A Forties sense of Propriety

One of the doyennes of decorum, etiquette and propriety in the 1940s, was Mrs Oliver Harriman.

Grace Carley of Louisville, Kentucky, was married to Oliver Harriman on January 28, 1891. While her husband ran a successful business as a stockbroker, Mrs. Harriman took an active interest in charity lotteries and served as president of the National Conference on Legalizing Lotteries. She was also president at one time of the Camp Fire Girls, and was a member of the Southern Women’s Democratic Club.

“Applying lipstick in public is supposed to outrage good taste at all times.”

“Girls, the next time you put on lip make-up in front of your mirror, just look at the gyrations you perform with your mouth. Since this ritual isn’t an attractive sight, don’t let men observe it too closely.”

I’m inclined to disagree and this is because, if applied as if it were a performance, touching up ones lipstick and powder in public, could be an hypnotic allure. However, in accordance with rituals usually performed in private, I can see where the very proper Mrs Harriman is coming from.

And then there is the very touching ‘how to’ on intimate behaviour! In an article in the Mail ‘How to kiss, 1940s style‘ based on a 1942 edition of Life magazine, it tells you avoid sprawling across the chair!

Having a sense of propriety used to be a strict etiquette thing. Nowadays, it is more of a subjective thing. When I take tea, I prefer to use a cup and saucer, take a good 45 minutes and use a teapot and loose leaves. However in the 21st century work place it is a 5 minute deal, boil the kettle, pour the water over a teabag in a mug, take mug back to work station.

Do you like the 1940s sense of propriety?

Keep your pecker up! xx

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  1. […] completed my Masters dissertation now which is rooted in the 1800s, it has been a long time since I ‘escaped’ to the 1940s. I’ve completely indulged my love of the physical book, and I fully intend for things to stay […]


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