What goes into making human robot girls, 1941


John Ptak, a dealer in rare science books, has a post about pamphlets published by The Ladies Home Journal from the mid 20th century that are "social engineering how-to's for youngish girls." He says "they'll make your teeth hurt."

Perhaps it was the ["How to Rate Another Date"] pamphlet that caused most of my teeth to fall out --- it is sheer and painful, offering virtually nothing to the young women reading it and practicing its morality play but gender obedience and servility.

"Did you give him all your attention?" "Did he run things?" "Did you give him a chance to impress you?" "Could you make him laugh?"  It isn't until the final rating question (#25) that we get to something that opened the possibility of a two-way interest in the relationship, but only barely: "Did you find you liked the same things?" It's sad, really. 

When I read some of this to my 17-year-old daughter, she just looked at me with an open mouth and eyebrow furrows:  it was simply beyond listening to, for her, and certainly not anywhere near worthy of a response. 

What Goes into Making Human Robot Girls, 1941


  1. The cover of Behave Yourself! is pretty awesome. Those were the days. Girls were girls and men were men.

    1. And men apparently wore womens shoes – I can’t for the life of me identify what the fedora gentlemen is wearing otherwise.

      Somewhat related: The “If I were a man!” cover.

      1. Looks like spats. Or opera pumps. Both traditionally associated with gentlemen.

        Still makes me wonder that men wore heels only a few hundred years ago. What’s women’s or men’s shoes, really?

      2. He appears to be wearing Spats.
        Think of them as sort of an overcoat for the ankle, covering most of the shoe top.

  2. at least back then divorce rates were much lower.. kinda makes you think.. maybe they had it right back then

  3. You’re shocked that a pamphlet on dating from 1941 seems old-fashioned?

    What were you expecting? “Tip #34 : no anal play until the 8th date.”

  4. What if the tips in “How to Rate Another Date” were intended for men, or just humans in general?

    “Did you give her a chance to impress you?” This is good advice. “Could you make her laugh?” What’s so old-fashioned about that?

    The parts about helping her up curbs and acting like a lady may be dated. But is it so outmoded to open a door for your fellow humans?

    “Did you avoid mentioning your dates with other boys?” This is great advice for a guy on his first date with a girl…

  5. Do we have any volunteers to spend time with a significant other who gets a majority of these bullet points “wrong”?

    – Don’t give him any attention. Spend your time texting
    your BFF

    – Don’t let him run things, but make him announce the
    plans first before you trash them.

    – If he makes an obvious attempt to impress you – As if!

    – Mention all your dates with other guys.

    – The best way to make him laugh is with helpless chagrin.

    Seriously, folks, now reverse the genders and see how that works out, too…

  6. I guess the important question, which people here are hitting on, is this advice would pretty much work for men. The only problem here to me is the implication that there is *nothing* the man has to or should do to make a date go well.

  7. Oh yeah, and they still write magazines like this. Not long ago my yahoo homepage informed me that I should not wear red lipstick because men don’t really find it sexy.

    All men. Because men are apparently legion and also incapable of expressing themselves, not to mention that I should spend my life trying to please them all at once. Well now, I’ve seen movies like that but I digress…

  8. Just to set the record straight, this fellow finds it very sexy when women wear red lipstick. Take THAT, Yahoo homepage.

  9. The fact that that advice is no longer taught to and practiced by women is what i find sad. It is a good system and would work today if practiced.

  10. Tell me more, tell me more,
    Was it love at first sight?
    Tell me more, tell me more,
    Did she put up a fight?

  11. The key thing about the rating system is that the girl is rating herself, and whether she acted properly. Modern magazines would be all about evaluating her date, and whether he’s good enough.

    Whether that reflects a change in attitude about women or about self-improvement isn’t clear without a guide for men to compare it against. Either way, though, it’s at least less creepy than the “magic formulas to trick women into bed” that men’s magazines have today.

  12. Well, I went to the website and I posted a comment (with no profanity or anything bad) and basically saying that the list is a good starting point on how to behave.

    So this guy “John Ptak” immediately removes my comment as “having little courtesy”.

    So what he’s basically saying is: Hey, it doesn’t matter how shitty a girl behaves, it’s her right and we as men should be happy nonetheless.

    I can see how that will go over well with the men in her life. No wonder divorce rates are so high. Men are expected to bow down and be PW to death.

    Yeah, try again!

      1. Since when did behaving like a proper human being and thinking of others become taboo around here?

        I get it, selfish is in (at all costs).

        Nice spin BTW. Makes me look like the bad guy just for saying that men should be expected to act like gentlemen and ladies the same.

        “Evil females” your words, not mine dude.

