Does Your Marriage Suffer From Clubitis?

As I have been sorting our family archives, I have been finding little fashion and culture tidbits like this trade card:

Piano trade card, circa 1900.

Tellingly, it was kept in the family, not because anyone aspired to be gowned like a Gibson Girl, but for the white cake recipe on its back.

The reverse of the trade card.

I also found this funny article defending women’s fashion choices, in this case, harem skirts.  (If you click on it, you will see a bigger image.)

In defense of harem skirts, from about 1912 or a little later.

In this case, I was a bad archivist — I scanned the article but I didn’t note where it came from or the year of the newspaper.  Maybe it will turn up again later.  Fortunately for all of you, the Artyologist has a wonderful article about the history of harem pants, profusely illustrated, so I recommend you shimmy over there to read it.

Moving along in time, I found the ladies’ page from the Cleveland Plain Dealer of Saturday, August 18, 1928.  Why this paper was kept is a mystery to me, because no relatives were mentioned in it, even in the ads; and the front page stories concerned a horse race smash-up, a twenty-minute solo flight, and the possible indictment of Chicago politicians — none of which were stories likely to spark much interest among our staid family members.

But the ladies’ page is a wealth of information!

Bottom half of the Plain Dealer ladies’ page from 1928.

We have recipes for Citrusberryade and Casseroled Steak; ads for Bowlene to keep your toilet bowl snowy white, and Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound to enable you to feel good enough to do housework (although your picture may still look more like a mug shot than an cheerful testimonial); advice on thinning your eyebrows and keeping your hair oily.

We have this sketch and description of a panne velvet coat with silver fox collar and cuffs:

Coat by Drecoll.

But my favorite part is the section on women’s clubs:

Two stories promoting women’s clubs, and one advice column panning them.

Along with the spotlight on classes for new club presidents, and the calendar of upcoming club meetings, we have this advice column from Dorothy Dix:

Plea from husband.

Dear Dorothy Dix:  My wife goes out several times a week in the evening to her different clubs and leaves me to spend a lonely evening at home myself.  I have no objections to her belonging to as many clubs as she pleases if only they would meet in the afternoons, but I feel that she should be willing to give me her society in the evenings.  My idea of an enjoyable evening is a game of bridge, a dance or the theater with my wife and friends, but when I suggest anything like this she flatly refuses, the excuse being that she is too tired and was out late last night at the club.  I earn a comfortable salary, my wife has a liberal allowance which she may use in any way she cares, but as I do all I can to make her happy I think she might do something for my pleasure.  I have tried to get her to seem y point of view, but it is hopeless.  She only cries and goes into hysterics when I remonstrate with her.

Now I want your opinion as to whether a woman’s club of a husband should come first, and just what would you do in my case?  We have been married only two months.




Your wife seems to have the club mania, and I do not know of any worse fault that a woman can have nor anything that one can do that is more destructive of home life.

Indeed, the club seems always to have been the arch enemy of the home.  Generations of wives have fought it and complained of the lonely evenings they spent with only the cat for company while their husbands were enjoying themselves with gay companions at their clubs.

Now women are developing the club habit and men are beginning to find out what it is to have their wives grab their hats as soon as dinner is over and fare forth to their clubs, leaving hubby to spend a solitary evening listening in on the radio or walking up and down the floor thinking up things he is going to say to wifey on her return.

Taken in broken doses, clubs are good for what ails women, and it is only when they spend their lives in an orgy of club-going that their husbands should protest against it.

Not Much Hope

Your wife is evidently one of these club addicts.  She is one of the abnormal women who like the society of women better than they do men, who is more interested in causes than in individuals and who is so much absorbed in cleaning up politics she is not interested in sweeping up her own floors.  Such a woman should never marry, for she never makes a good wife.

Whether you can ever cure your wife of her club mania or not is doubtful, but your only chance is to do it now while she is still a bride.  If you let it go on her case will become chronic and she will devote herself more and more to her clubs and less and less to you.

If she has so little regard for your happiness that she is not willing to stay at home with you, I think you would be quite justified in presenting an ultimatum to her of choosing between you and the clubs, and deciding which one she cared for most.

Don’t we feel sorry for “Albert?”

I think if we asked Mrs. Charles Porter, the club president pictured on that page, she would give a no-nonsense answer, like, “Albert, wake up and smell the coffee!  I don’t think your wife is actually going to any political clubs.  You might want to hire a detective.”

Mrs. Charles Porter would know how to handle this.

I find this whole topic just amazing.  Dorothy Dix was known for creating the questions that would enable her to address an issue, but the idea that this might possibly have been an issue that needed addressing stretches my credulity.  Then, the way it is presented as a syndrome — the worst fault a woman can have! — and then the total lack of any helpful steps, just “give her an ultimatum.”

Maybe Clubitis fell by the wayside once this new tool became available:

How to Use a Charga-Plate

The outside of the Charga-Plate instruction.

The Halle Bros. department store was in Cleveland, Ohio.  The Canton branch opened in 1930, and Charga-Plate was developed in 1928, so this little brochure must be from about that time.   I love the expressions on the little plate’s cartoon face.

And why, after decades and decades of using charge cards, were these instructions handed down in the family?

Because the Sunshine Salad recipe was written on the back!