Question. How has your life changed since you discovered the Total Woman principles? First you put them into practice yourself. Then you began to share them with others in the Total Woman program. And then the book skyrocketed the thing.

Answer. I’m a very home-oriented person. I mean, I’m a wife and mother first and foremost, and I am determined to keep my priorities in order to meet the needs of my family and myself. This career that has now been thrust upon me requires a lot of time, but it’s last on my priority list. So I work a lot harder.

Q. Do you limit the number of weeks you’re out traveling and giving lectures?

A. I don’t travel very much. Last year I went on a seventeen-city promotional campaign for Pocket Books, and I’ll never do that again! It’s just too much time away from home. So now I teach my classes twice a year, two days at a time, for a total of four days away from home. I also have teachers who are out teaching Total Woman classes.

‘My career as president of Total Woman is last on my list of priorities. First and foremost I am a wife and mother.’

Q. Your husband is your business manager and the vice-president of Total Woman, Incorporated. Does this contradict what your book is saying?

A. In what way?

Q. Because you stress the wife’s home orientation and the husband’s headship. Normally a business manager works under the person for whom he or she is working.

A. Charlie and I are a team, and he definitely is my leader. He’s my husband and he’s the head of the family. But I never did say that women shouldn’t go out to work. It’s my personal conviction that a woman should not work if she has little children, because I think they need their mommy right there at home, and I really feel that being a home executive is a full-time job. However, some women who are well educated and have great energy can combine a home and a career. Not everybody can. I can’t say who can and who can’t. But I think if a woman is married, her home life definitely takes priority over her career. In my case, the career is shared with Charlie, who carries the brunt of the heavy work, and I have the joy of talking to women—which is not even a job to me.

Q. So making a home should be a married woman’s first priority?

A. I believe that if a woman gets married, by an act of her will she’s taking on this responsibility. For her to shirk it in order to pursue her career is very sad.

Q. Do you get static on this from the women who come to your classes?

A. I would say most women who hold a strong contrary opinion do not come. We’ve had a number of “liberated women,” and they’re very pleased. One woman who was a member of the NOW group in her area said, “Why, this is exactly what we’re promoting—getting organized, expressing yourself, and being your own person. You just say it a little bit differently than I do!” Who can knock getting organized and developing yourself to the very best? Some women who have had a bitter marital relationship feel burned, so they’re not going to embrace the principle of adapting to your husband very readily. But most women come because they want to learn something.

Article continues below

Q. Couldn’t you say the same thing about your husband—that his first responsibility is also the home and that his relationship with you is more important than his career?

A. I said that for six and a half years. I told him every chance I had, “Charlie, I am number one, and you should do thus and so.” But as I understand it, a man wants his family, and he wants to come home to his haven, but in his manly heart is a drive to excel and to create. It’s not that the family is second; it’s just that it’s over there. At first I was jealous of that. I’m not anymore. I know he loves me, but he loves his job, too. I mean, he’s an aggressive man.

Q. In some households the woman has a career while the man is a “househusband” and takes care of the home. Do you think that this is inappropriate?

A. It’s a free country. But I do think that arrangement is inappropriate, because the Bible says for wives to be “keepers at home” (Titus 2:4, 5). Paul did not say, “Husbands, be keepers at home.” The Scripture teaches that women are to be responsible wives and mothers and to make a home. I love doing it! But some women don’t. They don’t want to make meals. They don’t want to clean the house. They don’t want to raise kids. That’s fine. They don’t have to.

Q. But then they shouldn’t get married?

A. That’s right. Unless they find a man who just adores doing all those wifely things.

Q. What about couples who decide not to have children? Should marriage always imply child-rearing?

A. Oh, no. I don’t think that. If people don’t want to have children, that’s their privilege. I just feel that if a couple decide they do want children, they’re responsible for them.

Q. Do you think that after the children are a certain age the woman should feel free to take a job outside the home?

A. Sure, if she wants to. Some women don’t want to, and it’s very sad that the propaganda from women’s magazines is insinuating that she doesn’t have a brain or that she’s put it on a shelf or that she’s a non-person because she enjoys making a home. I resent that. On the other hand, if a woman has the knowledge to give the world a Salk vaccine, she should do it. But not at the expense of her family.

Article continues below

Q. How old do you think children should be before the mother takes a job outside the home?

A. I really don’t know. My children are six and eleven. My friends who have teen-agers say that they are more needed in the home now than they were when their children were little, that the mother’s presence in the home is very much needed as the kids get older. I believe that’s true.

