Hundred-year-old Advice for Where to Place Hands When Dancing

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, January 12, 1914: Pretty cold today.

I don't think people wore fancy clothes like this at dances in rural Pennsylvania, but it nicely illustrates the post. ( Photo source: Ladies Home Journal: April, 1914)

I don’t think people wore fancy clothes like this at dances in rural Pennsylvania, but it nicely illustrates the post. ( Photo source: Ladies Home Journal: April, 1914)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Since Grandma didn’t write much a hundred years ago today, my thoughts keep going back to the dance she went to the previous Friday.  .  .

The February, 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal had some recommendations for where the man should place his hand when dancing:

The Man’s Hand in Dancing

Since the mania for dancing is so prevalent, and all decent people are anxious to check the present indecent tendencies in the dances, may we suggest to parents and to all dancing teachers that the proper place, laid down by all good authorities in the art of dancing, for the man’s right hand is at the woman’s waist-line and not in the middle of her back?

This may seem like a small and incidental point in good dancing, bit it has much to do not only with the morality of the dance, but with its graces as well, to say nothing of his partner’s dress incidental to his perspiring hands. . . .

23 Responses

  1. I wonder why it seemed more moral to have a man place his hand at a woman’s waist-line rather than in the middle of her back?

  2. My goodness. If the author of that article could see some of the dancing these days….

  3. I think the man in the background is the most interesting. He seems ready to move in. His face is so intent.

    • I agree… and reckon he’s about to give the other bloke the “tap on the shoulder” and take his place ;-) Looks a bit anxious though, and is he wringing his hands?… mmmhhh

  4. Oh my (or should I say OMG!) doesn’t this quote sum up just how long ago 100 years really was…

  5. Goodness. This is so sweet but do you think it would go over in today’s society? I think not. :(

  6. “…all decent people are anxious to check the present indecent tendencies…”

    Some things don’t change much over the years.

  7. So proper, but I get the ‘whole I don’t want his hand perspiring on my dress’ bit. :)

  8. It is such a pleasure to join you each day and be a part of Grandma’s life, and YOURS!

  9. You find such great tidbits about societal ways 100 years ago! The hand in the middle of the back – Scandalous!

  10. Times sure have changed!

  11. Hah, this is actually funny when looked at by today’s standards. :(

  12. I have to laugh at the pointy shoes worn by the man dancing, I cannot imagine my husband wearing pointy shoes :) Annie

  13. Imagine if these people could have been, magically, transferred to today’s dancing…with all the lights and the jumping around..

  14. My reaction was the same as Dianna’s, if they could see how “far” we’ve come.

  15. […] The previous day Grandma wrote that it was cold outside. Since she didn’t have much to say a hundred years ago today, I’ll share a joke (and the illustration) about suffragettes in the January, 1914 issue of Ladies Home Journal. […]

  16. It seems to me that with his hand on her waist, he’s less likely to actually touch any bare s-k-I-n… :roll: What a scandal that would be!!!

  17. Love this pictures Thank you for sharing

  18. Ooh, that other fellow in the picture looks quite jealous! I wonder if young men nowadays know where to place their hands while dancing;0) I cannot not see myself dancing in such a lovely but tight, long dress without making a spectacle of myself whilst tripping and stumbling;0) Lovely post!

  19. Oh my, you’ve gotta love that hundred year old advice, it’s precious! :)

  20. Very Downton Abby formal isn’t it. I guess those Aristocrats just loved to dress for everything, including breakfast.

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