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The Wife I Want, 1893

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 17, 2009

“Garcon” outlined his ideal wife in an article published in the December, 1893 issue of The Young Woman’s Journal, to which “Muchacha” responded with a description of her “Model Husband” in The Contributor of March, 1894. Share what you think of Garcon’s list, then come back this afternoon for Muchacha’s reply (with its – to me – revealing but unexpected reference to plural marriage).

When I marry my desire is to find a woman possessing as many as possible of the following characteristics:

She should be so virtuous as to live not only above reproach, but above suspicion.

She should be religious, yet not sanctimonious.

She should be honest, truthful and candid, yet not consider it hypocrisy to refrain from telling people all that she may think or hear about them that is disagreeable.

She should be kind and attentive to all people, but reserve her sweetest smiles and kindest acts for me.

She should avoid every word or act that is likely to arouse my ver jealous disposition, yet not live in constant fear of my anger.

She should love children, and never consider them “nuisances” or ‘wish them dead,” and yet not be so indulgent as to allow them to grow up in idleness, disobedience or sin.

She should make her home so pleasant that angels will delight to make it their abode, and that the family may consider it the one place on earth where a foretaste of heaven is obtained; yet she should not make herself a slave to home, but move around in the world and improve mankind by her noble life.

She should never turn the hungry, naked or poor away from her door unprovided, yet she should not encourage begging or pauperism by misapplied charity.

She should be careful and economical, yet not selfish nor stingy.

She should be clean and tidy in her person and dress, yet not so prim as to be obnoxious.

Her house should be clean and orderly, yet not so neat that muddy feet will bring frowns to her brow or cross words to her lips.

She should find some time each day for intellectual culture, even though this may make early rising necessary, and to her physical health she should give due attention.

She should encourage rather than deter me in the performance of ecclesiastical and other duties, yet not for the reason that “my room is better than my company.”

She should be free from ridicule for my faults yet should show them to me that I may strive to overcome the same.

She should be willing to bear adversity without murmuring, as she enjoys prosperity without pride.

She should manifest a contented spirit, feeling thankful for what she enjoys, rather than to find fault because she sees others enjoy that which she does not possess.

She should be filled with a forgiving spirit towards all people, yet not be a fawning sycophant.

She should be neither boastful, haughty nor complaining.

She should determine that the income shall exceed the expenditure, yet should not desire to hold the purse-strings in her hands, unless I become financially incapable.

I should be the ONE man on the earth whom she is constantly studying an trying to please, and for whom she is willing to forsake kindred, home, country and everything except God and what pertains to celestial glory.

if I could obtain a wife possessing these qualities, I would certainly feel assured that she would bear with my numerous imperfections, and would lead me to grander conceptions of life here and hereafter, thus making me more fruitful in noble deeds.

“Girls,” the Journal’s editor writes, “the writer who hides under this pen name is handsome, gifted, eloquent, magnetic and fascinating. If he is not one of the chief authorities of the Church he is very near kin to one. Now, who of all of you can fill these many requirements which he portrays for the woman of his love?”



24 Comments »

  1. She probably also shouldn’t mind being married to an ego maniac.

    Comment by John Scherer — August 17, 2009 @ 7:11 am

  2. Ha! Is he the ego-maniac, or is the editor the one who makes him sound that way?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 17, 2009 @ 7:25 am

  3. The wife I’ve got is the one I want.

    Comment by Eric Boysen — August 17, 2009 @ 7:27 am

  4. Whoever the lucky woman turned out to be, I am guessing that she was one tired lady.

    Comment by Jami — August 17, 2009 @ 7:39 am

  5. Eric gets the romantic points.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 17, 2009 @ 7:40 am

  6. Wow, what a list. What does “my room is better than my company” mean? Is it similar to “Yes, honey, go to your church meeting, because I’d rather not have to put up with you here”? (No comment on whether I’ve ever thought that myself.)

    Comment by Tamary — August 17, 2009 @ 7:49 am

  7. She should determine that the income shall exceed the expenditure, yet should not desire to hold the purse-strings in her hands…

    So he wants to carry the purse? Did Steve Evans write this?

    Comment by Matt W. — August 17, 2009 @ 8:01 am

  8. I was expecting this piece to end something like this…

    “if I could obtain a wife possessing these qualities, I would certainly marry five wives!” :-)

    Comment by Steve C. — August 17, 2009 @ 8:07 am

  9. Tamary, it’s a new expression to me too, and I think you’ve nailed it. My grandmother had a similar saying: “I’d rather keep your picture” i.e. it was cheaper to have a photograph of the person than spending a fortune on their upkeep!