Q. The percentage of working women in America seems to be continually increasing.

A. I think that there is a great pressure on women today to get out into the business world and get a job and there find salvation. The women I’ve talked to who are out on a nine-to-five job and whose little kids may be going to pot say they’ve found that the answer is not necessarily there. Nor is the answer necessarily staying home and doing the laundry. We know that the answer is in Jesus Christ. And I think he calls us to be responsible wherever we are. I think the issue is not whether the woman should go out to work or not but whether her priorities are in order. I was not working when I first married Charlie, but I was out doing a lot of philanthropic things and involved in a lot of activities and by 4:30 in the afternoon I was just cross-eyed, I was so tired. When he came home, I was grouchy. My priorities were all turned around. First of all, I’m a person responsible to God, and if I go to him first and get squared away with him in the morning. I’ve got his power flowing through me. And secondly. I’m a partner to Charlie; if I meet his needs and then my children’s needs as a parent (my third priority), then I’ve got energy and ability to tackle that fourth priority, the public and my profession.

Q. A lot of women and men feel that the cost of living requires two incomes in many households. Many people can’t afford to buy a home, for instance, with just the husband’s income. Could a woman who has to go out to work still apply your principles if she kept her priorities in order?

A. Sure. I think the principles apply whether you work outside your home or not. However, I think Americans are accustomed to many things that are not necessities but luxuries. And though many families have two incomes, many don’t. A lot of women are just bored with the diapers and the routine, and they want to get out of the home. You can’t generalize. But the whole emphasis of Total Woman is attitude. If I work outside the home and come home as a grouch, things aren’t going to be steady and serene in my household. But if I come home and have a good attitude and am cheerful—that’s going to make for a nice evening. So whether you work or not, you can be cheery. And if you work outside your home, the principle of organization comes into play.

Article continues below

Q. Couldn’t many of your principles be turned around and applied to the husband? Husbands come home grouchy. And the husband’s primary commitment to the family is as important as the wife’s. Aren’t you simply saying that there are Christian principles that teach you to have concern for the other person above your own concerns? Is it uniquely the woman’s responsibility to feel this way?

A. No, it isn’t uniquely her responsibility. What you just said is the whole essence: “preferring one another” (Rom. 12:10). It’s the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” As a woman writing to women, naturally I said, “Look, you have the power to swing things around. You have the power to set a good atmosphere.” Recently I met a young man who had read the book and thought, “Hey, I ought to do this for my wife!” So he decided that he was going to get a good atmosphere going. Whichever one does it, it’s super that one did it. The principles I talk about are not really Total Woman principles; they’re just good manners.

Q. You give the impression that it’s the woman’s responsibility to subject herself to her husband and submit her concerns to his. On the other hand, you say things that indicate that husbands should adapt themselves to their wives as well. In Ephesians 5:21 Paul prefaces the passage about wives being in subjection to their husbands by the statement, “Be subject to one another in the Lord.”

A. You’re right. But I knew how a woman reacts. If I had said, “Be subject one to another,” she would have said, “Got that, Harry?” It wouldn’t have worked. She would have missed it, and she would have put it right back on his back. And some women are married to men who don’t care anymore.

Q. Total Woman was originally intended for the non-Christian reader, not for the Christian, was it not?

A. Totally. It was directed to a friend of mine who doesn’t even believe there’s a God. My whole purpose was to get her attention so that I could help her to find life.

Article continues below

Q. Even though it was written for non-Christians, the Christian public soon caught on. Christian bookstores began selling it, though some stowed it under the counter. It’s more explicit about sex than most evangelical books are—or at least used to be. What has the reaction been?

A. For two and a half years I taught Total Woman classes before the book came out. I never dreamed of writing a book; I was just telling everybody what I knew. My classes were in Baptist churches, Presbyterian churches, Methodist churches, all sorts of churches. I think here and there there might have been a little old lady who said, “Naughty, naughty!” But most women just loved it. And their husbands would smile at me in church or call me on the phone and say, “Thank you!”

Q. In your book you stress the importance of sex in marriage. Husband and wives are to enjoy it. Does anything go, so to speak, as long as it is within the bonds of marriage? Some have understood you to imply this and have taken strong exception to the idea.

