Perfect Mate for a College Man, 1919
The Capital Times of December 1, 1919, carried a letter that sparked a dialogue on the perfect mate for a college man.
“A young woman without a college education is the kind to make the proper home for a college-bred man,” according to a UW upperclassman who had made a psychological study of the subject. “Bosh,” retorted a UW sorority girl, who had attended the UW for three years. “The college-bred woman is better equipped to inspire a college-bred husband to his best efforts, while making an excellent wife and mother because of her broad minded view of life’s problems.” Said he, “a college woman is absolutely impossible as a wife. O, she’s a good scout and all that, but can you imagine her as a clinging vine, looking up to you, the mighty oak that a husband ought to be in her eyes? Not at all. She’s just as able, knows as much, and knows she knows it.”
Two weeks later, the upperclassman and sorority girl were taken to task by a working girl: “Do not fear, fair coeds. Some of your so-called educated men remind us of a bunch of spoiled babies, and if we had our choice we would not give one of our broad-shouldered well-developed working men for a whole regiment of your dandies. Said dandies could not be tolerated as doormats much less husbands. Coeds! Use all the rouge, brilliantine, and liquid powder you wish. The college men will pick you for wives, for where is there a man who admires a pale face and shiny nose? As for the clinging type of girl, they are often found as main characters in a movie, but in real life never. Here is hoping that none of our uneducated girls will be so foolish as to marry a student, for she would feel unhappy in after years if she would make a grammar mistake while out in society and then have her wise husband remind her of her poor education.”
The subject of the perfect wife was originally discussed more than seventy years earlier in Madison papers. As early as October 19, 1847, the Madison Express was counseling wives on how to keep their husbands happy.
The first inquiry of a woman after marriage, wrote editor W. W. Wyman, should be “How shall I continue the love I have inspired? How shall I preserve the heart I have won?” He advised that a wife make her husband’s habitation alluring and delightful to him. Should he be dejected, sooth him; should he be silent and thoughtful, do not heedlessly disturb him; should he be peevish, make allowances for human nature. Adorn yourself with delicacy and modesty. If it be possible, let your husband suppose you think him a good husband. Cultivate and exhibit cheerfulness and good humor. Particularly shun what the world would call “curtain lectures” - how indecorous, offensive and sinful it is for a woman to exercise authority over her husband and say “I will have it so. It shall be as I like.”