Widow Maker

Teach Your Wife How to Be a WidowTeach your wife how to be a widow
U.S. News & World Report
Money Management Library

I have been doing my income taxes this past week so I was in no mood for this title to cross my desk.  Seriously?  What is the holding library thinking? The purpose of this book is to help those big strong husbands out there to explain the complicated world of money, investing, and insurance.   The tone of the book throughout assumes women barely touch money and men know a lot about managing money. This book is how you “teach” your obviously slow witted wife the ins and outs of money.  I am sure my mother would have been appalled in 1973, as well as 2011.

As a side note, I did remember as I flipped through this book that women had a hard time getting credit or even the time of day from financial institutions unless hubby co-signed or took care of the bills.  Ah the good old days!  Take a look at some sample pages (and yes, they are that old and crusty looking).


Thinking the unthinkable

Four new widows face problems

Job prospects good and bad

how to earn the most on savings


  1. Actually, I used to work for a large securities firm and was shocked by how many women would call up needing help because their recently-deceased husbands were the ones who did all the finances and they (the wives) didn’t even know how to write a check. That being said, this book does seem a bit patronizing and is probably horrendously out of date information-wise. Just wanted to point out that while to modern eyes this feels insulting, the target audience for this type of book does exist.

  2. Steph–my anecdotal experience matches yours. I’m *sure* that the specific information in this book is out of date, and the title is cringe-worthy, but there are still recent widows out there who have never handled money (on a greater scale than personal spending money or the grocery budget, I mean) before–probably not as many as there were in 1973, but I know they exist, because there are some in my family. Fortunately, the relative who is the least able to cope with any of it had a husband who was *loaded*, and accepted his own mortality enough to get everything set up before he passed so that the bank would just take care of everything automatically, but most people aren’t that lucky.

  3. Remember one of Lucille Ball’s post-Desi shows–either “Here’s Lucy” or “The Lucy Show”–was based on the premise that Lucy was a widow whose husband had left his entire estate in a trust that was controlled by Mr. Mooney, the banker. The running joke was that Lucy was always trying to coax or trick Mr. Mooney into giving her more money before her “allowance” was due.

    BTW, I worked with a woman who told me that, until her husband died, she had never pumped her own gas or taken her car in for an oil change. She came to work one day and said, “What does it mean when that red ‘oil’ light comes on?”

  4. L.B.–In the US, a pharmacist is a person who sells prescriptions, a chemist is a person who works with chemicals in a lab. Completely different things entirely.

    Funny, I remember reading once that it’s traditionally the women that manage the money, which has always been true of my rather old-fashioned grandparents, so I thought that was the norm. I don’t know if my grandpa would know where to start if he had to be in charge of the bills (especially since so many of them are online, and he barely knows how to turn the computer on).

    I suppose if my information is incorrect and women generally had nothing to do with money, this was a useful book in its day. However, the title? Absolutely horrible.

  5. Leigha–I have a vague idea that in the working class, women have traditionally often been the household money managers, while in the upper-middle class and above (basically, the part of the socioeconomic spectrum where women rarely worked for pay pre-70’s) they usually had nothing to do with money apart from spending an allowance.

  6. This book sounds eerily similar to Teach your wife to be a widow, by Donald I. Rogers (described as the Financial and Business Editor of the New York Herald Tribune), copyright 1953.

  7. Though the examples in the book are definitely outdated, like others have stated this information, unfotunately is still applicable for some people today. My step-grandma is certainly going to be one of them when my grandpa passes. She went directly from her parent’s house as a young woman to her husband’s house and when he died, she was pretty much immediately with my grandpa (to make a long story short). During all this time, she has never been responsible for paying any bills, taking care of the cars (including pumping her own gas) or managing any of the finances. She will be up a creek without a paddle if she doesn’t get a resource such as this sort of book or have someone explain things to her before it becomes neccessary for her to know it.

  8. Is it just me or does the title sound like a manual for teaching one’s wife how to kill? I think if my husband gave me this book, that’s where my thoughts would lie.

  9. I’m with other folks: though the title is insulting and the info outdated, there’s still a need for such a resource. My mom is no dummy (she has a PhD), but when my dad died a couple years ago the thing that almost took her cork under was managing the finances, especially the taxes. I suspect that most couples, regardless of generation, make certain trade-offs in terms of household responsibilities, and it’s not until one person’s not around to take care of their end of the bargain that the other realizes how little s/he knows about those things. After seeing my mother struggle, I told my partner that I wanted to be involved in preparing the taxes the following year. No fun, but better than being dumbfounded if he’s ever not around to do it.

  10. I think if he keeps bringing home patronizing books like this, she’ll start thinking about being a widow pretty seriously.

  11. If this book contained relevant information, I’d be very interested in reading it myself.

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