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Tag Archives: books

Lessons in Wifery from The Age of Innocence

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Newland Archer is proud of his beautiful, accomplished fiancée—at least until he meets the notorious and exciting Countess Ellen Olenska. After he convinces her not to divorce her husband for propriety’s sake, Newland and Ellen fall deeply in love with each other. As they contemplate an affair, they struggle to reconcile their feelings with the expectations of the deeply conservative society of New York during the Gilded Age.

The Age of Innocence is a novel about the conflict between love and duty—and what we lose when we have to choose. Her realistic portrayal of upper class life during the 1870s won author Edith Wharton the first Pulitzer Prize ever awarded to a woman. And that same realistic portrayal teaches us valuable lessons about what it is to be a wife in any age. Read the rest of this entry

What It Means to Be a Woman: Teenage Girls and Role Models

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I teach ninth- and tenth-grade English class at the Brookewood School. For the final project, I asked each girl to define for herself what is it to be a woman and design a website to share her ideas with the world. While I’m proud of each and every site I’m blown away with the realization they all reached: a woman cannot be a better woman and wife by herself. We need to look for role models to become good women. And the girls came up with some ingenious places to look.
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The Best Kind of Friend: Aristotle on Friendship

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Being a woman can be a lonely business. Young women have to strike out on their own and make lives for themselves—often far from home. Most moms must make the painful choice between missing their children from work or missing adult companionship while home with their kids. Older women cope with many different kinds of loss when their children move away from home or a spouse or beloved friend dies.

Friendship is what carries most women through these difficult transitions in their lives. In fact, the great philosopher Aristotle describes friendship as “most necessary with a view to living.” Read the rest of this entry

How to Really Read a Poem

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A great poem takes someone’s personal experience or perceptions and makes them real for the rest of the world. When we read one of these great poems, we begin to understand the world outside of ourselves. That’s why poetry is so important to those of us striving to be better women and wives—through poetry, we enter into the world’s cultural heritage and make ourselves a part of it.

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Lessons in Wifery from Erec and Enide

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The world’s greatest knight wins the hand of the world’s most beautiful woman. They are married in King Arthur’s castle and set out to live happily ever after. That would be the end of most modern love stories. But a wedding is only the beginning of this medieval legend.

Erec gives up knightly deeds to spend time with Enide. When Enide learns that Erec’s subjects no longer respect him as a knight, Erec demands that Enide join him on a quest.

Erec wants to prove his manliness to his wife. Enide struggles to earn back the affection she thinks she has lost. But while fighting recreant knights, lecherous counts, and terrible giants, each learns to give what the other needs and receive what the other offers. Read the rest of this entry

Experimental Wifery’s Guide to the 100 Books Every Woman Should Read

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There are thousands of great, life-changing books out there that both men and women can enjoy. But this is a list of the hundred titles that say something about what it is to be a woman: what makes us special and how we can be better. So I’ve included fiction, by both women and men, with compelling female characters. I’ve added historical works written by women to give us a window into the ways they lived and books of practical wisdom to make our lives a little easier. I’ve added works of social criticism that challenge us to live better. I’ve even thrown in a few philosophy texts that force us to think about ourselves and our sex more critically. Read the rest of this entry

Vintage Marriage Advice from the Eve of World War I

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We modern women tend to be focused on our rights. So focused on them, in fact, that we occasionally forget that our rights also come with responsibilities. Healthy marriages aren’t built on the love, devotion, and selflessness of one partner alone. Marriage ought to be built on mutual love and sacrifice.

In her 1913 Don’ts for Wives, Blanch Ebbuttt unapologetically presents a simple picture of what marriage for women of her generation ought not be: neither spouse should dominate the other. Instead, she suggests that we keep our husbands’ needs and desires constantly in mind in the hope that they’re the ones looking out for what we need and want. Read the rest of this entry