Remedies for the housewife’s nervousness: Life advice in Abraham Myerson’s popular self-help texts, 1920–1930

A new open-access piece in the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences will interest AHP readers: “Remedies for the housewife’s nervousness: Life advice in Abraham Myerson’s popular self-help texts, 1920–1930,” by Matthew J. McLaughlin. Abstract:

In 1920, the psychiatrist Abraham Myerson published a self-help book titled The Nervous Housewife. In his book, he argued that the living conditions in urban-industrial America were responsible for a significant increase in the number of housewives who suffered from nervous symptoms. He also warned that women were consequently becoming increasingly discontent with the role and were beginning to desire a life outside motherhood and housewifery. Accordingly, The Nervous Housewife offered housewives and their husbands directions on how to improve her living conditions. This would allow readers to manage and prevent the emergence of nervous symptoms so that women would continue to desire a life as housewife and mother. Throughout the 1920s, Myerson would continue to publish health advice for housewives on how they could manage and eliminate their nervous symptoms. This article analyzes how Myerson connected the everyday experiences and conditions of the housewife’s life to her nervousness in his texts and reveals how his motivation was to keep women satisfied with what he deemed was their proper societal role, that of housewife and mother. In doing so, it will also compare his work to other self-help texts on nervousness to illuminate how his how-to guide was innovative, while examining both scholarly and popular reviews of his book to reveal what his peers and readers perceived as the benefits of his advice.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.