The surprising sexism in Think and Grow Rich

Think and Grow Rich was written in 1938 by Napoleon Hill and is one of the most successful personal development books ever written – selling more than 60 million copies worldwide. It is a true classic and ranks on just about every “top 10” list of must read business and success books that I see even today.

I’ve read the book a number of times and still recommend it to anyone – but perhaps they should stick to the modern version. You see a couple of weeks back, I read the original edition from 1938 which is available as a free pdf. The main principles are the same of course, but I found some of the language and references slightly shocking by today’s standards.

Here’s a few samples:

Despite the fact that men are polygamous, by the very nature of their biological inheritance, it is true that no woman has as great an influence on a man as his wife, unless he is married to a woman totally unsuited to his nature. If a woman permits her husband to lose interest in her, and become more interested in other women, it is usually because of her ignorance, or indifference toward the subjects of sex, love, and romance.

Man’s greatest motivating force is his desire to please woman!  The hunter who excelled during prehistoric days, before the dawn of civilization, did so, because of his desire to appear great in the eyes of woman. Man’s nature has not changed in this respect. The “hunter” of today brings home no skins of wild animals, but he indicates his desire for her favor by supplying fine clothes, motor cars, and wealth

Take women out of their lives, and great wealth would be useless to most men. It is this inherent desire of man to please woman, which gives woman the power to make or break a man.

That’s just a small sample, but there were a number of other similar sort of comments splattered throughout the book. I don’t remember those when I’ve read it the book previously – but perhaps that’s down to a poor memory.

In the end, you really have to look past the politically incorrect and sometimes sexist statements to get the real essence of his advice – which is well-intended and valuable. The book was written in a different time with a completely different way of thinking. If it makes it easier, perhaps read it in the voice of your old granddad or if not, perhaps look for a more up to date version.

One comment

  1. I can’t believe this is the only webpage I found mentioning anything about this. What he said about homeless women was the absolute worst. Women on the streets are sold into slavery or have to stay with abusive people because they don’t even have the luxury of roaming the streets, even today, and this is obvious to most people. When it came to the topic of homeless, he said that “we” don’t see homeless women on the streets (except “hags,” who I suppose, in his opinion, are not women), and that it’s because “maybe they kill themselves.” The level of ignorance and aggression and dismissiveness in that was just…unreal. Even for the thirties.

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