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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