Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Illustrated History of the Housewife

Una A. Robertson's book, The Illustrated History of the Housewife was very similar to another book on my 2007 reading list, Never Done: A History of American Housework, by Susan Strasser.

There are fifteen chapters which detail:
"Who Are the Housewives?"
"Fuels and Fireplaces"
"Lighting the Home"
"Water and Drainage"
"The Workforce"
"Cleaning: Methods and Mixtures"
"The Means of Cooking"
"Provisioning the Household"
"Storage and Preservation of Food"
"Meals and Mealtimes"
"Pastimes and Pleasures Around the Home"
"Pastimes and Pleasures Outside the Home"
"The Housewife in the Wider World"

Each chapter has lovely illustrations and pictures. It certainly can stand alone as a competent history of housework, or be enjoyed as a companion to Strasser's book.

In fact, I think that Ms. Robertson's book is more of a history of housework and the household in Great Britain from 1650 to 1950, rather than that of the housewife. I do appreciate her desire to praise the housewife for her labors. She writes:

"Generations of housewives have come and gone and many of the tasks that were once part of their daily routine have been eradicated. The tasks that do remain have been considerably eased with the development of user-friendly materials of every description and equipment designed to obviate much of the physical labour related to running a home. Yet the fact remains that a house and those living within its walls still have the same needs as in previous generations. Someone must be responsible for the comfort, health and well-being of its members and, historically, that has been the duty of the housewife. The altered perception of the role is a phenomenon of the later twentieth century and what the current generation make of it will be a study for the historians of the future."

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