        “Dating hasn’t… blah blah”. OIC, you want to play “who’s better” game. How old are you? 10?

        1. It is possible your intent did not come across? I’m seeing your first post in a different light after your second one, for what it’s worth.

          I don’t think people find this awful because women are asked to be considerate at all, but rather that they seem to be asked to pretend not to be themselves. That being said the problem I have is that this list is pretty tame. Did you get home at a decent hour, for instance? Sounds more like just a way to gauge the evening in general.

          The problem with attacking this would be that this magazine is for women anyway. It would be a lot more insulting if it was a list in a lad mag with lots of terribly obnoxious items to help you rank the girl you went out with. Or vice versa in Cosmo or something.

          Aaaand… that would be a bit more contemporary.

          So, linux and manners.

          I’m smitten.

          1. Well, thank you!

            Before my posts bore everyone to death, I’d like to answer just one question: Why in heaven’s name did I even bother posting on this guy’s website? I’m usually pretty quiet and tend to mind my business.

            Well, here’s the quote that kind of struck me the wrong way: (from his website)

            “When I read some of this to my 17-year-old daughter, she just looked at me with an open mouth and eyebrow furrows: it was simply beyond listening to, for her, and certainly not anywhere near worthy of a response.”

            Wow! Every question on that list was turning her stomach? Really?

            Like question 2: “Was your family decent to him”
            What happens when a guy shows up to get your daughter for date? Do you like kick him in the balls or something?

            Question 6: Did you wear the right thing? Bad question? Why? So I get all dressed up and I get to the girl’s house and she comes out looking like a stripper or it looks like she skipped the shower for a couple of days.
            What should be my response?

            Am I the only one who finds a woman in a smart outfit, which makes her look gorgeous and sophisticated, absolutely sexy? I live in NYC and women here dress to kill. No, I don’t want to go out with a sack of potatoes.

            Well, you get my message.

            For those here who think that some rinky-dink questionnaire has diminished the value of women, back when it was published, think again. Out of those times came women such as Ava Gardner (who ate men for breakfast) and Gene Tierney who was an absolute Goddess and subservient to noone.

            So, the stupid list is nothing more than a suggestion on how to act like a lady, and the right guy will love her for it because he’s himself a gent.

            Is that too much to ask from a girl? Yes? Ok, no problem. I’ll look somewhere else.

            Sorry for the long post but I want to make myself clear.

            Thank you for reading!

      2. I suspect you, like I, wouldn’t like to be judged solely by the content of our online commentary.

        Sure, he may be a linux geek, but that and consensual sex between ‘normal’ women are not mutually exclusive. I kind of agree that the guy has a point. I may not be a lothario, but I’ve never been accused of being sexist, AFAIK.

        On topic: I always find these things both horrifying and amusing, in roughly equal amounts. I suspect similar articles from whatever womens mags are popular now will be as alien as this one is, but in far less than 69 years.

  13. Nice teases, but darnit, I’m trying to find scans of the whole booklets but have not had luck so far… :-(

  14. Is it just me or does the “Notes:” section of that page seem rather odd? It starts right beside the “Do boys like you?” picture:
    1.“In 1965, KOSLOV, then a physicist at the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), suggested to Charles Weiss, head of security at the State Department, that a “a sober and systematic program of research” look into the “Moscow Signal”…


  15. Girl Robot??
    Take the boy/girl out of it, and it’s simply a list of how to be a gracious and civil guest when ANYONE takes you out, be it your buddy, your boss or your Great Aunt Hildy.
    I was raised by the daughter of a southern belle, and knowing these rules by age 12 was simply expected. Can’t say I was wise enough to stick to them all the time, but when I did, I had not trouble getting repeat dates.
    Oh, and lest you fear I lacked feminist independence, I ALSO stuck by the firm rule that “S/he who asks, plans and pays”. Thanks to my folks, I also knew how to be a gracious HOST and no boy I ever took to the (traditionally) Sadie Hawkins formal ever had put his hand in his pocket, or worry about ordering the “wrong thing on the menu” – Dad’s formula: “Add up the most expensive dinner on the menu, multiply it by two and add tip. If you can’t afford that, you’re in the wrong restaurant!”
    It’s really a shame that so many parents aren’t bothering (or, even worse Don’t KNOW how!) to pass on such skills to their kids. In a society that’s grown as selfish and self-centered as ours, knowing just a few of these rules gives anyone a HUGE advantage in your social and business life!!

  16. Oh…and also, I have to smile at your indignation, because I’m willing to bet that you’ve been on some dates in the past that you thought were AMAZING because, while you didn’t know it, the person you were with followed every single one of these rules.

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