You could be forgiven for thinking the most famous, and the favourite poster-girl for women’s choices and lifestyle in the 1960s was feminist writer and activist, Betty Friedan. However, some 5 million+ book sales on marriage advice penned by a very happy suburban housewife may actually prove otherwise!
Allow me to introduce Fascinating Womanhood, a grassroots movement in support of housewives and traditional marriage which began in 1960s Missouri, USA. At the time, an antidote to second wave feminism, its teachings are entirely alien to the majority of women today, but is still proving itself (quietly) popular nonetheless. The movement has been bubbling away for over 50 years, and is now enjoying a fresh new revival among a younger generation of wives and homemakers. Something I couldn’t be happier about!
I know I’m often mocked and criticised for “romanticising” the ‘50s and ‘60s as an ideal time for housewives, and while that isn’t strictly true, (I only refer to the good parts), I do stand by the fact that we had stronger role-models fighting our corner in those days. You only need to watch the car-crash that is “Mrs. America”, a recently dramatised series covering the work of Phyllis Schlafly vs. the ERA to know this (and conversely wonder why we no longer have women like this in the public eye). However, we’re not here to talk about her today. Instead, I’d like to introduce you to a woman who corresponded with Mrs. Schalfly often and you could say, even paved the way!
Enter Helen Andelin, founder of The Fascinating Womanhood Movement. A devoted wife of 57 years, mother of eight, grandmother to 60 (yes, sixty), housewife, and author of international bestseller, Fascinating Womanhood. Mrs Andelin took inspiration from a set of informational pamphlets printed in the 1920’s intended for single and newly married women. She set up workshops teaching ladies how to inspire deeply romantic relationships with their husbands, acting as a marriage mentor to many, and in her spare time went on to write a comprehensive guide for wives regarding their role within their marriage, understanding men, and how to empower yourself as a woman without masculinising yourself in the process. This book claims to have been saving relationships for 50+ years, and having read it, I can see why!
We have been spun a lie through second wave feminism that women are perfect, and it’s men that always need to change! When in fact, it takes two to tango and make a marriage work, and the matriarch is often the one who can inspire change in her family. Your actions and words have consequences not only in life, and your career, but your marriage too! I think we’ve forgotten that somehow, and Helen Andelin reminds women of this. She also agrees that men are not the enemy, simply “wired” differently, and learning to speak their language, and what inspires them is the first step in the foundations of a healthy marriage.
They say that “men are from Mars, and women are from Venus”, and that, figuratively, is absolutely right. Different planets, different rules. Men and women are not the same, but they are of equal value, and they are intended to be complementary. Fascinating Womanhood provides welcome relief in modern times in that it teaches how your femininity can inspire your husband to be a great and honourable man, and thus create a secure and stable marriage and family for you all.
It’s ok to be a woman, it’s ok to love that feminine, nurturing, flirtatious, girlish side of yourself, and it’s ok to use it! It’s also more than ok to encourage your husband in his masculinity, and for him to lead the family. When he has a supportive wife right by his side, that ship will sail smoothly and stay on course, compared to her frantically paddling in a different direction. That’s not to say she doesn’t decide on the destination with him, helping too with the maps, she just doesn’t argue with him in the engine room or at the wheel. She’s busy acting as “lifejacket” for the passengers they call children, and making sure there are no proverbial holes in the boat they call home.
What is Fascinating Womanhood?
I have long held the suspicion that not everyone was, nor is, as enthused about second, and even third wave radical feminism as we have been led to believe. Helen Andelin sure wasn’t keen on it either. Women’s civil rights nor their rights to work are ever in question under the guidance of Fascinating Womanhood, or indeed The Darling Academy’s, but the loss of the importance and reverence for a wife and mother’s role in the home certainly is. This sadly has been the fallout of the feminist movements. We no longer value women performing such a vital role for her immediate family.
Nor is the modern feminist mindset something we all wish to sign up for, which is why we are seeing a consistent rise to the #femininenotfeminist, #femininefamily and my very own #ApronCladArmy hashtags on social media. Particularly among young 20-something women disillusioned by the “lifestyle choices” (or lack thereof) available to them in 2020. Ladies around the world are waking up to the fact that she doesn’t want to dominate in a man’s world, but instead live side by side with her spouse, in harmony, at home, and have him love her for who she is! Not who she pretended to be by downplaying her femininity.
This is where feminism hasn’t served us particularly well. It may have gotten us ahead in the workplace, but it put us all on the back-foot at home - where life truly matters.
The message of FW has absolutely nothing to do with racial supremacy (as the smear campaigners would have you believe), or wives becoming doormats, but everything to do with supporting generation after generation of wives wishing to reclaim what makes them different from their husbands. It helps them both step into complementary roles within their marriages and homes - far away from the blurred lines and gender-based competition of the workforce.
The popularity of Fascinating Womanhood continues to prove that not all women believe that acting like men will make her happier, help her get ahead, or get her closer to her goals. Especially if what she truly wants is a husband, a home, and a family. Alena Kate Pettitt
Having taken up the banner since her mother’s passing, Mrs. Andelin’s daughter Dixie Andelin Forsyth, has written a sequel to reflect the changes in modern culture, while remaining true to the original values and teachings of Fascinating Womanhood. There has been a lot of criticism of the methods in Fascinating Womanhood, but Dixie’s books approach these head on. If you’re interested in reading these updates for yourself then Fascinating Womahood for the Timeless Woman comes highly recommended.
A favourite revision is that of Mrs. Andelin advising women that they shouldn’t wear denim jeans/pants/trousers. Taken out of context, this appears outdated, but think outside the box for a moment and place yourself in the era in which Andelin was writing. In those days the only trousers you could get were workmen’s jeans that had to be purchased from a hardware store! They were later popular with teenagers of the time, and as you can imagine wouldn’t exactly be seen as appropriate, feminine, nor becoming on a mother. Your clothes say a lot about you, and express your values, so there was nothing more to it than that! What is so wrong with wanting to look attractive to your spouse anyway?
I’m fortunate to have collaborated with Dixie on a video for the Fascinating Womanhood YouTube channel which is absolutely full of pearls of wisdom and practical demonstrations from the books.
It has been wonderful to connect with a woman whose teachings are closely aligned with The Darling Academy’s values, and flies the flag for a beautiful family legacy.
What’s funny is at the time of recording, Dixie and I were both wearing skinny jeans! The times and the fashions may have changed, but as you’ll see, the core values have not. Not for a growing community of women anyhow…
These women believe “home comes first”. Amen to that, long may there be a revival of traditional family values!
A chat with Dixie Andelin Forsyth discussing womanhood, the importance of etiquette, and traditional family values.
More from Fascinating Womahood
If you are interested in learning more about the legacy of Helen Andelin, and her daughter Dixie’s work today, please visit them over at www.fascinatingwomanhood.com
I sincerely hope you liked our chat, and you’re welcome to join our community over on Facebook to discuss this with likeminded women.
Affiliate links have been used in this post. Video and image rights belong to the Andelin family and were used with permission.