Never Done: A History of American Housework

Overview

Never Done is the first history of American housework. Beginning with a description of household chores in the nineteenth century -- cooking at fireplaces and on cast-iron stoves, laundry done with wash boilers and flatirons, spring house-cleaning that had to purge the home of a winter's worth of soot and grime, endless water hauling and fire tending -- Susan Strasser demonstrates how industrialization transformed the nature of women's work. Lightening some tasks and eliminating the need for others, new ...
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Never Done: A History of American Housework

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Overview

Never Done is the first history of American housework. Beginning with a description of household chores in the nineteenth century -- cooking at fireplaces and on cast-iron stoves, laundry done with wash boilers and flatirons, spring house-cleaning that had to purge the home of a winter's worth of soot and grime, endless water hauling and fire tending -- Susan Strasser demonstrates how industrialization transformed the nature of women's work. Lightening some tasks and eliminating the need for others, new commercial processes inexorably altered women's daily lives and relationships -- with each other and with the people they served.

In this lively and authoritative book, Strasser weaves together the history of material advances and domestic service, the development of "women's separate sphere," and the impact of advertising, home economics, and women's entry into the workforce. Hailed as pathbreaking when originally published, Never Done remains an eye-opening examination of daily life in the American past.

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Editorial Reviews

WomanSource Catalog & Review: Tools for Connecting the Community for Women
Next time you feel like griping because there are dishes in the sink or the rug needs to be vacuumed, pick up this book. It is truly an eye-opening perspective on housework, not to mention a history of the tools of the trade. What is startlingly apparent is that the daily job of maintaining a home was incredibly hard work which became relegated to women as men increasingly defined their roles outside the home. This was physically intensive labor that did not leave women much time for anything else. We like to think that we are self-sufficient, but most of us are so ultimately dependent on the gadgets of our modern, industrialized society, from pre-packaged food to running water, that we don't realize how much it has changed work in the home. In part a history of housework, Susan Strasser also reveals how women's lives were shaped by these activities. As the trend toward moving work back into the home gains momentum, it will intersting to see what divisions and unity of labor occur, and how this will change the way we think about the space we inhabit or how it inhabits us.
—Ilene Rosoff
From the Publisher
"A work of genius. . . marvelous to read."—Carolyn See, Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Lively and provocative. . . a wonderful book. For bringing housework into the light of historical scholarship, Strasser deserves to have her name become a household word."—Jacqueline Jones, author of American Work: Four Centuries of Black and White Labor

"Remarkable, rich and acute"—The New Yorker

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780394708416
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 1/28/1982
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 365
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.19 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Stasser is the author of Waste and Want and Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market. Her articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Nation. A professor of history at the University of Delaware, she lives near Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii
Acknowledgments xiii
Prologue: Never Done 3
1 Daily Bread 11
2 Out of the Frying Pan 32
3 The Home Fires 50
4 At the Flick of A Switch 67
5 Fetch a Pail of Water 85
6 Blue Monday 104
7 A Stitch in Time 125
8 The Boarder 145
9 Mistress and Maid 162
10 Redeeming Woman's Profession 180
11 The Business of Housekeeping 202
12 When the Bough Breaks 224
13 Selling Mrs. Consumer 242
14 Quick and Easy 263
15 You Deserve a Break 282
16 Life on the Market 300
Source Notes 313
Picture Credits 352
Index 353
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