Last Friday I held an online colloquium with my girlfriend to discuss Fascinating Womanhood, as a free session in my Zion Finishing School. My girlfriend, Leah, is the great niece of Helen Andelin, the author of Fascinating Womanhood. Helen Andelin was LDS, born in 1920, and published FW in 1963. We had sooo much fun discussing the book! About 11 women showed up, and out of those 11, we had all read all of the book or parts of it, I I recall correctly, but only one person had done the assignments in the book.
I learned the following from reading the book, participating in the colloquium, doing and Internet search about Helen and the book, and talking to Leah after the colloquium was over to get even more juicy tidbits.
-Orson Pratt is quoted in the book as saying that if you don’t follow your husband, then you lose the Spirit of God. I must add a disclaimer to that, by paraphrasing Pres. Spencer Kimball. He said not to follow your husband into an evil pit. It is up to you to be in tune with the Spirit to know whether or not you should be following your husband.
-Helen wrote the book because she felt her own husband was too controlling. She no longer felt cherished in her marriage although she felt loved. She was discouraged about her marriage and happened to find a set of pamphlets in her attic about marriage and how to treat a man. These pamphlets were written a long time ago and they inspired her to write Fascinating Womanhood. A newspaper article I found online about Helen said that she also fasted and prayed and read the Bible and the Book of Mormon to get answers to help her marriage.
–FW is one of those things that sounds a little corny at first but I say, don’t knock it until you try it. Women who criticize it probably don’t have a man who utterly adores them. I am willing to guarantee that they aren’t enjoying Celestial Love. This is the love that Helen wants her readers to have by applying the principles in her book. Your girlfriend may be spouting off all the reasons she doesn’t like the book, but if you ask her husband about his feelings he probably isn’t happy in the marriage and doesn’t absolutely adore her.
-For a long time I have not taken FW seriously, thinking, “Oh, its ideas are kind of cheesy and some of them even seem deceptive and manipulative.” I based that on my reading of the companion book, The Fascinating Girl. But after hearing other women talk about FW and now that I have read well into the book, I am thinking, “Maybe I should actually do these assignments. Maybe my husband and I would be happier in our marriage if I did these things.” We have a good marriage, but if it can be greater, I want that! In other words, you can be right, or you can have a man who worships the ground you walk on, but you can’t have both. If your marriage is having problems, I highly recommend the book.(I still disagree with some of the book, though, the part about acting dumb about mechanical things, if you really are smart about them. I think it is manipulative to act dumb about them when you want your husband to take over the work involved with them.)
– What is Celestial Love, a love we can all achieve in our marriages? This quote from Victor Hugo in the FW book depicts Celestial Love beautifully:
Do I exist for my own personal happiness? No, my whole existence is devoted to her, even in spite of her. And by what right should I have dared to aspire to her love? What does it matter, so that it does not injure her happiness? My duty is to keep close to her steps, to surround her existence with mine, to serve her as a barrier against all dangers; to offer my head as a stepping stone, to place myself unceasingly between her and all sorrows, without claiming reward, without expecting recompense…Alas! If she only allow me to give my life to anticipating her every desire, all her caprices; if she but permit me to kiss with respect her adored footprints; if she but consent to lean upon me at times amidst the difficulties of life.
-Leah said she used to ask Helen, “What do you do about all these people (feminists) who write mean and nasty stuff about you?” Helen responded with, “I just feel sorry for them that they will never feel the joy that I am feeling.”
-Helen tells the readers in FW that there are certain behaviors that a wife does not have to accept from a man. She says exactly what to do if your husband is mistreating you or the children. Contrary to popular opinion, this book is not about being a doormat.
-all of the human characteristics that Helen recommends to perfect your “human” side of Angela Human is to bring out the protective feelings, worshipfulness, and adoration of your husband towards you. If you let your husband walk over you, then he won’t feel those tender feelings. The humanness was to help Helen and other women who had/have too controlling husbands to let their husbands know that wasn’t right in a playful, yet powerful way.
-Helen based her Angela Human idea on her grandmother, named Anna Mariah, a very sweet woman who lived the ideal of Angela Human. Leah said she was very righteous and incredibly gentle, yet powerful. This grandmother absolutely loved babies and always had a baby to hold, either hers or a borrowed one, after she stopped having her own babies.
-The two key ideas in FW are to 1. accept your husband at face value, and 2. use childlike anger when he does something wrong. There is power in girlishness, tears, and sauciness.
-You don’t have to wear a housedress to practice FW. Leah says the principle is to dress feminine. She wears jeans when she is at home, especially when cleaning the house, but wears a feminine top. The idea is to dress femininely, but that doesn’t mean you have to wear a dress or a skirt everyday.
-Childlike anger doesn’t feel natural to a lot of people. Leah said if it doesn’t, don’t force it. Some people are naturally hams, like she is, so it comes naturally to them. She says just state clearly and honestly that you felt hurt because of such and such that your husband did. Then let it go and give him room to repent. Don’t keep harping on it.
-FW is so much deeper than Fascinating Girl. I wish I had read Fascinating Womanhood when I first started my marriage and then continued to reread it over the years and applied the ideas. I feel like saying, “I have been so wrong in avoiding this book.” It makes me wonder what else I have been discounting in my life that would actually benefit me if I looked into it and actually did it.
-Leah said that she grew up with the ideas of FW. She would go to family reunions with “Aunt Helen.” Even though these reunions involved camping Aunt Helen would also look clean and feminine. She would wear jeans but they were feminine and she always had feminine touches, like really cute sandals. At the reunions they would always have FW classes for the girls and women.
-Leah has an older half sister by fifteen years who always pooh-poohed these classes and FW. Now that she’s on her fourth marriage, she is finally seeing that there might be some truth in FW.
-The older edition of the book I have is selling used on Amazon for $100! I got it at D.I. for $4.
-I want to get the newest edition because it has an index. It also has a chapter on physical intimacy in marriage, which isn’t in the first edition, as far as I can tell.
-I found a blog written by a FW believer. Go here http://lifeasafascinatingwoman.blogspot.com
-Here is an interesting news article, which includes an interview with Helen:
I like this picture because it reminds me that even things that aren’t perfect can be beautiful, just like ourselves and our marriages.