Lady Questions Answered!

questions women ask title page

Questions Women Ask

Submitter: This book was actually brought to my attention because it was identified as “rare” by one of our consortia and included in a list of books recommended for retention. Upon reviewing the book it became instantly clear that the book was rare not because of its significance, but because no other academic library in its right mind would have held onto a book like this for almost 50 years! I guess one of the benefits of never weeding our collection is that we have held onto rare gems like this awful library book.

Reading this book is almost like going into a time machine. Not only are both the questions asked and the advice given dated, their specificity situates them within a clear social and historical setting. Concerns about radioactive milk bring to the fore fears of the Cold War while questions concerning how to properly address divorced women demonstrate uncertainty around “acceptable” behavior and choices for women at a time when the women’s liberation movement was not yet a battle won.

In the end, it is hard to claim that this book is truly awful as it appears to be in earnest. The views it represents are clearly those of another era and if nothing else it is a good reminder of just how far we’ve come.

Holly: Thank you, Submitter. Awful “library” books are not necessarily awful books. This is definitely an awful “library” book because it is so dated and the information so irrelevant. I have found all kinds of books in the collections I manage in my library that are marked with the word “retain.” That never means forever! Every item in the collection has to be re-evaluated periodically for currency, relevancy, authority, condition, etc. If I’m going to keep a book in the collection, it won’t be because a librarian ten or twenty years ago marked it for retention. And if I’m going to weed it, that certainly won’t stop me.


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skinny fashions

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  1. According to the major site for out-of-print books, this book isn’t rare at all. Twenty one copies are available. Prices start as low as $1.00 with ten copies under $5.00. The nice thing about the op market is that libraries can usually find an inexpensive copy of any weeding “mistakes,” which probably happens very infrequently and tell this to their users and librarians who are dead set against weeding “because someone might want the item in the future.”

  2. An example of the datedness would be the discussion of what happens to women who insist on wearing trouser suits. I don’t doubt there are still places, but they must be few and far between now.

  3. It’s hard to believe that so many trivial things, like how you use a knife and fork, can be perfectly acceptable in one country and seen as offensive in another. And that wars aren’t started because of it.

  4. What a variety of inquiries! Nowadays a book of advice would include sources. It’s always interesting to note the processing marks — in this case, the underlined author’s name. Every library had its rules for placement of acquisition #, source, price, and the “secret page” with the property stamp.

  5. For loud pop music, call the local public health inspector?! “Please turn down the music, Miss Jones, and better toss that chicken – it looks off.”

    1. Loud noises are considered in many places a health concern. Evidently the UK was one of them at this time. Now I think you get to swear out an ASBO.

  6. This is also British. Unless the submitter is from the UK, much of the advice in this book apparently would never have been valid for the library’s audience.

    I also object to the submitter’s implication that the struggle for women’s equality has been won. It emphatically has not.

  7. Incidentally … Is the submitter in the US? I initially overlooked “London” on the title page, but several of the questions and answers make it obvious that the book is British, even before you get to fork use. So that’s yet another reason for weeding the book from anything but a large British academic library (three descriptors).

    1. I didn’t even notice “London” on the title page; I was going by the main text of the book.

  8. I love this book!
    It is what the internet would’ve been in 1971, had the internet been around then.
    It’s good for historical perspective. Say, in an archive.

  9. About radioactive milk, I remember that definitely being a question in the news after Chernobyl in 1986, when I was on a trip to Europe. The answer I remember is that it would take a while for the winds to blow the bad stuff at northern/western European cows, so we shouldn’t worry for a while. Some of the other questions and answers are pretty funny, such as whether it’s bad manners to eat a roll in a restaurant before the meal is served. Why on earth would they bring it as soon as you order, if you are supposed not to eat it? Also, the supposed American custom of leaving a little food behind — has anyone heard of that? When I was a child it was definitely “clean your plate or something about the starving children in India.” But I love the mental image of someone tossing a wet blanket over her flaming TV set LOL!

    1. Oh, and I forgot my favorite — the advice to get a small dog with a big bark. Why on earth would you not get a big dog? Any competent burglar or malfeasant would scope out a place beforehand and would find out that all you have is a Pomeranian.

    2. I’ve heard the “leave stuff behind” rule, though not directed at me. The rationale is supposed to be that you’re showing the food was more than enough to satisfy you, no suggestion the host(ess) stinted.

  10. That “leave a bite uneaten” may come from cultures where to do so = “you serve so much I couldn’t possibly eat it all”, but in assimilated America we definitely subscribe to the “clean your plate club”, often with admonitions to “consider starving children in [name third-world nation]”. Of course in the US there are lots of kids who are inadequately nourished too !

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