Don’ts For Girls–A Manual Of Mistakes

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This past Saturday, my daughter and I went to do some antique shopping in Mount Victory, Ohio. I love this type of thing, and can “get lost” for hours, if left to my own devices. I collect antique books. Most of my books are school books from the turn of the last century. On this particular trip I came across an interesting little book called Don’ts For Girls-A Manual Of Mistakes, written by one Miss Minna Thomas Antrim. The book was copyrighted in Philadelphia by the Henry Altemus Company in 1902. From the inscription in the front cover of the book it was given as a Christmas present in the year 1907. When I see inscriptions such as this, I often wonder what the young lady that received this book looked like, or acted like? Obviously, her parents wished for her to be a proper young lady.

This small, hardback book is packed with little nuggets of wisdom, along with some statements that make me giggle. Some of these verses are so foreign to me, being that I was born in 1968–and by that era, times were most definitely different! In my mind and imagination, I picture a twelve year old girl, on the verge of young womanhood…one from a proper Victorian family. On Christmas morning she opened this gift from her parents, and vowed to read the book from cover to cover.

As she gently opened the book and turned to the first page, this is what she read…

*Don’t be ashamed of your parents. They may be unlearned and dull, but they gave you the chance to become what you are. Honor them before all men.  ( I read this to my daughter, and she laughed. I do not wish for her to believe that her daddy and I are unlearned and dull, though I do like the honor part.)

* Don’t neglect little deeds, while dreaming of great ones.

* Don’t be a prig. Girls who are never a little foolish, are always deadly dull. (I like the word prig. I think I might start using that. Can I bring the word, prig, back?)

*Don’t chatter. Babbling is baneful. Gigglers should be punished by solitary confinement. (If one is going to giggle, do it in private!)

* Don’t regulate your behavior by geography. Be as modest at the sea shore as at home. ( I love this one. Anyone that has been to the beach lately knows, that some young ladies need to be more modest–allowing everything to hang out is not pleasant for us that are forced to watch.)

* Don’t be good because you must, but because you should. ( Amen. Enough said.)

* Don’t be anxious to get “in the swim.” Many drown there. (Many of our young people today, still have this problem. Following one’s peers can prove deadly.)

*Don’t fail to lock the family skeleton securely in the closet when guests are expected. ( Doesn’t this crack you up? I bet a lot of Victorian closets were bursting with bones…but, the key to the closet was kept cleverly hidden:)

* Don’t go anywhere with a young man alone. Convention admits no exception of this rule. ( That would save a lot of heartache, wouldn’t it? 🙂

* Don’t listen to anything revolting. There are things in life that should never be made known to a sensitive girl. ( A young Victorian girl would never make it watching the news these days. Or any TV. Or any movies. Or most books. Or…or….or…..)

The book ends with this last page.

* Don’t begin the day with a sigh, or you may end with a downpour.

* Don’t lament because your neighbor’s garden surpasses yours. Keep hoeing. ( I love this one in particular. Plenty of people in our entitlement society, need to read this.)

And last but certainly not least…

* Don’t fuss. If things never went wrong who’d long for heaven? (Amen, to that.)

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief look into the beginning of the last century. It’s always fun to look back…

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4 thoughts on “Don’ts For Girls–A Manual Of Mistakes

  1. Sounds like a book to be reintroduced to our young girls and moms today. It floors me to witness inappropriate behaviors from our young girls, of course one can’t help but ask where’s the child’s parents? But I digress that’s a topic for another day. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  2. I agree. Let’s try to bring “prig” back. To me it sounds less offensive than “snob” yet carries the same weight and meaning. Who knows? It might just catch on. Of course if we use it our readers will have to stop and look it up. Sad.

  3. I found your little article on this book because I googled the actual book title. I’m in the midst of transcribing some old letters between my grandmother and her best friend (they were born in 1887 and 1889) and one wrote to the other: “It is quite the proper thing to call on gentlemen here, every one does. I wish Miss McClintic, from old Geneva, could drop in here but she probably would drop right out again and send us those books from off the old Dorm table, namely ‘Don’ts for Girls’ and ‘Marion Harland’s Book on Etiquette.’ She don’t need to bother, I know them by heart after forced readings and they have never harmed nor spoiled my life in the least. Please don’t choke on these paragraphs.” Ha ha! So there you have a contemporary (1918) opinion on the book, from one single lady to another.

    Thanks so much for posting this!

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