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More Work For Mother: The Ironies Of…
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More Work For Mother: The Ironies Of Household Technology From The Open… (edició 1985)

de Ruth Schwartz Cowan (Autor)

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1971104,356 (4.23)2
In this classic work of women's history (winner of the 1984 Dexter Prize from the Society for the History of Technology), Ruth Schwartz Cowan shows how and why modern women devote as much time to housework as did their colonial sisters. In lively and provocative prose, Cowan explains how the modern conveniences--washing machines, white flour, vacuums, commercial cotton--seemed at first to offer working-class women middle-class standards of comfort. Over time, however, it became clear that these gadgets and gizmos mainly replaced work previously conducted by men, children, and servants. Instead of living lives of leisure, middle-class women found themselves struggling to keep up with ever higher standards of cleanliness.… (més)
Membre:kjohnson85
Títol:More Work For Mother: The Ironies Of Household Technology From The Open Hearth To The Microwave
Autors:Ruth Schwartz Cowan (Autor)
Informació:Basic Books (1985), Edition: 0002nd, 288 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
Valoració:
Etiquetes:to-read

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More Work For Mother: The Ironies Of Household Technology From The Open Hearth To The Microwave de Ruth Schwartz Cowan

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In "An Introduction: Housework and Its Tools" she places household work within the stream of industrialization of America. Household were industrialized form 1860-1960, at the same time as the idealized households emerged as retreat from a heartless world. Much of the irony of this observation results from the observation that women were users of technologies that embedded them firmly within market relations all along. Like the male and female workers who went out into the factories, women working in the homes of America were increasingly confronted with technologies which they had not build and the internal workings of which they did not understand. Since housewives cannot repair the tools with which they work "houseworkers are as alienated from the tools with which they labor as assembly-line people and blast furnace operators." (p. 7) While men's work became more specialized, housewives in the 20th Century remained the last Janes of all Trades from which the Jacks have disappeared.

Cowan is interested in understanding why the gendered household division of labor has proceeded as it has. To do this she examines the tools of household work. She examines the "work process" and the "technological system" that surrounds these tools. By understanding process, we come to understand who is actually doing the work. By understanding system, we can understand all of the parts that go into making changes in work possible. For instance, the system of technology which brings indoor plumbing is the underpinning of our increased standards of personal hygiene.

"Housewifery: Household Work and Household Tools under Pre-Industrial Conditions" draws an initial connection between the rise of capitalism in Early Modern Europe and the institution of household work. Freed from feudal constraints, the early modern yeomen and their wives developed a household economy. It was industrialization, not capitalism that lead from "Housewifery and the Doctrine of Separate Spheres." As industrialization drew men out of the home, it left women in the home to guard a separate sphere of morality and uplift in a heartless world of industrial capitalist competition. Cowan makes the essential contribution of adding in the tools of housework to help us understand the material conditions under which the doctrine of separate spheres emerges. She focuses on "Household Tools and Household Work" by approaching what it took to create a simple one pot meal in colonial New England. She finds that the process that a family undertook to cook the meal relied upon the work of both men and women, each having essential parts to play in the process. Men would harvest the grain and grind it into meal and women would assemble the ingredients and do the cooking on the open hearth. Though these divisions were not absolute, the cooperation of man and wife was essential to the family's survival. Women who tried to do without men or visa versa would have live far less healthy lives.

"The Household Division of Labor" ensured that men and women were socialized to different roles. Looking at the experience of a woman named Rebecca Burlend, who's husband was injured and unable to harvest the wheat crop, she demonstrates how important it was that the male knowledge of how to harvest the crop was shared with Rebecca who was unable to finish the task until her husband was well enough to explain the process to her. This sexual division of labor was embedded in a system which also took advantage of hired help. Most families paid wages to people to help lighten the burden of housework for women and work in the fields for men. There was also a hierarchy of tasks in which the work done by men was valued the most, then women's work (cooking the food) and finally the kinds of less attractive work performed by servants (scrubbing floors).

