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Women in the home

Hidden Heroines: the untold stories of the women of the Dockyard


The Book of Household Management (published in 24 parts 1859 – 1861)
― Isabella Mary Beeton,

This book contains all that was needed for a newly married woman to face keeping a house with confidence—what kitchen equipment to buy, how to clean everything, what servants to have, what to look for in hiring them, how to raise children and cure their diseases, fashionable recipes (turtle soup to pickled oysters and beef cake) and much more.

What do you think of Mrs Beeton’s top 10 tips to being a good wife and Mistress of the House? The list goes up to 54!

12. IN PURCHASING ARTICLES OF WEARING APPAREL, whether it be a silk dress, a bonnet, shawl, or riband, it is well for the buyer to consider three things: I. That it be not too expensive for her purse. II. That its colour harmonize with her complexion, and its size and pattern with her figure. III. That its tint allow of its being worn with the other garments she possesses

13. THE DRESS OF THE MISTRESS should always be adapted to her circumstances, and be varied with different occasions. Thus, at breakfast she should be attired in a very neat and simple manner, wearing no ornaments

14. CHARITY AND BENEVOLENCE ARE DUTIES which a mistress owes to herself as well as to her fellow-creatures; and there is scarcely any income so small, THE BOOK OF HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT – 84 – but something may be spared from it, even if it be but “the widow’s mite.”

18. IN OBTAINING A SERVANT’S CHARACTER, it is not well to be guided by a written one from some unknown quarter; but it is better to have an interview, if at all possible, with the former mistress.

27. AFTER LUNCHEON, MORNING CALLS AND VISITS may be made and received. These may be divided under three heads: those of ceremony, friendship, and congratulation or condolence.

33. IN GIVING OR ACCEPTING AN INVITATION FOR DINNER, the following is the form of words generally made use of. They, however, can be varied in proportion to the intimacy or position of the hosts and guests:

Mr. and Mrs. A——present their compliments to Mr. and Mrs. B——, and request the honour, [or hope to have the pleasure] of their company to dinner on Wednesday, the 6th of December next. A——STREET, November 13th, 1859. R. S. V. P. The letters in the corner imply “Répondez, s’il vous plaît;” meaning, “an answer will oblige.”

The reply, accepting the invitation, is couched in the following terms:— Mr. and Mrs. B——present their compliments to Mr. and Mrs. A—-, and will do themselves the honour of, [or will have much pleasure in] accepting their kind invitation to dinner on the 6th of December next. B——SQUARE, November 18th, 1859.

36. THE GUESTS BEING SEATED AT THE DINNER-TABLE, the lady begins to help the soup, which is handed round, commencing with the gentleman on her right and on her left, and continuing in the same order till all are served.

38. WHEN FRUIT HAS BEEN TAKEN, and a glass or two of wine passed round, the time will have arrived when the hostess will rise, and thus give the signal for the ladies to leave the gentlemen, and retire to the drawing-room. The gentlemen of the party will rise at the same time, and he who is nearest the door, will open it for the ladies, all remaining courteously standing until the last lady has withdrawn.

42. AS THE VISITORS ARE ANNOUNCED BY THE SERVANT, it is not necessary for the lady of the house to advance each time towards the door, but merely to rise from her seat to receive their courtesies and congratulations.

43. In private parties, a LADY IS NOT TO REFUSE THE INVITATION OF A GENTLEMAN TO DANCE, unless she be previously engaged. The hostess must he supposed to have asked to her house THE BOOK OF HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT – 94 – only those persons whom she knows to be perfectly respectable and of unblemished character, as well as pretty equal in position; and thus, to decline the offer of any gentleman present, would be a tacit reflection on the master and mistress of the house.