20-year olds' ideal: Perry Como, their choice, enacts perfect spouse.
Caption from LIFE. 20-year olds' ideal: Perry Como, their choice, enacts perfect spouse.Yale Joel—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
20-year olds' ideal: Perry Como, their choice, enacts perfect spouse.
He must not be impolite. Acting out the part of a rude husband, which the girls polled do not want, Perry Como sits idly in chair ignoring the lady as she staggers by weighed down down by groceries. The poll also says that husbands must not be moody, jealous, secretive, arrogant.
He must take part in sports. Acting the athletic type which girls go for, Perry is surrounded by sports equipment. Football, baseball and basketball were the sports that most girls would like a husband to indulge in but everything from walking to water skiing got some of their. votes.
He must not be domineering. Cracking the whip, Perry Como enacts the part of a husband who makes the little woman dance. Girls hate this but do want their husbands to be independent and able to stand on their own feet. However, as wives, they want to be consulted about decisions.
He must be helpful. Up to his elbows in suds (for one of the few times in his life), he shows how girls think a husband should help around the house. They also want the husband to be handy at repairing things and work in the garden. In addition he should be jolly and fun-loving.
He must take her dancing. she would like him to take her to a movie or a meal, but she insists that he take her dancing. Perry obliges, but steps on partner's toes. This is because 69% of the girls said it was not important for a husband to be a good dancer. All she requires is that he try.
He must be a good talker. Spinning a long story, Perry acts the part of an animated and interesting talkative husband, which girls admire. Asked if they preferred a man to be a listener or a talker, girls voted more than two to one for the talker but did not commit selves to listen.
He must be well read. Wearing his glasses and stretched out with a weighty book, he fulfills one requirement of the perfect husband, who must read. A husband should also have a good education, be intelligent but always willing to put his book down and jump to carry groceries.
He must like woodworking. Woodworking was the hobby most girls envisioned for their husbands. Here Perry awkwardly turns a lamp base on a lathe. On alternative evenings husbands could take up photography, leather work, painting. If they have time left, they can collect stamps.
Caption from LIFE. 20-year olds' ideal: Perry Como, their choice, enacts perfect spouse.
Yale Joel—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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This Is How Women Once Described the Ideal Husband

May 07, 2015

For a special 1956 issue on the state of the American woman, LIFE commissioned the National Field Service to poll young women about the qualities they sought in a husband. “A basic occupation of virtually every woman is choosing a man to marry,” LIFE explained, and the editors must have known that many of their male readers would be interested in data that would help them find a wife.

The women returned a long list comprising their perfect spouse's physical, intellectual and emotional attributes. Tall and blue-eyed, honest and involved in civic affairs, athletic and helpful around the house, well-read with a steady profession. They also named the qualities that turned them off: men who were bossy, possessive, domineering, egotistical, rude, stingy and unwilling to visit friends and relatives. A long and detailed list, to be sure, but the women were describing their ideal husbands, not necessarily the ones they would land in real life.

When asked to name a public figure who embodied these characteristics, singer and TV host Perry Como topped the list. Other front-runners included William Holden, Rock Hudson, Elvis Presley, Marlon Brando, James Dean and several presidents: John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. Como, who was married to his teenage sweetheart Roselle for 65 years, until her death at 84 in 1998, made the cut despite falling short (in some cases, literally) in a few categories:

Como was chosen in spite of the fact that he does not fit all of the requirements nor all of the personal characteristics girls rate high. He is 5 feet 9 ½ inches tall instead of 6 feet. His eyes are brown instead of blue and he is not 23. He almost never washes dishes.

Though he wasn’t much help in the kitchen, Como was willing to participate in one of the respondents’ top demands: dancing. More than two thirds of the women didn’t mind if their imaginary husbands had two left feet. “All she requires,” LIFE wrote, “is that he try.”

Life Before Equal Pay Day: Portrait of a Working Mother in the 1950s

Jennie Magrill with her family in the background.
Jennie Magill with her family in the background.Grey Villet—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Jennie Magrill with her family in the background.
Working mother Jennie Magill shopping with her children at the super market.
Jennie and Jim Magill in the kitchen.
Jennie Magill and family in the kitchen.
Wifely kiss is Jim's reward for helping with the dishes.
Jennie Magill at work.
Companionable lunch with the girls from store is lots better, says Jennie, than a sandwich in solitude at home. "Through Jennie's friends at work," says Jim, "I've met a lot of people I wouldn't have met otherwise."
Her work is a source of pride to Jim. "She' has done a terrific job. And when i tell her about my work she doesn't brush it off."
Going home, Jim always picks Jennie up at Carson Pirie Scott branch. The ride home is a chance to talk without domestic distractions.
Jennie and Jim Magill coming home from work.
Taking over the family reins when she gets home, Jennie holds Jackie, 2, who tests cake which he "helped" housekeeper Sophia Flewelling (left) to bake. Sophie runs household smoothly while parents are gone.
Jennie Magill and family.
Jennie Magill ironing with her daughter.
Jennie Magill with her children.
Jennie Magill comforting her crying daughter.
Jennie Magill with her children.
Jennie Magill reading a story to her children.
Bill-paying is disagreeable, but it reminds them of how well they live because Jennie works. "It's nice not to have that lost feeling," says Jim. "Now when we see a piece of furniture we want, we buy it."
Jennie Magill kisses her children goodbye.
Jennie Magill with her family in the background.
Grey Villet—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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