Thursday, June 18, 2009

18 June 1955 "Rather busy"

I am sorry to everyone, I have had a rather busy two days with my little rental cottage I have spoke of before. Running about like a chicken with it's head cut off and all that. I shall be back tomorrow, I promise, with a proper post.

Until then, how about more discussion. How about this:

When the 1950's homemaker was faced with extra challenges to her regular schedule, how do you think she coped?

I was also thinking, a woman in her 60's still keeping house in 1955, would have had such a different beginning in the 19teens when she was just starting out. She most likely had at least one maid, possibly even live in. How do you think she coped and would she be buying all the new fangled products for cleaning, do you think, or would she have stuck by the old standards? And would she miss the friendship of the maid and having her about?


  1. My grandmother would have been 61 in 1955. Although she had grown up with a english housekeeper, and had a maid on and off over the years of her marrage, she did not have one as of 1933 when my grandfather settled after military retirement. I am sure like us she missed women friends and maybe that is why so many attended cluba or groups they created.
    She stuck to the old standbys of cleaning but did try new once in a while. I know she loved her Kirby! after all it could spray paint!

  2. Life has been a whirlwind for us the last couple of days! I know I mentioned that I wanted so bad to move, yet because of our circumstances I did not foresee us being able to move for several years, but that has all suddenly changed for us. Because of an unexpected circumstance, we are moving away from the big city!!!! :) I am beyond excited!

    With a complicated, busy move, a visitor coming this summer, getting kids ready and enrolled in new schools, etc., I will be way tooooooo busy to keep up with the blog, but I didn’t want to just disappear without a word. So, this is my goodbye to all of you. I want to thank all of you for the extreme enjoyment I’ve had from our conversations. I want to especially thank you, 50sgal, for all that you have given and shared with us and the inspiration you have been to me. I wish all of you the best in your future…..and…..I’M MOVING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :)

    Apron Revolution! :)

  3. Oh, 50sgal, Ihope your house problems work themselves out quickly!

  4. i know that neither my grandmothers nor my great-grandmothers on either side of the family ever had a maid/housekeeper or live in of any kind. and they were all quite middle class. my grandmothers also had daughters, so in addition to the fact that they never saw it as necessary, the help they had in the family may have had something to do with it. perhaps it was just not done in the ohio area, where they were from. ??? i know that when the going got tough, the tough got going, and they did what they could to manage their household and live in the standard to which they were accustomed. they just did what they needed to do, no complaints. :)

  5. I'd imagine that while some women (who were lucky enough) had a friendly relationship with their help, many struggled with the supervisory. When I think of some of the supervisors I've had over the years...! It probably did not come naturally to many women and they may have felt relieved in some ways in leaving it behind when the war created such a shortfall in domestics.

  6. PL- Congrats on your move!! I'll miss your interesting comments.

    I think a 50's housewife would cope with a busy day just like any other- do what she can, talk to an understanding friend, and keep plugging away.

    Some things were available that make a 50's housewife's more than usual busy day somewhat easier. Just the whole concept of children having more self reliance and freedom because crime was perceived to be less and kids being around to play with. There weren't all these formal play groups and classes. So on a busy day mom could just send the kids out to play and not worry. Also many stores delivered. Less running around to be done on a challenging day. Hubbies came home earlier, extended family was more likely to live close by, more mothers were home to befriend. So much is left to the 2009 housewife to do for herself and the work isn't even considered "work" to some people. Today the assumption is houses just run themselves.


  7. PL: Congratulations on your move! I feel that we are losing part of the coffee klatch! Wishing you the best!

    S: I sooo much agree with you about the 2009 housewife being on her own. Even if I just had someone to chat with while working would make a world of difference. Women like to gather together and relate to each other. Maybe nothing especially gets resolved or accomplished, but our state of mind is refreshed when we confide in a friend.

    I cannot think of anyone in my family having a maid either. I'm wondering if it's more of a city vs. rural thing. Maybe in the country it was more difficult to hire someone. I don't know.

    My grandmother was a young housewife in the 40's and 50's and before having company, she would always make sure to wash her kitchen curtains. I had company tonight and, don't you know it, I washed my curtains yesterday! Some things are just passed down a few generations, huh?

    50sgal: I hope you are busy in a good way with your cottage work--so that your mind settles a bit.

    Working hard at

  8. Thank you everyone for you insight. PL-I am so sad, we are really missing an important element in our little community here. Though, I am glad it is for a good reason and I do know that you did hate the city and hope you end up in a place full of happy smiling vintage women! If you are moving to the east coast, let me know!
    My 'busy work' with the cottage may have paid off as I think I may have found the most darling couple to let the place. IT will be nice to have the laughter of children fill the old house. It has not heard that in years.
    It is so odd, isn't it, how not only many modern people, but modern homemakers often are very isolated. Perhaps, that is not true and it is just my own situation, but it does seem people are more 'alone' than before. Even when we are communitcating it is through the tv or cell phone, or if we are together, our visits often include tv, computer, or video games. I wonder, if suddenly electricity was just wiped off the face of the earth, how would we all cope? No technology, no entertainment made for us? How would we fare?
    Well, I am off to deal with the cottage again, but I will promise to get a good post up today at somepoint. Thanks again everyone for keeping a post going when I can not even be here. IT makes me feel good, as if our little blog here is beginning to have a life of its own brought to life by all of you!
    Thank you.

