Twentieth Century Advice Literature | Alexander Street
Twentieth Century Advice Literature

Twentieth Century Advice Literature

North American Guides on Race, Gender, Sex, and the Family

Twentieth Century Advice Literature brings together more than 150,000 pages of rare material to provide a reflection on historical American attitudes towards race, citizenship, education, work, sex, gender roles, life cycles, family, and religion.

Twentieth Century Advice Literature brings together more than 150,000 pages of rare material to provide a reflection on historical American attitudes towards race, citizenship, education, work, sex, gender roles, life cycles, family, and religion.

Alexander Street Press’s rich collection of popular culture documents makes available traditionally published items, including how-to books and guides; professional and employee manuals; society publications, among them sorority and fraternity pledge manuals and Boy Scout and Girl Scout manuals; textbooks discussing home economics, health and hygiene, and sex education; teacher-training and course manuals; commercial literature; and government instruction manuals for various workplaces and industries. And because much of the content was distributed by organizations only to their members without being cataloged, more than a third of the materials in the database have never before been seen in the academic sphere.

The advice publications within the collection serve as a lens through which to study the evolving culture. Materials provide direct and often entertaining evidence of how society grappled with issues such as war, technology, education, leisure, consumerism, and class and race relations. In plain language accessible to all, advice literature gives detailed accounts of how people conformed, or failed to conform, to societal expectations of the time.

Resources in Twentieth Century Advice Literature allow students and researchers to investigate topics such as:

  • How wars—including World War I, World War II, and the Korean War—affected the lives of men and women on the home front and in the battlefield
    • Etiquette and Ceremonies of the Stars and Stripes: National and Personal Salute Required by the United States Army Regulations(1915)
    • Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain (1942)
    • How To Write Interesting Letters to Your Men in the Service(1943)
    • The Airman's Handbook (1951)
  • Citizenship in different contexts
    • How To Become a Naturalized Citizen of the United States (1907)
    • What To Do for Uncle Sam: A First Book of Citizenship (1923)
    • D.A.R. Manual for Citizenship (1935)
    • The American Citizens Handbook (1941)
    • You and Your Community (1968)
  • The daily experiences of women and children
    • The Blue Book of Etiquette for Women: A Guide to Conduct and Dress on All Occasions (1907)
    • Hand-book for Girls, by the United States Rubber Company (1923)
    • How To Be a Successful Hostess (1930)
    • Teacher's Guide for Being Teen-Agers (1950)
    • How To Become a More Popular Hostess (1954)
    • Betty Crocker's Guide to Easy Entertaining (1959)
    • Family Camping, by Better Homes and Gardens (1961)
  • Women’s rights, sex, and gender relations
    • How To Be Happy While Single (1949)
    • Sex Attitudes in the Home (1956)
    • The Sexual Responsibility of Woman (1956)
  • Race relations
    • Speaking of Negro Masonry (1966)
    • How the Negro Can Start His Own Business (1968)
    • American Indian Civil Rights Handbook (1980)
  • The role of religion
    • Catholic Girl's Manual and Sunday Missal (1952)
    • Your Christian Wedding (1966)
    • Handbook for Catholics (1995)
  • Perspectives on the American Dream
    • Health, Wealth, and Happiness (1892)
    • How to Enjoy Life (1943)
    • A Guide to Your Life Round Table on the Pursuit of Happiness(1948)
  • Representations of other cultures
    • How To Prepare for Europe (1909)
    • A Pocket Guide to Viet-Nam (1965)
    • American Women's Club Handbook for Iran (1971)


Collectively, these documents encapsulate the evolution of the American psyche and will be of interest to scholars of American history, cultural studies, leisure studies, human ecology, family and consumer studies, gender studies, literature, psychology, religion, diversity, sociology, language, and linguistics. 

All literature in the collection has been digitized to allow for both key word searching and page-by-page viewing. Furthermore, all text has been deeply indexed by subject, author data, and original intended audience. As a result, students and scholars can frame creative and highly targeted queries, then instantly view related artifacts.

Guides are organized in categories including business, finance, and professional life; character and self-improvement; citizenship; education and student life; health, hygiene, and personal appearance; home management; leisure activities and entertaining; parenting and child rearing; sex, love, and marriage; social etiquette; social organizations; and travel and foreign customs.

Publication details

Twentieth Century Advice Literature is available on the Web, either through one-time purchase of perpetual rights or through annual subscription.