A Word to Women by Mrs. Humphry
A Word to Women
Mrs Humphry (1898)

Ladies' Handbooks

The history of women in society and the household is fascinating, enlightening and sometimes amusing. Perhaps the most famous name associated with etiquette and how to behave is Emily Post, but she certainly wasn′t the first to introduce the concept of proper manners and behaviour via handbooks.

While many of the ideas proposed to women 100 years ago seem odd to us modern day people, and should be taken with a grain of salt and a sense of humour, these rules and concepts were the norm at the turn of the last century.

In the 1800s, women′s roles included spending their time reading, sewing, writing letters, overseeing the servants, managing the household and dressing appropriately according to one′s social status.

For the Ladies

Manners for Men by Mrs Humphry (1898)
Manners for Men
Mrs Humphry (1898)

Gentlemen's Guides

Imagine giving a modern day young man a handbook telling him how to behave at a dinner party. Or perhaps a manual on the proper ways to court and ultimately marry a young woman. One can only imagine his reaction.

Many guides were published in the 19th century that were useful for a gentleman in his everyday life. Some focused on general advice for young men on such topics as their duties and conduct in various social and work scenarios. Others provided education on recreational activities such as hunting, horse riding, football and croquet.

Many of the etiquette guides and manuals for gentlemen back in the day revolved around girls. From the customs of courtship to humorous how-to guides to help pick up women, there certainly was no shortage.

For the Gentlemen

Nelson's Home Comforts by Mary Hooper (1903)
Nelson's Home Comforts (1903)
Mary Hooper



Many old fashioned recipes including collared eel and brain fritters.
Common Sense in the Household - Marion Harland (1917)
Common Sense in the Household (1917)
Marion Harland


A comprehensive guide to the cooking with additional chapters on servants, the sick room, and the nursery.
The Bride's Book of Etiquette - Anna Steese Richardson (1930)
The Bride's Book of Etiquette (1930)
by Anna Steese Richardson


A guide to wedding customs, engagements, budgets, showers and more.
Etiquette for Men by G.R.M. Devereux (1920)
Etiquette for Men (1920)
by G.R.M. Devereux



A guide including the art of conversation, attending a dance, table etiquette and letter writing.
How to Watch Football by Lou Little (1935)
How to Watch Football (1935)
by Lou Little



Help would-be football fans understand the game as they watch it.
The Perfect Gentleman: A guide to Social Aspirants by Graham Harry (1912)
The Perfect Gentleman: A guide to Social Aspirants (1912)
by Graham Harry

A guide to social aspirants.
Ladies of the White House by Laura C. Holloway (1881)
Ladies of the White House (1881)
Laura C. Holloway


The First Ladies from Martha Washington to Lucretia Rudolph Garfield.
The Successful Housekeeper by M.W. Ellsworth (1882)
The Successful Housekeeper (1882)
M.W. Ellsworth


A book on household management - probably the first female author to earn their living doing this.
The Book of Household Management - Mrs Beeton (1861)
The Book of Household Management (1861)
Mrs Beeton

Perhaps the most famous cookery book - includes information for the housekeeper, cook, maid and butler.
Manners Makyth Man Edward John Hardy (1892)
Manners Makyth Man (1892)
by Edward John Hardy


An anthology illustrating English manners and customs.
Hunting and Practical Hints for Hunting Men by George F. Underhill (1897)
Hunting and Practical Hints for Hunting Men (1897)
by George F. Underhill

The etiquette of hunting which includes the rationale of hunting foxes and stags.
Etiquette for Gentlemen - A Guide to the Observances of Good Society
A Pocket Guide To Croquet (1899)
by George Herbert Powell

With chapters on the use of the mallet, tactics, etiquette, and the laws of croquet.
The Bazar Book of Decorum; The Care of the Person, Manners, Etiquette and Ceremonials (1875)
The Bazar Book of Decorum; The Care of the Person, Manners, Etiquette, and Ceremonials (1875)

Includes the obligation to cultivate beauty; how to make the ear and the hand beautiful; blushing, laughter.
How to Behave - Unknown (1857)
How to Behave (1857)
Unknown




Advice on four topics including letter writing, conversation, etiquette and business.
Hold ‘Em Girls: The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Men and Football by Judson P. Philips (1936)
Hold ‘Em Girls: The Intelligent Woman's Guide to Men and Football (1936)
by Judson P. Philips


Educating women about football so they won't ruin men's enjoyment of the game by asking foolish questions.
Etiquette for Gentlemen - A Guide to the Observances of Good Society
Etiquette for Gentlemen - A Guide to the Observances of Good Society
Unknown


A guide to the observances of good society.
Letís Make Mary: A Gentleman's Guide to Seduction in 8 Easy Lessons by Jack Hanley (1937)
Let′s Make Mary: A Gentleman′s Guide to Seduction in 8 Easy Lessons (1937)
by Jack Hanley


A humorous "how to guide" for men on how to pick up women.
Gentlemen Behave: Charles Hanson Towne's Book of Etiquette for Men (1939)
Gentlemen Behave: Charles Hanson Towne's Book of Etiquette for Men (1939)
Charles Hanson Towne

An etiquette book for gentlemen from an author who enjoyed a long career as a poet, author and editor.

