY. I might have to start checking used book websites or ebay for it, because I NEED TO HAVE THIS BOOK. It would go so nicely with my mid-century decorating guides and my early ’60s Charm School textbook.

  21. Considering it was printed at a time when husbands still mainly dealt with the family’s finances while women tended to be responsible for small, low-level purchases like groceries, it’s pretty interesting to see issues such as taxes, mortgages, loans and money management included. Perhaps this could be seen as the acceptable form of feminism, taking control and educating herself about finances, while still doing her wifely thing?

  22. I’m sure it’s a hoot, but homemaking does require skills. I never learned any of them which is why I devour Martha Stewart magazines and love Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook.
    And women still read books about beauty, health & dieting, pregnancy, childbirth, childcare, and how to keep their men interested.

  23. i agree with many of the people who have already posted. it contains the same information widely available in hundreds of books, magazines and websites aimed at women and the “feminine arts”. the terminology and fashion have changed, but few of the sentiments really have.

    and a book this dated, while an absolute treat to leaf through and a valuable snapshot of the past, shouldn’t be taking up valuable shelf space when there are dozens of other more current and relevant titles available. ditch it, but make sure it goes to a great historical/feminist collection.

    and finally, i’m totally using “figure care”.

    “this third cupcake? oh, it’s figure care.”

  24. Yes, yes,yes, it’s a fascinating social document. The writers of Mad Men would appreciate it, no doubt. And it should be kept somewhere, but NOT IN YOUR AVERAGE PUBLIC LIBRARY! As has already been suggested, an archive or digital collection would make a bettter home for this book. In fact, I just checked; The Library of Congress has a copy.

    So there, toss out your copy with a light heart, all you sad hoarders out there.

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