Who Will Make a Good Wife” contrasts good and bad wife material in a piece apparently intended for young adult readers of The Youth’s Companion: young men choosing a bride—and young women eager to be chosen. The emphasis on hard work—and the warning against novel reading—isn’t entirely unexpected.

“Who Will Make a Good Wife” (from The Youth’s Companion, May 30, 1850; p. 20)

When you see a young woman who rises early, sets the table and prepares her father’s breakfast cheerfully—depend upon it she will make a good wife. You may rely upon it that she possesses a good disposition and a kind heart.

When you see a young woman just out of bed at nine o’clock, leaning with her elbow on the table, gaping and sighing, “Oh dear, how dreadfully I feel”—rely upon it; she will not make a good wife. She must be lazy and mopish.

When you see a girl with a broom in her hand, sweeping the floor, or with a rubbing board or clothes-line in her hand, you may put it down that she is industrious, and will make a good wife for somebody.

When you see a girl with a novel in her left hand, and a fan in her right, shedding tears, you may be assured she is not fit for a wife.

Happiness and misery are before you, which will you choose?

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