Some of my readers have read “Feminine Appeal“, by Carolyn Mahaney. An article written in 1894 by Mrs. Ruth Smythers, a clergyman’s wife (more precisely, the “beloved wife of The Reverend L.D. Smythers, Pastor of the Arcadian Methodist Church of the Eastern Regional Conference”), is quoted disapprovingly in Chapter 5 (p.72ff) of this book.
Her article, “Instruction and Advice for the Young Bride, On the Conduct and Procedure of the Intimate and Personal Relationships of the Marriage State for the Greater Spiritual Sanctity of this Blessed Sacrament and the Glory of God,” [content warning: Rated PG-13 for extreme Victorian prudery] has also been quoted in Time Magazine. In an academic book, “Perspectives on Human Sexuality,” it is quoted as an example of Victorian attitudes. It is of course all over the Internet.
There is only one problem with this article: Mrs. Smythers didn’t exist.
The Methodist Church didn’t have an Eastern Regional Conference in 1894, and there was no Arcadian Methodist Church in it, and there was no Rev. L.D. Smythers to be in such a church if it existed. The “Madison Institute“, which allegedly published this in its newsletter, doesn’t seem to have published anything else.
Additionally, there are a number of textual clues that indicted that it was not written in 1894. One clue is that she speaks of turning out the lights in 1894: back then lights were usually put out (think about candles and gas lamps, instead of electric lights.) Also, a Methodist minister’s wife would not call marriage a “sacrament.” Protestants have only two sacraments: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
I am happy that Ms. Ruth Smythers did not exist. But not half as happy as Mr. Smythers must be.
And even though Carolyn Mahaney and her editors fell for the hoax, her book is still better than any advice given by Mrs. Ruth Smythers.