Wednesday, October 6, 2010

6 October 1956 “The Industrious Homemaker”

womansawing I wanted to share some images from my magazines and books showing the homemaker being very industrious. Even in adverts, as above, we see the clever homemaker in her work dungarees cutting and creating her home and then later dressed and pretty in it. I think sometimes we only see the second image, mostly due to Hollywood, I think.
womanhammering I often find such tips and guides, as this. We see the homemaker happily wielding the hammer. No ‘honey-do’ list needed.
Even when she is having hubby’s help she is often in the thick of it with him.husbandwifeinsulation Even in advertising, this was often shown.husbandwifecountertop And Do-it-yourself meant both partners.husbandwifetiles
What I have noticed is that the early 1950’s magazines seem to show this more often. As we move closer to 1959, we see more interest in the finished product without as much of the labor being shown. Many more images of the woman enjoying a space decked out, but without the view of her working hard by herself or with hubby to get the desired look. Why this is, I don’t know.
Even, as I said, Hollywood seemed to follow this pattern. Leave it to Beaver was from the early 1960’s and though still very 1950’s in feel we often see Mrs. Cleaver working in lovely outfits and doing some chores, sometimes gardening. But, if we see I love Lucy, she is often ‘doing it herself’ even though it often ended badly. Yet, that was the humor of it and I am sure many homemakers could associate with the mistakes because they, too, were trying to ‘do it themselves’ not merely relying on their hubby’s.
I think the homemaker’s role was very serious to her. It WAS a job and that job entailed the home in many ways. While hubby might mow the lawn, take out the garbage, and occasionally barbeque, really it was her province and she ran it even down to installing and repair. Some may disagree with me, but I would be willing to bet the average woman in 1950’s new more well-rounded aspects of living from cooking, to hair design, to even plumbing and basic home maintenance than many women today. It was part of your job and part of being a woman.
Even when the ladies tried to use their ‘feminine whiles’ to trick the man into helping out, it often meant they were stuck in the thick of it as well. This of course brings to mind this episode of I Love Lucy, where Lucy and Ethel try to trick the boys into building a Barbeque only to end up as helpers. I also like this episode as I liked the season they lived in CT.
The main glaring difference in Women’s magazines of the 1950’s to today, is that missing element of the woman actually doing the work. Of course, I have not done an exhaustive cross reference of all modern magazines, but I know all the home/decorating/homemaking type magazines I used to read pre  1955 were more about the end result. Often big expansive things that were either impossible to copy or simply ‘chabby chic’ with no real direction as to how to achieve success with it. That is understanding color and how it works together and in a room. Even the cooking is often ‘make this meal in 10 minutes from a mix’ but never understanding the basics to cooking in the first place. Making dough, making a sauce, how to bake and roast.
Well, there you are, a little bit of the industrious women of yesteryear. Let us, in this as well, emulate her as best we can. Because you know what? We CAN do it!rosierivetor


  1. HAHA...this post reminded me of a Lucy episode where she cut a dress out and accidently cut the carpet mo did that one time. Women in my family have always been do-it-yourselfers. Frequently, that is the only way it will get done.

  2. As a collector of 1940-1960 magazines, I can tell you for a fact that women did the yard work (including mowing), repairs around the house, painting, decorating and all that stuff on top of raising the kids, the housework and cooking.

  3. That is why I always laugh when people think 'housework' meant light cleaning and eating bon bons while watching soaps.

  4. Your pictures and post made me smile. My husband and I built our own home(I mean BUILT with our own 4 hands). Those pictures are us! from laying the tile to peeling the logs on our front porch we did it. When something was above our expertise we did hire out. We have become warped and now find that we like nothing better than to do a project together.
    Many neighbors and family helped us with parts of our home and now we remember these people when we look at the parts that they helped with. One neighbor (who was in his late 70s and has since passed away) helped with our foundation and I often think of him when remembering the start of our home.
    Thank you for the post!
    Amy F.

  5. My older son and i had a good laugh over the I Love Lucy episode, when Rikki asked what he could do with the lint that sounded just like my hubby!

    As far as women doing the mowing in the 50`s and such, I can say with complete confidence that in the neighbourhood where my mother grew up, the women did the inside work, and the men
    mowed the lawn, cleaned the windows and eavestroughs as well.

    Growing up in the 70 and 80`s, I truly never saw a woman cut the lawn, tend to the gardens yes but that`s about it.

