20 Strange Pieces Of Marriage Advice That Victorian Women Were Told To Follow

Think self-help books are a relatively new thing? Think again! In the Victorian era, there was a deluge of advice books aimed at young brides-to-be and newly married women. Some of them were fairly racy, too — going totally against the straitlaced stereotype we have of the Victorians. And in other ways, these books preached ideas that seem completely strange — even outrageous — to us today. Prepare to be appalled!

1. Learning about the birds and the bees

It was assumed that most of the young women these Victorian guides on marriage were aimed at were from the upper-middle or middle classes. And from that assumption sprung the reasonable idea that these young women’s knowledge of basic biology — you know, the birds and the bees — was rather lacking.

She needs to know the facts

So, what awaited a young woman on her wedding night was likely to be a mystery — and a rather terrifying one at that. To avoid this horror, Walter Gallichan advised that the bride be told what to expect. Writing in his book The Psychology of Marriage, he said, “It is necessary that the virgin should not enter the married state without even theoretical knowledge of sex.”

2. But a bride shouldn’t know too much…

A torrent of advice faced young women getting wed. All fine, but the problem was that the advice had something of a tendency to be contradictory. So, while Gallichan said that women should have some knowledge of what was likely to happen on their wedding night, a number of his contemporaries thought otherwise.

Keep her in the dark

If the young bride-to-be peeked into Maurice Bigelow’s collection of lectures on sex education, she’d read that too much knowledge was positively harmful. In Bigelow’s view, a young woman should only be taught a little about her body. No further detail was advisable as it “might arouse curiosity that leads to exploration and irritation.”