Monday, May 4, 2015

17C Woman + 1675 Advice on the Duty of a Wife to her husband


We have few depictions of women in the 17C British American colonies, but contemporary European prints allow us to see the hairstyles & fashions being worn on the other side of the Atlantic during the early years of the English colonization of America. 

Jean Leblond 1605-1666 L'Ysabelle;  François Ragot (Print made by); Young woman, half-length, turned to right; lace headdress, large collar trimmed with lace, and dark dress with light-coloured, striped sleeves



Hannah Woolley. The Gentlewoman's Companion: or, A Guide to the Female Sex. London, A Maxwell for Edward Thomas, Bookseller. 1675.

Of Marriage, and the duty of a Wife to her Husband.

Marriage is an holy and inviolable bond; if the choice on both sides be good and well- ordered, there is nothing in the World that is more beautiful, more comfortable. It is a sweet Society, full of trust and loyalty. It is a fellowship, not of hot distempered love, but endeared affection; for these two are as different as the inflamed fit of an high Feaver, from the natural heat of a sound and healthy body. Love in the first acceptation is a distemper, and no wonder then that Marriage succeed so ill, which have their original from such disordered amorous desires. This boiling affection is seldom worth any thing.

There are these two Essentials in Marriage, Superiority and Inferiority. Undoubtedly the Husband hath power over the Wife, and the Wife ought to be subject to the Husband in all things. Although the Wife be more noble in her extraction, and more wealthy in portion, yet being once Married is inferior to her Husband in condition. Man, of human-kind, wa Gods first workmanship; Woman was made after Man, and of the same substance, to be subservient and assisting to him...


The more particular duties of a Wife to an Husband, are first, to have a greater esteem for him than for any other person...That Woman that will entertain mean and low thoughts of her Husband, will be easily induced to love another, whom she ought not to affect. On this good esteem depends a great part of the Wives obedience, who will be apt to run into extravagancies when she is once possessed of the weakness of her Husbands understanding: She is to give honour, respect, and reverence to her Husband; so have the wisest ever done, and those which do it not, betray their indiscretion; with reverence she is to express her obedience in all lawful things; and apply and accommodate her self (as much as in her lies) to his humour and disposition.


You must be mindful of what you promised your Husband in Marriage; and the best demonstration thereof will be in your carriage; honour and obey, and love no mans company better than his.


Be quiet, pleasant, and peaceable with him, and be not angry, when he is so; but endeavour to pacifie him with sweet and winning expressions & if casually you should provoke him to a passion, be not long ere you shew some regret, which may argue how much you are displeased with your self for so doing; nay bear his anger patiently, though without a cause.


Be careful to keep your house in good order, and let all things with decency be in readiness when he comes to his repast; let him not wait for his meals, lest by so staying his affairs be disorder'd or impeded. And let what-ever you provide be so neatly and cleanly drest, that his fare, though ordinary, may engage his appetite, and disingage his fancy from Taverns, which many are compell'd to make use of by reason of the continual and daily dissatisfactions they find at home.


Shew respect and kindness to what Friends he brings home with him, but more especially to his Relations for by this means he will find your love to him by your respect to them; and they will be obliged to love you for your own as well s his sake.


Suffer not any to buz in your ears detracting stories of him, and abhor it in your Servants, for it is your duty to hide his faults and infirmities, and not detect them your self, or suffer them to be discovered. Take them for your greatest enemies who perswade you against your Husband; for without question they have some dangerous design in it. Those whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder; Cursed then is that instrument which occasions their separation.


Breed up your Children in as much or more obedience to him than your self; and keep them in so much awe that they shew no rudeness before him, or make any noise to his disturbance. Make them shew him all awful regard, and kee them sweet, clean, and decent, that he may delight himself in them.


Let him see your love to him in your care for them; educating and bringing them up in the knowledg of Religion, with their Learning.


Be careful to manage what money he doth trust youwith, to his and your own credit: abuse not the freedom you have of his purse, by being too lavish; and pinch not the Guts of your Family at home, that you may pamper your abroad; or throw away that money in buying trifles, which shall evidence your vanity as well as luxury.


To govern an House is an excellent and profitable employment; there Is nothing more beautiful than an Houshold well and peaceably governed; it is a prosession that is not difficult; for she that is not capable of any thing else, may be capable of this.


The principal precepts that belong to the frugal ordering and disposing Houshold-affairs may be compremis'd under these heads.

First to buy and sell all things at the best times and seasons.


Secondly, to take an especial care that the goods in the house be not spoiled by negligence of servants or otherwise.


Let me counsel you not only to avoid unnecessary or immoderate charges, but also with a little cost make a great shew; but above all suffer not your expence to exceed the receipt of your Husbands income. There is a Proverbial saying, That the Masters eye maketh the Horse fat; I am sure the active vigilance of a good and careful Wife is the ready way to enrich a bad Husband.


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