Sunday, April 24, 2011


Dear Helen Hartman,
      It’s a great big world. So much a person has to know just to get by in life. Unfortunately, I am a girl.
             How I would love someone to tell me what I need to know to tackle life’s difficulties, like shopping and living in my own community and how to buy underwear, you know important stuff us girls find so perplexing!

Dear Loved One
  Run get a big strong man to read this for you if you must (Helen can wait, she’s taking a break from plotting world domination to cover dozens of her little paper umbrellas in plastic so no rain gets into her banana daiquiris). But do please read on because the solution to all your troubles lies in the pages of the works I just scored ($1 dollar a piece, a bargain for the collected wisdom of the ages pared down to lady-sized bites of downright bossiness) of
 The Amy Vanderbilt Success Program for Women.
Just right for Blue Monday 

Yes, it’s true. Helen is not the only person in the world who thinks she knows what’s best for you and how you should dress, behave, shop and interact with others!!

In all but one of these gems Amy V. herself pens a forward enlightening the reader on the reason that each entry into the Success Program is needed. 

They include such insights as: “Shopping experiences like other experiences in life cannot be acquired vicariously.”  And “Even with the demands of very young children and a servantless house, the enterprising woman can make some identification with her community.”                                            

A servantless house! Are you joking? Well, if you find YOURSELVES in this predicament, Loved Ones, never fear.  Helen is here to help by sharing what she has learned:

From: How To Shop Wisely by Charlotte Montgomery, 1964, 1969 
Good shoppers are not born, they are developed, the book informs - here a potential good shopper is put through her paces in the phonograph, birdcage or clock, which will make hubby stroke out fastest test (she has chosen incorrectly, btw, the answer is birdcage with tassel that she plans to hang over his favorite chair - give yourself a point it you got that)

How to be Well Dressed Joan O’Sullivan 1969


It's 1969 and women were being told we will not be judged by our character or accomplishments but by our gloves. They had "the Pill' by then, mini skirts, women's lib! Yes, bras had been incinerated (and looking a the examples, can you blame women for THAT?)... but GLOVES, Ladies, GLOVES!

Woman Driving!! There has GOT TO BE a LEGAL Problem in the offing here!!
How to Handle Your Legal Problems by Kenneth and Irene Donelson 1968

     This begins by addressing the housewife and mother, on-the-job divorcee, young widow, or single woman and identifies the authors as a lawyer and his wife “who works for him in his office” as a legal researcher.
Those wacky housewives and their grocery shopping antics, what a legal viper's nest! Remember, you only get one phone call in the pokey ladies, don't use it to cancel your hair appointment!

How to Make Extra Money in Your Spare Time by Joseph D. Cooper 
No pub date and Amy doesn’t give a forward this time around but the booklet is chocked full of wonderful advice including:
                   Your resume should include your HEIGHT and WEIGHT and Date of Birth
(Helen doesn’t include those on her driver’s license. I will walk a straight line if asked, but if the nice officer wants to weigh me, he’ll have to shoot me first!)

Oh, and our heroine in the resume example? An English major who went to Stanford and also William and Mary, speaks  three languages, has worked for Double Day Publishing, for the Venezuelan Embassy and is hoping to get a job typing notes for a (male) writer.

After all that advice on part time jobs the final illustration seems to be saying - "All this thinking of part time girl work is exhausting. Luckily we pretty girls don't have to worry about all that!"

And Last
You and Your Community by Joan Cook 1968
That’s the one where Amy thinks even us servantless gals should get out of the house now and then.

Gee, Betty Lou, parties ARE popular, too bad we're still dorks!
This section included being active in church and school and this illustration was summed up in the single line: Parties are Popular!
Despite the unusual nature of the police line up, Kathy was able to point out the person who had given her the Success for Women booklet that lead to servantless living,  on-the-job divorcee-ism and non vicarious 'experiences" . Charges are pending.

Well, there you have it.
Helen would not want to call herself the Anti-Amy.

In fact, all women who have made something of themselves in what was once pretty much a man’s world owe a debt of gratitude to women like Vanderbilt and others who put on something presentable, got out, learned a few things and maybe picked up a bargain on the way. 
Thanks Amy, we’ll take it from here!

Participating in Newbie Monday at Debbiedoos...Blogging and Blabbing


  1. Wow, how times have changed. Thanks for sharing.

    Thanks for coming by my blog. I look forward to following you too!

    Have a great week.

  2. Hello:
    Wonderful, extraordinary and so entertaining. Exactly the thing to enliven a rather grey and dull Bank Holiday Monday morning!

  3. What a neat post! Love the old books and all the info on Women. Thanks for sharing with my newbie party.

  4. Hi from one Helen to another Helen! I'm following you and found you via Debbie's newbie party! You have a fun blog!

  5. Thanks for dropping by Pam, Jane and Lance!
    Debbie, thanks for having the Newbie party.

    I don't usually do post after post about this kind of thing, but that's what I've found in thrifting lately... going out today while on vacation to whole new spots so hoping for a super find or two!

  6. Okay Dear Helen, You had me rolling on the floor! I too suffer from not having servants in the house! This was such a clever and well written post...loved it!!

  7. Thanks Susan (my sister tried to get us to call her Black eyed Susan but we preferred Lazy Susan or snake lady - long story).

  8. Update: Oh internet, you cruel purveyor of information and shopping! Posting from vacation so things a bit on the fly research wise on this one... naively I thought the few books I had were probably the bulk of the Program. How much could women need to know, after all? Nope, now I find there are at least 30!!! Of course the MUST BE MINE. What joy, another junky quest.

  9. I am here from Debbies! Cute blog! I am now a follower! Come visit!

  10. Valuable information, as always, Dear Helen. And having just bought a new pair of gloves at Atwoods Farm and Tractor Supply to better feed donkeys and goats -- have to agree that you CAN tell a lady by her gloves. Hoping you will find the rest of the Program booklets, and that there will be at least one that gives more pointers on how to be sure your parties really are popular.

  11. Deneen - am following you right back - love your blog.

    Grandma Patje - I hope those gloves at least have rick rack and maybe some bling on them! People will talk otherwise.

    Thanks Donnie and Sherry.

  12. No servants her either...too funny! Love the post and you blog. I've signed on to follow!
    Have a great day!


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