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The Illustrated History of the Housewife, 1650-1950
     

The Illustrated History of the Housewife, 1650-1950

by Una A. Robertson
 

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Throughout history, effort, enterprise and energy have been expanded by women in the ways of the household: cooking, cleaning, lighting, heating and laundrywork. This highly illustrated and delightfully written account looks at the changing role of the housewife over three hundred years. The period covered was one of immense social change - new social family

Overview

Throughout history, effort, enterprise and energy have been expanded by women in the ways of the household: cooking, cleaning, lighting, heating and laundrywork. This highly illustrated and delightfully written account looks at the changing role of the housewife over three hundred years. The period covered was one of immense social change - new social family relationships, scientific advances and economic developments all had an effect on the housewife, some dramatic, others more gradual. Much of what we now take for granted - instant hot water, heat and light at the flick of a switch, fresh food all the year round - would have been inconceivable to the many 'household managers,' represented in this book. Some of the evidence comes from the hands of the housewives themselves via account books and domestic memoranda. There are Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemurchus, in the Scottish Highlands in 1812, who was amazed that anyone could imagine that her life was dull, Mrs. Purefroy complaining in 1737 that the 'fish you [the fishmonger] sent last week stank' and Hannah Robertson, proud of the fact that in 1749 she was the first person in her county to own 'an entire tea equippage of plate.' Other material has been gathered from biographies, letters and 'improving tracts' aimed at housewives and the staff they employed. The lives of women from all walks of life and from all parts of Britain are dicussed, creating a convincing picture of the similaries as well as the differences that have characterized women's domestic work from the early modern to the post-war period.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This might more aptly be titled a "history of household technologies used by women of Great Britain over three centuries." The author, who has taught in the Continuing Education Department of the University of Edinburgh, uses personal memoranda, biographies, and household ledgers from England, Wales, and Scotland to explore techniques of cooking, cleaning, lighting, heating, and laundry work. Most sources reveal more about privileged than ordinary households, offering insight, for example, into the evolution of the duties of household servants. Robertson concludes of the housewife that "as her duties have diminished and become less onerous so the perception of her role has also weakened." Yet, though tools and techniques have changed and outside pressures and activities have increased, the "requirements of a household" and the housewife's responsibilities "have changed very little" over 300 years. Readers interested in the history of everyday life will appreciate this book, which includes 75 black-and-white illustrations of varying size and quality. Appropriate for public libraries and academic collections.Linda V. Carlisle, Southern Illinois Univ., Edwardsville
Booknews
Looks at the changing role of the housewife in the UK over 300 years, examining the effects of new social and family relationships, scientific advances, and economic developments on the housewife's life. Much of the material draws on account books and domestic memoranda of housewives from all social classes, as well as "improving tracts" aimed at housewives and their staff. Chapters cover procedures and equipment for aspects of the housewife's work including heating and light, water, servants, cleaning, cooking and food preservation, and leisure. A final chapter explores the role of the housewife outside the home. Includes b&w photos and illustrations. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
From the Publisher
"For those of us who like to look in other people's windows, this history of housewifery is a wonderful book." —The Washington Post

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312177126
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
10/28/1997
Pages:
204
Product dimensions:
7.08(w) x 9.93(h) x 0.72(d)

Meet the Author

Una A. Robertson is a history graduate who has taught for the University of Edinburgh's Continuing Education Department.

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