Saturday, September 5, 2009

Good Housekeeping

I found the best book today. It is "The Good Housekeeping, Housekeeping Book" Published in 1947!
("I love to iron, it's what I dream about")

It looks like after the War, when Rosie the Riveter was shoved back into the domestic life, there was a need to convince women that Housekeeping was so complicated and important that their work required a full 491 page book to help them. This book is simultaneously insulting and interesting. There is a lot of good advice about stain removal, ironing, starching, washing with non-automatic or automatic washers... Things that are actually useful to have in a manual. What's great about it is that this was published before the mass commercialization of the soap industry so a lot of the products suggested are; Borax, baking soda, soap flakes, vinegar... all simple and inexpensive items.
At the same time, every chapter begins with a poem about cleaning, keeping your man happy, being a good wife... the worst is the one about learning how to use tools and perform basic household repairs;

The Chapter is Titled "You can fix it yourself, sometimes"
How women today--
Wives, sisters, and nieces --
Can Knit or crochet
Such intracate piece,
Yet be so dumb
With a hammer or pliers,
Leaves me numb
With Amazement, sires!
Well-- ouch! Weren't these women just busy running factories not more than two years ago? How did we ever win that war at all with all of these helpless women running the country?

One of my favorite photos is this one of a housewife fumigating her dress;

The chapter it's attached to continues with the whole useful-yet-disturbing theme. It throughly describes all varieties of household pests that you could deal with. The book even describes how to recognize different varieties of ants and moths. And then... 13 of the 27 pages in "Household Pests" chapter describe all of the various ways to use DDT to kill them all.

I think I may need to share more as I go through this old gem... there's a poem about the "Perfect Wife", There is a large portion of the stain busting chapter dedicated to "vanilla, fruit or chocolate" ice cream... it's all fascinating stuff.


Tracy said...

PLEEEASE post more of these. I think they're amazing. Funny, yet a disturbing representation of the pervasive anxiety passed down from grandma to mom to us- "Perfection is possible. You're just doing it wrong" and "Happiness is a clean house". Brainwashing lasts for generations.
On the other hands I would love to know some simple cleaning recipes. I use baking soda and Peroxide to clean tile grout and my leather couch. Amazing stuff.
I wonder if this book would have been helpful in helping to put my sewing machine back together at midnight.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Tracy - that would involve such items as (gasp!) screwdrivers! Alexae, you know I was raised by these confused women (Granma Lois actually didn't but into this as much as Gramadel and Aunt Mildred). Both Cookie and Vesta Lee (my dad's cousin) would say "hooeey!" and give you a good 'receipt' for washing soda! Sounds like a gem of a book! Mom

sarah said...

I really need that poem on how to be a perfect wife. I don't know what I'll do with it, but I really need it.

I feel a little desperate for it, in fact. MUST BE PERFECT!

Is insanity the right reaction, hmm?