Let's face it - 1939 was a different time. People were only just starting to figure out how much of a jerk Hitler was and the popular thoughts around marriage in the 1930s would be shocking to most of us today. Thankfully, there was the George W. Crane marital test, a quiz designed especially for husbands and wives to help them find out just how terrible or awesome they were for their partner. Of course, any 1930s marriage test is going to be a little bit different than one you would take today. Just like beauty standards have changed over time, so too have perspectives surrounding how you should act in a marriage. Read on to learn the shocking truth about how your great-grandparents were expected to behave toward their spouses.
Despite what you might believe once you read some of the things he put on his test, George W. Crane was actually very well educated. He had both an M.D. and a PhD, and taught at Northwestern University. In addition to that, he was so interested in making good relationships happen that he wrote a nationally syndicated newspaper column called “The Worry Clinic” (this was back when everyone read newspapers) and even ran a counseling practice and matchmaking service. He was only 38 years old when he made the test in 1939, and there isn’t any evidence that he was married, or if so just how happy his union was, which you would think would be kind of important to his credibility.
Dr. Crane did attempt to make his test more scientific than anything else that was out there at the time. He came to his conclusions based on interviews he conducted with 600 men and 600 women. From these interviews he created two versions of his test, one for husbands and one for wives, and you could take it for yourself or fill it in to see how your significant other would fare (which was probably poles away from how they would score themselves). It wasn’t that different than the sort of quiz you now take if you join sites like eHarmony, but attitudes have certainly shifted a bit - and modern dating sites don’t typically call you a “failure” after you answer their questions wrong like this one does.
Dr. Crane did admit that despite the results generated from his interviews with the initial men and women, the conclusions he drew were all based on his own opinion, which tells us a lot about him and the time he was living in.
Despite looking like a sexist minefield today, in the 1930s Dr. Crane’s test was well-received. People could send away for 12 different bulletins covering how to make a good marriage, and they did - in droves. By the 1950s Crane was even using an IBM sorting machine to match people up into couples. In just three years, he claimed to have arranged over 5,000 marriages. That’s not including first dates that went nowhere, that is people who met, thought they were perfect for each other, and got hitched. Most dating websites today would love to reach those kinds of numbers.
Despite this taking place during the olden days, when we think of people as being more restrained, sex was an important part of Dr. Crane’s questionnaire. For example, a woman lost points if she typically delayed coming to bed, waiting until her husband was almost asleep (implying that she was avoiding sex by doing so). She also got marked down if she wore curlers or “too much” face cream to bed, which might turn off her husband. On the other hand, women received points if they “react with pleasure and delight to marital congress.”
Bedroom antics weren’t all on the wife, however. A husband had to pull his weight, too. He got extra points if he was an “ardent lover” and “sees that wife has orgasm in marital congress.” Sounds like it would be a lot easier for women to keep their part of the bargain if they had a husband who kept his.