A site for posts by actors and crew working on a production of Sophie Treadwell's Machinal at Duke University (April 3-13, 2014).

You ladies on the lookout for love are also advised to consider whether a potential mate will meet your needs, such as that for “social approval.” Also important is whether he will be affectionate, whether he’ll work hard to make the marriage succeed and talk things over, as well as whether he will “offer you security” and “help you get ahead.” Brace:

This involves the desire for mastery, which is a universal human motive particularly with men. It produces the urge to succeed, to excel, to overcome obstacles, to keep on fighting, to master situations. It is this desire for mastery that makes a husband take a correspondence course which may lead to a job promotion. The girl wants a mate who will be ambitious, and the man needs a wife who will read books on how to prepare tasty dishes and how to rear children according to the best principles of child care, and who will not become easily discouraged or frustrated.

If that wasn’t enough of a flashback to season one of Mad Men, this really ought to get you nostalgic for yard-pigeon-shooting Betty:

Will this mate embarrass you by nonconformity? The man wants a wife who will not act unbecomingly in public, who knows how to say and do the right thing when other people are present, who will conform to the customs that will cause their neighbors to think well of her. The girl wants a man who is not discourteous or sloppy, who will get to work at the time he is supposed to report, who will not embarrass her in public that will make them criticized by others.

You should also make sure to find a man who likes sports. You wouldn’t want to end up shackled to some kind of goddamned pinko, would you?

Men and women who make good mates are sociable and extroverted. They like to entertain friends, to raise money for charity, and they are interested in sports. Such girls enjoy party activities and try to see that everyone as a good time. While talkative and carefree, they are not aggressive.

Men are not quite as fond of social functions as women. But they have a greater liking for athletics. Their recreational activities are wholesome and varied. Although a wife is chiefly responsible for the couple’s socializing, she needs her husband’s interested cooperation.

No, seriously, it is of the utmost importance nobody get any Revolutionary Road ideas around here:

"Is He an Agreeable Person—Or An ‘Individualist’"? The agreeable person tends to conform to the norms set by society. Particularly this is important in a girl. For example, she favors prohibition and opposes burlesque shows. She finds it easy to accept leadership when it is directed by ethical considerations. Not liking to be ‘different,’ she wants her marriage to meet community standards."

By the way, do you like old people and dislike poets? Otherwise, I’ve got bad news:

Similarly, girls who will be happy in marriage enjoy teaching children and have a fondness for old people. They are not strong admirers of musicians and poets though they may like good music or poetry. They believe mates should be virgins at marriage and faithful thereafter.

Oh, this? [Tosses copy of the collected works of Lord Byron over her shoulder.] Nothing, honey! Just paging through the latest Bonwit Teller catalog!

Forget all that, though. Let’s talk about sex, baby. Specifically, how can you find a mate who’ll keep you happy in the bedroom? Because heaven forbid you take him for a test drive:

Beware a person who shows a neurotic tendency, unconventional behavior, a craving for excitement, an urge to be constantly on the go. Beware of both the prudes and persons who seem preoccupied with sex. Beware of indications of jealously and possessiveness, or coldness and aloofness.

Be wary of any man insufficiently Brylcreemed into emotional constipation. How many times does he have to warn you about those damned radio actors?

A girl should be wary of selecting a mate who is very emotional. Such a person thrives on ‘thrills’ and may be much too interested in sex. Not uncommonly he works in some job like radio or the movies where he hopes to find glamour and excitement.

Once you’ve landed your up-and-coming accounts manager at Grey Flannel Suit and Co., you’ll of course begin looking forward to the wedding night. Your groom can help the proceedings along like so:

Often a husband can make that first night easier for a wife if he finds an errand to perform while his bride is preparing to retire. He may even suggest to her that he will be gone for fifteen or twenty minutes, which will give her a chance to be in bed when he returns.

Let a thousand Mad Men fanfics bloom. Just don’t get your hopes up:

Most young wives do not have an orgasm in the early days of marriage and so should not be distressed if they do not experience it on the wedding night. In Terman’s study of several hundred wives, less than twenty-five percent said they experienced it within a few days or weeks.

The good professor is not without advice, though:

Phase two is the actual coitus. In the early days of marriage this should be engaged in gently. Later both may be able to enjoy the tumultuous vigor of unrestrained outpouring of love. The husband should not forget during intercourse to tell his wife how much he loves her, how wonderful he thinks she is, how much delight she is bringing him.

(via Hilariously Retrograde Marital Advice from a 1952 Modern Bride)

There were aspects sexual liberation afoot in the 1920s that might, just might, mean that the advice to young women had a slightly different spin around the time of Machinal versus the early 1950s from where this issue of Modern Bride hails. That caveat given, I doubt there are any substantive differences in the core messages of subservience, femininity, virginity and passivity on the woman’s part as equating to “happy marriage.” Now the real test … pick up an issue of a wedding magazine from this year and see how these messages are retooled for the modern age. Anyone??

  1. machinalclass posted this
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