 

Home Comfort: A Complete Manual of Domestic Economy for Schools and Colleges by Jane Stoker (1899)
Home Comfort: A Complete Manual of Domestic Economy for Schools and Colleges (1899)
Jane Stoker

Household guide with chapters on everything from making puddings to preventing rust.
The Household Handy Book - Mrs Valentine (1880)
The Household Handy Book (1880)
Mrs Valentine




Information for young women that may enable them to add pleasure and usefulness to their lives.
 
Manners Culture and Dress of the Best American Society by Richard A. Wells (1890)
Manners Culture and Dress of the Best American Society (1890)
Richard A. Wells


Advice on letter writing, invitations, valuable suggestions on self culture and home training.
Hill's Manual of Social and Business Forms by Thos E. Hill
Hill's Manual of Social and Business Forms
Thos. E. Hill



An early reference on how to express the right thoughts through written communication.
Advice to Young Men by T.S.Arthur (1849)
Advice to Young Men (1849)
by T.S.Arthur




Advice to young men on their duties and conduct in life.
The Young Man's Friend by Daniel C. Eddy (1855)
The Young Man's Friend (1855)
Daniel C. Eddy




Contains admonitions for the erring; counsel for the tempted, encouragement for the desponding.
The Women of England: The Social Duties, and Domestic Habits by Sarah Stickney Ellis (1839)
The Women of England: The Social Duties, and Domestic Habits (1839)
Sarah Stickney Ellis

Victorian conduct literature, emphasising middle class ideologies of womanhood.
The Complete Servant - Maid or Maiden's Companion - Hannay Wolley (1720)
The Complete Servant - Maid or Maiden's Companion (1720)
Hannay Wolley


A book on household management - probably the first female author to earn their living doing this.

What Can a Woman Do by Mrs. M.L. Rayne (1893)
What Can a Woman Do (1893)
Mrs M.L. Rayne




Late 19th century exploration of occupations open to American women.
The Gentlemen Instructed, in the Conduct of a Virtuous and Happy Life by William Darrell (1733)
The Gentlemen Instructed, in the Conduct of a Virtuous and Happy Life (1733)
by William Darrell

An early etiquette guide for the young gentleman including recreations, gambling, clothing, dueling etc.
How Men Propose by Agnes Stevens (1890)
How Men Propose (1890)
by Agnes Stevens




Divided into sections such as the youthful proposal, the humble proposal, the failedl proposal etc.
The Gentlemanís Stable Directory, or Modern System of Farriery (1788)
The Gentleman′s Stable Directory, or Modern System of Farriery (1788)
Unknown


Includes equine diseases and injuries, breeding, breaking, shoeing, stabling etc.
The American Woman's Home - Catherine E. Beecher (1869)
The American Woman's Home (1869)
Catherine E. Beecher



From ventilation to decoration, exercise and food to sleep habits, manners and order to charity work.
Woman in her Various Relations - Mrs L.G. Abell (1860)
Woman in her Various Relations (1860)
Mrs L.G. Abell



Standard duties of American women, followed by a defence of the traditional role of women in society.
The Mirror of Graces or the English Lady's Costume by Mary Hill (1811)
The Mirror of Graces or the English Lady's Costume (1811)
by Mary Hill


Ellis was the most popular writer of Victorian conduct literature, emphasising middle class ideologies of womanhood.
The Young Man's Guide by William A. Alcott (1836)
The Young Man's Guide (1836)
by William A. Alcott




Strong opionions on tobacco, gaming, shooting, and most other things that might be considered enjoyment.
Advice to Young Men and (Incidentally) to Young Women by Earl E. Fisk (1930)
Advice to Young Men and (Incidentally) to Young Women (1930)
by Earl E. Fisk

Advice including why it's necessary to cure the vices of wives as soon as possible and why reading is detrimental to women.
The Young Man's Own Book: A Manual of Politeness, Intellectual Improvement by Anonymous (1833)
The Young Man's Own Book (1833)
by Anonymous




Self-improvement, etiquette manual, popular and much-reprinted in the first half of the 19th century.
The Lady's Guide to Perfect Gentility by Emily Thornwell (1856)
The Lady's Guide to Perfect Gentility (1856)
by Emily Thornwell


A useful instructor in writing, toilet preparations, needlework, care of wardrobe, teeth, and complexion.
How to Manage a Country House - Charles Estienne (1662)
How to Manage a Country House (1662)
by Charles Estienne


Originally published in 1554, contains advice on different aspects of the country household
The Father and His Boy: The Place of Sex in the Manhood Making by T.W. Galloway (1922)
The Father and His Boy: The Place of Sex in the Manhood Making (1922)
by T.W. Galloway

Chapters cover areas such as on being a father, why sex education is necessary for boys, the boy and the girl, etc.
The American Gentleman's Guide to Politeness and Fashion by Henry Lunettes (1859)
The American Gentleman's Guide to Politeness and Fashion (1859)
by Henry Lunettes

Contains rules of etiquette and direction for the formation of character.

More to Discover


Victorian Yellowbacks
The Gorgeousness of Taschen
Britain in Pictures