Synopses & Reviews
In this classic work of womens 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 convenienceswashing machines, white flour, vacuums, commercial cottonseemed 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.
This book has a dual focus. As its title is meant to suggest, it is a history not just of housework but also of the tools with which that work is done: household technology. Human beings are tool-using animals; indeed, some anthropologists believe that, along with speech,, the ability to use and to refine our tools is precisely what sets us apart from other species of primates.
About the Author
Ruth Schwartz Cowan is associate professor of history at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.