    Comment by Alison — August 17, 2009 @ 8:15 am

  10. Oh my. I’m hoping that the author lived out his life in resplendent bachelorhood.

    Or that he grew up.

    Comment by Researcher — August 17, 2009 @ 9:40 am

  11. Hmmm. Sounds to me like we should expect a scathingly similar list of expectations directed menward from “Muchacha” in due course.

    Comment by Michaela Stephens — August 17, 2009 @ 9:49 am

  12. I’m really interested in your next post now.

    Comment by John Scherer — August 17, 2009 @ 9:59 am

  13. I don’t see what’s so objectionable about the list. Lists like this are about trying to capture all the things we value; they are not ultimately about an actual person or a set of demands. He even begins with “as many as possible of the following” meaning he is not so deluded as thinking some woman will have them all.

    I like this line best: She should love children, and never consider them “nuisances” or ‘wish them dead,”. I picture him using his fingers in the air like Chris Farley for the quotation marks.

    Comment by Jacob J — August 17, 2009 @ 10:37 am

  14. Or as Elder Bednar said in his recent interview at radio.lds.org, instead of making a list for the potential spouse to meet, try and focus on becoming kind of the person you want to marry. I kinda like that.

    However, I do have to say, that the man who thought up this list shows that he is, at least, earnest about the concept of marriage. Just as long as he doesn’t stay married (pun intended) to his list.

    Comment by Hunter — August 17, 2009 @ 10:38 am

  15. I found this interesting:

    “She should determine that the income shall exceed the expenditure, yet should not desire to hold the purse-strings in her hands, unless I become financially incapable.”

    This is a bit reflective of the times. Men were to manage the money. There were laws in many countries that limited women’s access to earning and managing their own money.

    In our situation, my wife is SO much better at budgeting and managing our money. I am awful. I am very happy that she holds the purse-strings in her hands; otherwise, we’d starve.

    Comment by Steve C. — August 17, 2009 @ 10:55 am

  16. Even if such a woman were to exist, what makes this guy think he deserves her?

    Comment by Mark B. — August 17, 2009 @ 10:59 am

  17. What makes this guy think he deserves such a wife? Why, he is very near kin to one of the chief authorities of the Church! DUH.

    Comment by Hunter — August 17, 2009 @ 11:17 am

  18. I am reminded of the Benedick lines from “Much Ado About Nothing”:

    One woman is fair, yet I am well; another is wise, yet I am well; another virtuous, yet I am well; but till all graces be in one woman, one woman shall not come in my grace. Rich she shall be, that’s certain; wise, or I’ll none; virtuous, or I’ll never cheapen her; fair, or I’ll never look on her; mild, or come not near me; noble, or not I for an angel; of good discourse, an excellent musician, and her hair shall be of what color it please God.

    Comment by danithew — August 17, 2009 @ 11:30 am

  19. I’m a bit like Groucho Marx when he said he wouldn’t join any club that would have someone like him as a member. I couldn’t respect a woman who’d settle for a schlub like me.

    Or put another way, I’ve got champagne tastes on a beer budget.

    Comment by Bookslinger — August 17, 2009 @ 1:08 pm

  20. It sounds like a woman this busy would never have time for romance … so they’ll remain childless…

    Comment by queuno — August 17, 2009 @ 1:20 pm

  21. Be a little charitable with the author. Pompose prose was common in those days. It wasn’t until later that more casual styles of writing became the style. Those who were not professional writers sometimes went a little overboard in trying to appear dignified. I noticed it in both pieces.

    Comment by Bookslinger — August 17, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

  22. You’re right, Bookslinger. Much of the fun of a piece like this is reacting as though it were written in 2009 — but of course we can really only understand it insofar as we are able to see it with the eyes of 1893. By now I hope most Keepa readers are able to do the mental time-traveling to read it charitably.

    Really, I don’t see much difference in these lists from what we produced when I was a Laurel, except that I didn’t write in complete sentences or strive to be so elegant. In my list, this would have started out:

    “To be ready for marriage, I will live so as not to get a ‘reputation’ — be religious but keep it real — be honest without making people feel bad — be nice to everybody but make my guy feel special … ”

    And yeah, I’d be pretty full of myself if I thought I could do all that, but that’s part of the idealism of your teens, isn’t it?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 17, 2009 @ 6:00 pm

  23. I wonder how many fan letters he received after the author’s no hold barred endorsement?

    Comment by Anne (U.K) — August 18, 2009 @ 3:38 am

  24. Notice how his list is longer and more precise.

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — August 19, 2009 @ 11:45 am

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