In considering "The Household and the Market Economy," she points out that the ideal of self-sufficiency in pre-industrial America needs to be examined more closely. Looking to the tools that people needed to survive in the household, she points to two different widows situations and how having tools to produce goods for herself allowed the better off widow to stay out of the market and achieve greater efficiency through home production of goods. The wealthiest of all in a community, it this case a revolutionary war general upon his passing had a full accoutrement of tools to produce many household goods at home. Because he was least dependent upon market forces, the general came closest to achieving the ideal of autonomy from the vicissitudes of the market.

"The Invention of Housework: The Early Stages of Industrialization" starts with a recounting of all the ways in which industrialization would seem to have had a liberating effect on women. With the advent of gas powered light, there was no need for candle making; with the purchase of cotton cloth, there was no need to make homespun anymore; when you could get preserved milk in a can, there was less pressure to milk your own cow. By looking at the writings of women of the period, oddly enough they seem to be worse off, more overworked and frequently of worse health. By looking at the ways in which the processes that attended household labor as well as the system of technology which they were embedded, she can explain this apparent paradox. Returning to the one pot stew of the colonial New England family, she notes that the one ingredient in the stew that changed with industrialization was the flower, industrialization brought processed white flour into the homes of New England.

Examining "Milling Flour and Making Bread," she explains that the shift away from international flour trade after the Napoleonic Wars ended in Europe caused an oversupply of processed white flour, producers looked to domestic markets to sell the white flour. The growth of canals (Erie 1825 for example) made it less profitable for the New England farmer to grow grain, so people started to buy the processed white flower grown on the frontier. Next she explains that this change in the larger technical system meant that man were freed from the formerly odious and laborious chore of grinding grain. But the advent of white flour meant the opposite for women. The simple unleavened breads made with whole grain flower had put far less burden on women than did the new leavened white breads, pastries and cakes. White bread became connected with status. Only negroes, indians and the Irish ate the coarse breads now that all had formerly eaten.

Another set of innovations, leading to "The Evolution of the Stove" also had the same effect on the balance of household labor -- it shifted the balance decidedly in the female direction. The changes in iron production and the rise of coal and coke for fueling the forges that created the iron allowed for a more efficient manufacture of iron cook stoves. The innovations of Jordan Mott made the manufacture of cast iron cook stoves which used the cleaner anthracite coal. Thus emerged an industry that provided the market with the first consumer durable goods. The impact of this technical systems change was the lessening of male labor, since felling trees and chopping wood for fuel was no longer necessary. The effect on the process of cooking was that it became more complicated and complex. By the time of the Civil War, the cast iron cook stove had replaced the open hearth and women were producing ever more elaborate meals from recipes in the new cookbooks in the stores. And least we forget, the stove needed to be cleaned -- a job that fell to women as well.

The overall impact of industrialization was "More Chores for Women, Fewer for Men." As men were freed from the labors needed for tasks like milling grain and cutting wood, they increasingly worked for wages that allowed them to buy things like processed flour and cast iron cook stoves. Men therefore were less available to teach their sons the techniques of household work, and this male household work died out. At the same time women became even more tied to the domestic sphere in material terns as well as ideological. The advent of manufactured cotton cloth mean a greater demand for more varied clothes, and these clothes had to be cleaned more often as well. While early in the century, women might employ the help of a seamstress to produce clothes the advent of the home sewing machine meant that this burden fell largely on the wife and mother. Thus we see the material conditions that went hand in hand with the woman's sphere.
  mdobe | Jul 24, 2011 |
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In this classic work of women's history (winner of the 1984 Dexter Prize from the Society for the History of Technology), Ruth Schwartz Cowan shows how and why modern women devote as much time to housework as did their colonial sisters. In lively and provocative prose, Cowan explains how the modern conveniences--washing machines, white flour, vacuums, commercial cotton--seemed at first to offer working-class women middle-class standards of comfort. Over time, however, it became clear that these gadgets and gizmos mainly replaced work previously conducted by men, children, and servants. Instead of living lives of leisure, middle-class women found themselves struggling to keep up with ever higher standards of cleanliness.

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