    My own marriage is very traditional in the fact that it is my primary responsibility to take care of the house, cook the meals, tend to the dog and children whilst hubby does all the outdoor chores.

    Like I tell my hubby I clean your underwear and cook your meals it`s only fair to expect you to do the outside work because it`s not part of my marriage contract (LOL) :)

    Mom in Canada

  6. the only straight walls in my family home were the ones my father, mother and grandfather built themselves

    I am more adept at a lot of handy manly things. I change my own washers and I'm really handy with an allen key. I have to leave the house when my husband uses power tools because I fear for his fingers.

    We do what we are best suited for - end of story

  7. Amy F-how wonderful, it makes your home that much more special to have so much of you and your friends and neighbors in its make up.
    Mom in Canada-that was probably true for many homes, the men doing the mowing/gutters women others. Yet, in our home, I feel that since my hubby is willing to go out and face the world working, I am glad to do as much of the at home as I can, though he does mow the lawn. He rather enjoys it. But, I am the builder of stone walls, digger of gardens, designer and executioner of fencing, including digging my own fence posts and cement work. I know my way around power tools and even have my own large framing gun and compressor. I like to know I can build a house, plant the garden, and then look lovely in pearls and petticoats when I am done. There has never been just one element in things that I enjoy, I seem to always want to get my fingers into all of it. You could say I was the tomboy (I loved frogs, snakes anything slimy) who also loved dressing up in mother's heels and playing dolls. I guess I am not a right nor left brainer but a a 'full brainer'.
    Elise-Good for you, and I had to laugh at the power tool comment. As I said, I am more apt to use a power tool than my hubby. Yet he is very intuitively good at engineering type problems and when he needs to can look at a mechanical situation and solve it rather well for a suit and tie man, I think. Though he prefers old typewriters to ban-saws.

  8. Donna, I learned a lot of stuff from my Mum. It was a case of not any money, so you'd better do it yourself. I grew up in the 50s too and from cooking to cleaning to painting and any repairs, I was always just interested in it all. The only thing I didn't learn is autos. I took Home Ec. insead and didn't learn to drive till I was into my 50's. I lived in the city though and there was NO need. Now I live in the country and driving is required. It was fun to learn that too and my Mum taught me on stick shift. Pretty cool.
    Julie in WA

  9. I really enjoy your Blog! I discovered it during my last tour in Iraq and now here I am in sunny ol' Afghanistan still enjoying it. Keep up the great work!


  10. I often wished I could help out my hubby more (minus the lawn mowing) with the outside work, however I can't even shovel snow unless it's really light and fluffy,.....

    I have SVT which causes my heart to race if I do anything too strenuous, even teaching my son how to jump rope.

    I still do alot around the house, but I am no longer Rosie the Riveter :)

    Not that I ever knew how to use a power tool, hammer etc., as my father always thought that it was his job.

    It's ironic, my Grandma irene (father's mother the farm lady could cut the lawn, help to build a barn), yet my father did most of the outside work when I was growing up and he never encouraged me to learn to cut the lawn etc. (I was still healthy enough then to do this)......

    It's interesting how even in different areas in North America how the "norms" change from one time period to another, ie. my mother's 50's experience women spent cleaning inside all day, whilst others may have witnessed the women cutting the lawn :)

    Mom in Canada

  11. One thing that constantly amazes me is the extent to which we want to outsource pretty much everything to do with taking care of ourselves.

    I don't do much in the way of home repairs because I rent--it's more of a liability for me if I try to fix something and screw it up so the landlord prefers I call him. (But at least he fixes most things himself; and I totally understand why he asks we not fix things.)

    But minor things--my parents made darn sure I could take care of things like spackling a hole in the wall (the trade-off for being allowed to hang pictures and posters up in my bedroom), fixing wobbly furniture, hooking up my electronics.

    Yet I go to the store and constantly see ads to pay people to put together your furniture and electronics! I don't get it--I get a lot from Ikea (Bad, I know, but I'm just starting to gradually add real furniture to the mix. Slowly.) and really, it isn't that difficult. I may need a hand sometimes, since much of it requires two people for assembly, but it's not rocket science. It boggles my mind that there are so many who apparently can't do this for themselves. Rather sad really...part of keeping a home (whether it's your full time role or not) should be knowing how to take care of it.

  12. John-I am so honored to have a gentleman and a soldier reading my blog. Thank you for the compliment, I am glad you enjoy it.


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