Where does it come from?
Goody Two-Shoes is the title of a Nursery Tale written in 1765. Its authorship, however, has remained in question. It’s been attributed to both John Newbery and Oliver Goldsmith. The tale is a re-telling of the Cinderella story. Its heroine is an orphan child, Margery Meanwell, who only possesses one shoe. She is given a new pair of shoes by a wealthy gentleman and is so delighted, she repeats to everyone that she has “two shoes.”
“She ran out to Mrs. Smith as soon as they were put on, and stroking down her ragged Apron thus, cried out, ‘Two Shoes, Mame, see two Shoes’. And so she behaved to all the People she met, and by that Means obtained the Name of ‘Goody Two-Shoes.”
Margery goes on by virtue of her hard work to marry a wealthy man and live happily ever after.
This story was recounted and reprinted so many times that by the 1930s its title had become misconstrued to mean something quite different than heroine of the story embodied. In the era the story was penned, a goody referred to a goodwife, or the female head of a household. The confusion was deepened in the 1870s by the birth of the term “goody-goody” which means pretty much what “goody two-shoes” means today.
It’s of note, however, that when the author chose the title of his tale, it may not have been an original idiom. A correspondent of Notes and Queries in 1904 mentioned “goody two shoes” appears in a burlesque poem by Charles Cotton, A Voyage to Ireland, of 1694. It inferred a bad-tempered housewife:
“Why, what then, Goody two-shoes, what if it be? / Hold you, if you can, your tittle-tattle, quoth he.”