|My grandmother, Ellen, standing proudly with her mother, after getting lunch for the threshing crew.|
|How many times a day does THIS happen??|
It was indeed not always that way. A woman used to call herself a housewife with quiet pride and certainty. This title in past generations was like a hope chest filled with traditions, methods, and skills passed down from generation to generation. It was a job title about capability, strength and support. The fact that such a stable, serviceable word, referred to women since medieval times, is now derided took some work to destroy, but it has happened, nonetheless.
|A pamphlet from 1915, showing clearly the link with feminism and socialism.|
|The Women's Anti-Suffrage League|
It was not until second-wave feminism's Betty Friedan, in her book, 'The Feminine Mystique' that the word 'housewife' really suffered a truly fatal blow. Friedan, a self-proclaimed communist, called the housewife, a 'prisoner in a comfortable concentration camp.' Her derision blazed like wildfire, and the book attracted a mass audience. It was the turbulent 1960s, and I could write post after post on why some women were drawn to this book...but I'll save them for another time.
I used to think, while poring over the writings of feminists, that the housewife was viewed as their enemy because they simply thought she was not as enlightened as they, and far too stubborn in her out-dated beliefs. But I've come to realize that there is a much darker under-current, an under-current of snobbery, insecurity...and even more than a little jealousy coming from the 'i am woman, hear me roar' camp.
For how can you deride an occupation as beneath you if you yourself don't know how to do it? Feminists love to portray the trad woman as stupid, particularly picking on the 1950s housewife. But here are some of the things that women of that era did...often and easily.
|'The Bride's First Dinner Party', 1952 by Ray Prohaska.|
2.) They could cook lavish holiday meals--from scratch. The Butterball website and its crisis line rings off the hook at Thanksgiving with frantic cooks who do not know how to roast a turkey. The 1950s housewife could do this in her sleep.
3.) They could garden, can, and process food, often going through what seemed like mountains of produce. Many women of the time were experts at jelly-making, and could line shelves with their own homemade spaghetti sauce, as well as even jars of home-canned meats. This job requires enormous physical stamina, standing in an over-heated kitchen while endlessly peeling, chopping, and sterilizing. Canning is an exact, practical science, an occupation that requires fanatic attention to cleanliness, following steps to the letter, and having a meticulous eye for detail, from knowing when things are at their needed boiling point to determining if a jar has sealed correctly. It is a science where if it is done incorrectly, food poisoning could result. The fact that so many housewives were known for their canning abilities underlines just how capable and intelligent they indeed were.
4.) Sewing. An average sixteen year old student in the HomeEc classes of the 1950s could construct a tailored blouse or jacket. Their skills extended from everyday mending and darning to even being able to slip-cover their sofas. They were familiar with knitting, crocheting, and embroidery.
Now, please don't get me wrong here. I am not for one minute saying that a woman has to master all these skills to proudly say she is a housewife. What I am saying is that being a housewife has always been an occupation to test the heart and the mind. I truly believe there is no job out there that does not require skills. No matter what the level, a housewife still has a learning curve, like anyone working in an office, like anyone working in a classroom. The fact that working as a homemaker has become viewed as somehow mindless and menial is a grave insult that has been handed out to us by our radical feminist sisters. And that is a truly sad thing--for all of us.
Being a housewife is an ancient occupation that has been the foundation of countries and cultures across time; it is vital because people will always need care, comfort, and order. In fact, you could even say that housewifery is an important part of bringing out the best in us as humans, and when you think of it that way, what bigger job can there be?
As Proverbs 31 in Scripture states, "She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks." You are not 'just' a housewife; you are a woman of conviction, strength and intelligence...nurturing both the elderly and the young.
We need to call ourselves housewives again, with honor and with gladness.