  9. 50'sgal- We had a very bad storm a couple of summers ago and were without power for over 3 days. It was interesting but not completely power-less because when we went out of course some places had electricity. We had to find other things to do around the house- like read more (with a flashlight) or play charades. I always loved how much natural light my house gets, even on a cloudy day, but I REALLY appreciated it then.

    All the neighbors were in the same boat so the kids all played together in the huge puddles and neighbors with generators shared the power to charge cell phones. We were one of the few homes that still had an old fashioned plug into the wall non-electrical phone so we were happy to share it too. Unfortunately many neighbors had flooded basements but this was the only down side, except for the spoiled food in the fridge.


  10. Both of my grandmothers kept homes from the late 1930's and on but one was in Canada and the other in England and Ireland. The one in Canada never had help in the house but may have had it outside when they had a farm. She may also have experienced help in the home as a very young child in suburban Michigan but not likely of the live-in variety. After the war, my grandparents moved to the West Coast and ran a small general store so she was then required to keep house, raise the children and work some in the store. She had her husband around and would have communicated with the customers daily so I doubt that she was isolated. My maternal Grandmother was an officer's wife during and after the war and had help and many opportunities for socializing. I understand that she was not very interested in socializing with her help because she had inherited her mother-in-law's maid and this girl systematically slept with all of her husband's brothers and eventually became her sister-in-law! When they came to Canada, she worked outside the home and did eventually have outside help. Generally these women were warmly treated and even helped(in the case of domestic violence) but there was still a line between employer and employee. Both women were very practical and would have been unlikely to change an old way for a new one unless it was more efficient and economical to do so. I believe that most people of the past were judicial in accepting new products or ways of doing things: if it made a lot of sense they would change but not for newness or innovation itself. The advertizers of the time had to become very skilled and sofisticated to hold any sway with this generation. My preception is that it was the younger generation looking to distance itself from their parents that grabbed onto to everything new simply for being new!

  11. Jenifir- What a story about the maid and the brothers!

    So true about advertisers and I agree it was the younger generation looking to distance itself. They understandably wanted the past to stay in the past- there was so much misery with the Depression and the war.

  12. My grandmother was born in 1892, and would have been sixty-three in 1955. She was the second youngest of eight children; there was a twenty five year age span from the youngest to the oldest. After she graduated from eighth grade, she stayed home and helped her mother take care of the house and family. From eight years old on, it was her responsibility to raise her youngest brother, born in 1900. Her main duty, other than her brother, was cooking and cleaning with her mother. Her mother also sewed clothing for herself and my grandmother, shirts for the boys/men, and household linens. There was no maid. She cooked on a coal stove, and there was an outhouse in the backyard. They also raised chickens. They lived in a well-known city in the north east.

    When my grandmother married at twenty three, she married into money. She did have at least a nurse when my grandmother had my father. She also was able to give birth in the hospital. Most women gave birth at home. She never really mentioned help beyond that. She was, however, able to buy all the new electric appliances and gadgets that came on the market. She was very proud of that, but in later years didn't yearn for purchasing new items. The biggest luxury, however was continuing her education. It was Providential.

    My grandfather lost the factory and stores during the Depression. He also became sick and unable to work. My grandmother put all her belongings into storage, moved to a cheaper dwelling, and found work. She lost her belongings in storage due to non-payment, her husband became more and more ill, and passed away. Eventually she found better work within the same field; she was self-employed. She was going to work the day she died at 81. Her job kept her young and provided socialization.

    My grandmother was always modern and and kept up with the times with grace. She enjoyed new gadgets, but wisely didn't think some of them were necessary. Both my mother and grandmother spoke of beating the carpets. No wonder my grandmother's favorite cleaning tool was the carpet sweeper! She did not look longingly at the coal stove or the outhouse in the backyard!

    My mother, born 1925, spoke of beating carpets outdoors, taking the metal beds in the yard to burn them with kerosene for bed bugs, head lice in the schools, the many baby funerals, her birth at home, and some of the necessary choices made in the home due to the depression. Compared to the average home during those depression years, my mother's grandparents, who raised her, were able to purchase store bought undergarments, and have a telephone and magazines. Surprisingly, they did not have a washing machine and her Nana washed the clothes in the bath tub and hung the clothes from an upstairs window. They bathed in the kitchen (with a discreet curtain) and only took baths once a week.

    After hearing the many stories from my grandmother and mother over the years, there are things that impressed me the most. Most people were born at home, there were a lot of childhood diseases and I had many relatives that had lasting "remembrances" of those diseases, such a polio. Most childhood diseases were eradicated with better hygiene and homekeeping. A couple of relatives had TB; my grandmother died young from it.

    Although not rich, most of my relatives could not be considered poor by any means, but no one had maids.

  13. "...would she be buying all the new fangled products for cleaning, do you think, or would she have stuck by the old standards?"

    I think it would depend on the person. Even today, there are some people who wouldn't dream of using a different laundry detergent while others happily buy whatever brand is on sale that week.

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