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March 31, 2010

A Woman’s Work Is Never Done

Thursday Thirteen

I hate doing housework. I’d better admit that upfront, but it’s the subject of my Thursday Thirteen this week.

1. A few hundred years ago all members of a household worked together to make everything they needed. Within this productive unit, housework contributed to the production of goods for internal use as well as for sale to others.

2. Housework in nineteenth century America was harsh physical labor. Preparing even a simple meal was a time and energy consuming chore. Prior to the twentieth century, cooking was performed on a coal or wood burning stove. Altogether, a housewife spent four hours every day sifting ashes, adjusting dampers, lighting fires, carrying coal or wood, and rubbing the stove with thick black wax to keep it from rusting.

3. Cleaning was an even more arduous task than cooking. The soot and smoke from coal and wood burning stoves blackened walls and dirtied drapes and carpets. Gas and kerosene lamps left smelly deposits of black soot on furniture and curtains. Each day, the lamp’s glass chimneys had to be wiped and wicks trimmed or replaced. Floors had to scrubbed, rugs beaten, and windows washed.

4. Well-to-do familiescould afford to hire a cook at $5 a week, a waitress at $3.50 a week, a laundress at $3.50 a week, and a cleaning woman and a choreman for $1.50 a day, but in most homes, the chores were carried out by the wife and daughters of the household.

5. Before indoor plumbing, all chores that involved water such as laundry, dishes, cleaning floors etc were extra difficult and time-consuming.

6. Washing used to take all day.

7. In 1924, a typical housewife spent about 52 hours a week in housework.

8. A housewife today spends less time cooking and cleaning up after meals, but she spends just as much time as her ancestors on housecleaning and even more time on shopping, household management, laundry, and childcare.

9. Women traditionally did most of the home’s cooking, so historical cookbooks often shed light on the ordinary lives of women. Recipes show the preparation methods common in historical times. Many cookbook authors were women. Cook books of history included directions for many household activities beyond the preparation of meals.

10. The first electric washing machine was invented in 1906 but at first washing machines were very expensive in the early 20th century. They became more common in the 1930s, though they were still expensive. Washing machines did not really become common until the 1960s.

11. A woman named Josephine Cochran invented the first practical dishwasher in 1886. Hers was worked by hand but an electric dishwasher was made in 1922. However in Britain dishwashers did not become common until the late 20th century.

12. Dust bunnies shelter themselves under more American beds today than ever before. That’s according to a University of Maryland study about how people use their time. Whatever the reason — two income families or accommodating multiple schedules – American homes are not as spanking clean as they were a decade ago. In 1965 women spent 27 hours a week on housework. Today that figure has dropped below 16 hours.

13. It’s not that men can’t clean, it’s just not in their nature. The male perception of what constitutes a dirty house is far different from a woman’s. Like other major female-oriented issues, men seem oblivious to the value of cleaning. But amazing as it may seem the woman of the house may be learning a thing or two from men.

I don’t mind laundry, but I dislike the folding and putting away after it’s done. I don’t mind taking out the rubbish or stacking the dishwasher. I hate emptying the dishwasher once the cycle is finished.

What household chores do you dislike most?

Sources: Housework – History Of Housework
Digital History
Historical Cookbooks
A History of Housework
Household Tips


  1. Lia Morgan

    Out of the things I actually do, (don’t iron, don’t do windows) I hate dishes the most. I cook. Everyone eats. I shouldn’t have to do the dishes, too. I hate unloading the dishwasher just as much as loading it.

    But when my husband does it, I end up having to rewash things. Eggs do not come off in the dishwasher. Then they are baked on and you have to scrub them off.

    I really don’t mind laundry. I can get a lot done while the dryer is running. It may take 4 hours to do three loads, but it only took 45 minutes of my time.

  2. Heather

    Let’s hear it for electricity and natural gas! The chore I dislike most is cleaning the toilet. Actually, I’d rather do almost anything than clean the bathroom. Ugh!

  3. Janet

    this is the good thing about living alone…no one to argue about chores with!

  4. Adesi

    i dont mind anything at all “:D

  5. jehara

    I cannot imagine life back then! Spending all day cleaning and cooking?
    I actually enjoy doing laundry. It doesn’t take that long and you can do other things while it’s going. I find the folding and putting away kind of meditative.
    I’m with Heather though about the bathroom. I really hate hate hate to clean the toilet, but I will do it because I hate dirty toilets even more.