A. I’m not a doctor or a psychologist or a theologian. All I know is that the Bible says “marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled” (Heb. 13:4). How can I add to that? I mean, it’s right there—“the bed undefiled.” I believe that God wants sex between a man and his wife to be enjoyable and thrilling. His complete blessing and sanction is on the sex act—in marriage—and that’s about all I can say.

Q. You quote Ann Landers as saying, “When a marriage goes on the rocks, the rocks are usually in the mattress.” You seem to say that sex is the most important factor for preserving the marriage and giving satisfaction. Is it really the most important?

A. There are many couples who probably have a super-duper sex relationship but whose marriage breaks up. Sex alone is not going to hold it together. Only God can hold two people together. If you have two egos clashing, sooner or later one’s going to say “So long!” and take off on his own. Only the Lord can weld two egos into one. It isn’t that sex holds it together. But sex is very, very important. Let’s say a man and woman have everything else going really great for them—they’re both believers and everything else is right—but their sex relationship is poor or even nonexistent. I think that union is headed for trouble. I know for a fact that some Christian women become so spiritually minded that they say, “Well, I have risen above that!” They get so absorbed in the Scriptures that they don’t meet their husbands’ sexual needs anymore. That kind of marriage is headed for trouble.

Article continues below

Q. Do some women who attend the seminars or write to you feel they are not supposed to enjoy sex?

A. Scores. It’s a major problem. Many women need permission in their brain to accept sex as God’s gift. I have had so many Christian women come to me and say, “My mother told me it was dirty all my life, you know, and suddenly I got married, and I was supposed to change gears but couldn’t. But I realize now that God ordained this and that he desires for us to have a wonderful union.” Now they’re freed up.

Q. The climate of opinion is increasingly in favor of premarital intercourse. How do we prepare our children for the pressures they will face as teen-agers without seeming to endorse the world’s approach?

A. Someone has said that the best sex education a child can have is to see a loving relationship between his mother and father, to see them show their affection—discreetly, of course. When I was growing up I never saw a good marriage. And I think a lot of young people think, “I won’t get married because my parents are miserable, but I will certainly have fun as far as sex goes.” As for verbal sex education: my eleven-year-old knows all about sex. I am sad that it has to be this way—here she is, just a child. But I’ve told her because I want her to hear in a wholesome manner how God planned for men and women to love one another and out of that love union to bring children into the world. I tell her all the facts and hope that, because she has Christ in her, she will want to obey him and go his way.

Q. You speak about this “wonderful relationship” that husbands and wives are supposed to have and the “wonderful relationship” you have with Charlie. Do you have any problems?

Unless a man adores doing wifely things—cooking, cleaning, raising kids—a woman should be the homekeeper.

A. Sure do. Every day. Life is a struggle. You can tell I’m a real loudmouth, and my ego wants to do it my way. So of course we have problems. He’s a wonderful man, and maybe I don’t have as many problems as some women; but life is full of problems. It’s certainly not paradise in our house, but it’s miles closer than it used to be. I think we would have always stayed together, because he’s a fine Christian and wouldn’t have wanted to divorce me. But in his heart he might have divorced me, because I was badgering him to death.

Q. You were married six years before you discovered these principles?

A. Yes. I nagged Charlie for about six and a half years. Then one night I realized that I couldn’t change him and that I was silly to keep trying. I could only change myself. And I got all excited inside thinking what a fantastic challenge lay ahead of me. I was really determined to get to work on it. Over a period of about a year, a complete turnaround took place in our marriage.

Article continues below

Q. So it didn’t happen overnight?

A. No. However, the first week, when I stopped nagging him and began to accept him just as he was, I saw some dramatic results. He began to talk to me when he came in the door at night. He began to be romantic. And when we passed each other in the house, he would smile at me. So that first week really stunned me.

Q. How do you answer the charge that you encourage women to use their weakness to manipulate men? That you give in to Charlie so that ultimately you get your own way?

A. Some people have thought of Total Woman as just a manipulative tool. It depends upon your motive. Two women can do the same thing, like making lovely meals for their husbands, for vastly different reasons. One woman is thinking, I’ll make him a nice fried-chicken dinner because I’m going to ask him for fifty dollars tonight. It’s all wrong, and chances are he will see that as soon as she asks him. If you’re giving to get, that’s manipulation, and it won’t work. But in Total Woman, I point out that you must give with no thought that you’re going to get in return. It just means giving because you love the guy. I don’t think husbands can resist that kind of love. They’re going to want to give love back in kind.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.