What Were Victorian Guides?


Although Victorian art, architecture and fashion hold a special place in my heart, what I don’t pine for is the corset-like stranglehold Victorian society kept on the personal lives of women. So stringent were these contrived rules of living that etiquette guides were best sellers; consisting not just of guidelines for table manners and tips for entertaining, but how to raise your children, behave on the street, shop and even grieve a lost loved one.
Most important was the aim of catching a man, and if marriage wasn’t to be, then a woman’s only choice was a life devoted to charity.  
Guide titles range from the archaic sounding “Domestic Manners of the Americans” to the remarkably modern sounding “Cheerfulness as a Life Power” (1899). 

From the hilarious (but still helpful sounding) “Advice to a Mother on the Management of Her Children and on the Treatment on the Moment of Some of Their More Pressing Illnesses and Accidents” (1878), to the downright insulting; “Woman as Decoration” by Emily Burbank (1917).
 There’s the partisan minded ”How to Behave: a Pocket 
Manual of Republican Etiquette” (1887) and the Christian slanted
”Girls' Faults and Ideals”  by J.R. Miller, an entire section of which condemns;
 
"following fashion to an extreme that is unbecoming and often extravagant;
too great attention to outward adornment at the expense of inner adornment," 
 
and furthermore......
 
“suggests that if they would spend less time in shopping and more in
some elevating occupation, for example in making home brighter for
brothers and parents, it would be better.”
 
Ummmmm…..where’s the love fo’ the sisters?
 
Well, anyway….this is not a feminist blog, or an angry protestation blog, it's merely a
new kind of guide attempting to be helpful to a new kind of woman; moms (yes, Gordana,
that includes dog moms) who haven’t stopped being themselves; which generally entails
lots of their energy going towards non-mom related projects and interests. 
 
We are still artists, and designers, and weird hostesses and we are still trying to sneak
our way into whatever creative endeavor we’ve dreamed of since being children ourselves,
a la Lucy Ricardo (the birth of Little Ricky NEVER curbed her wacky shenanigans – and
you shouldn’t have to curb yours).
 
So, partly, yes, this guide is sometimes about being a good mom
(whatever that means), being a good wife to your house, and about being an
original and inventive hostess, all while bringing home bacon (which is often leaner
than needed each month) but mostly it's about not forgetting yourself in the process.

{Here is an online example of a Victorian Guide}
 
A few great Post-Victorian Guides by Amy Sedaris (rabbit mom):

I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence