Imagine growing up and getting married in a time when sex education was nonexistent, birth control information was illegal, and ignorance about sex was considered a virtue. But even in the repressed era around the turn of the century, there were books of advice for brides-to-be. These manuals, by vaguely-qualified experts, tried to gently get newlyweds off on the right foot, while maintaining the taboo against explicit language. They had to walk a fine line between preparing a virgin for her wedding night and telling so much that she couldn't feign ignorance -which was important.
Also, knowing too much is unbecoming in a bride. Men adore the fact you're ashamed of yourself, as Karl Heinzen explains in 1891's The Rights of Women and Their Sexual Relations:
There is, indeed, another kind of shame. It is that delicate shyness which the virgin feels when she is to step beyond the boundary of virginity, as well as that feminine reserve which strives to hide or to guard her charms. This "shame" is…a natural consequence of an emotional affection upon entering a new life…it has nothing to do with the consciousness or the fear of seeing something improper disclosed, is an ornament to every woman, and its absence is a proof of dullness and coarseness. [The Rights of Women and Their Sexual Relations]
Shame isn't so adorable these days. Read more from a selection of 100-year-old marriage manuals, which are ridiculously safe for work, at mental_floss.
(Image credit: Center for Jewish History, NYC)