  6. Deb

    I don’t do dishes, unless my husband has been away longer than 3 days! I quite like laundry and cleaning the bathroom, but the rest of the house is a disaster, I seem to have the male genes there.

    You can see why domestic service was so huge!

  7. Shelley Munro

    I forgot about bathroom cleaning. That’s definitely not one of my favorite things to do. Toilet cleaning and shower cleaning. Ugh!

  8. Anthony North

    That was interesting. So much to do, isn’t there?

  9. Hootin' Anni

    I remember my mom washing clothes with a ‘ringer’ washing machine…where she’d pull the clothes through while turning the crank!! I’m ancient!! LOL

    As for men cleaning…well, ‘nough said.

    And folding clothes? You mean we’re supposed to do that too? I always thought we just grab from the clothes basket as we need ’em.

    My 13 is a bit of conversations of wit.

    Hope to see you visit with me.

  10. Tina

    My have times changed! Love your blog – will be sure to bookmark it!

  11. burn

    I don’t do washing. My in law did. So, I’m kinda upset she will complain. So, I will do it every Saturday

  12. burn

    I hope that you will visit my blog.

  13. CountryDew

    I don’t iron and I don’t wash the window (that is what rain is for, isn’t it?). I hate cleaning toilets worse than anything. I also hate to handwash dishes and have apoxy fits when the dishwasher breaks. :-)

    Great TT!

    Mine is at http://bluecountrymagic.blogspot.com

  14. Nessa

    My mother told me once that I’m not a real woman because I don’t dust.

  15. Jenyfer Matthews

    I don’t mind laundry, I don’t mind dishes, but I hate dusting and vacuuming – maybe because I have so much of it to do living in Cairo!

  16. Adelle Laudan

    I used to love doing laundry when we lived in our own house. I loved hanging clothes out to dry, and there’s nothing like the scent of sheets hung out to dry. Now that we are in an apt. we have to use laundry room. I hate it
    I guess the bottom line is housework SUX lol
    Happy Keester!

  17. Stephanie Adkins

    I must be one of the odd ones because I love cleaning. I can’t even go to sleep at night without vacuum lines in my carpet. LOL! :lol:

  18. Hazel

    Of all house chores, doing the dishes is what I hate most. I’m so glad I wasn’t born yesterday. I don’t mind laundry though, and cooking on wood burning stove is fun when done at camping with friends over lively chat.

  19. Journeywoman

    I HATE laundry. To the point that I would get in such a bad mood when I did it that my husband took over.

    I enjoy cooking but not cleaning.

    Great list!

  20. Paige Tyler

    I have to admit my hubby does most of the cleaning. I do the laundry and wipe down the kitchen counters and take the clean dishes out of the dishwasher, but he does all the dirty stuff for me! He’s a sweetie!


    My TT is at http://paigetylertheauthor.blogspot.com/

  21. Jennifer Leeland

    The dust bunnies in my house look more like the attack rabbit in “The Holy Grail”. Just sayin’.

  22. Tatiana Caldwell

    Heh, guess I should keep in mind how much easier chores are the next time I grumble about having to do them.

    But unfortunately, I work 40+ hours a week at a job, 15+ hours a week writing, and I’m STILL doing half the household chores and tending to children.

    I’m still every bit as busy as those poor old gals were. If not more, since I have to add 4+ hours a exercise to my week to make up for the lack of physical labor! :???:

  23. Alice Audrey

    I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with soot. Simply getting the vacuum out is arduous enough for me.

  24. Grandma

    It’s hard to say what I dislike the most about clearning. Dishes, I guess, since they are always more.

    I don’t require a spotless home, far from it, but I do like one that is relatively free from clutter. Much more peaceful.

    My TT: For Better Or Worse

  25. Sasha Devlin

    I would have died from some horrible dirty-caused diease. Too much time!

    I’m a weirdo in that I actually LIKE vaccuming and I like cooking but I hate cleaning up.

    And I hate scrubbing the tub.

  26. Julia Smith

    I don’t like any part of housework. The only thing I really enjoy is gardening and mowing the lawn, to be honest. But if I have to do housework, laundry is the thing I actually get some enjoyment from, especially hanging it out on the line.

  27. Cathy

    I guess I should appreciate how much easier my life is, but I still hate housework! The job I hate the most is scrubbing the bathtub.

  28. Susan Helene Gottfried

    I love seeing progress — an empty laundry basket, clean dishes, folded clothes. So give me things like dusting and cleaning toilets that look clean? Forget it.