Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
FMC Home Link PBS Program LinkFMC Book LinkViewer's Voices LinkInteractivity LinkTeacher's Guide
  Book Intro LinkBook Authors LinkBook Download LinkCredits Link
FMC Logo 1
  < Back to Contents
spacer
  Chapter Two:
 
WORK
spacer

  Men's Occupations
  Farm Operators
  Employee Fatalities
  Professionals
  Men's Working Lives
  Work Hours
  Daily Housework
  Working Women
  Women at Work: Values
  Women's Occupations
  Minority Professionals
  Unemployment
  Labor Unions

  

 

FMC Logo 2  

spacerspacer
WORK

Daily Housework

chart link spacer

 

 

The time that women devoted to housekeeping declined steeply.
spacer
The massive entry of women into the paid labor force would have been impossible without a drastic reduction in the time that most women spent on household tasks such as cleaning, cooking, baking, sewing, washing, ironing, and other domestic maintenance activities. 

Among the married women interviewed in Middletown (Muncie, Indiana) in 1924, only 22 percent had held a full-time job at any time during the preceding five years. The corresponding figure for 1999 was 83 percent. 

The chart, based on the community survey conducted by Robert and Helen Lynd in 1924 and on the replications of that survey by Theodore Caplow and his team in 1977 and 1999, tells the story. In 1924, 87 percent of married women spent four or more hours doing housework each day. By 1977, the comparable figure was 43 percent. By 1999, it had plummeted to 14 percent. 

This remarkable reduction was the result of the mechanization and simplification of housework. A variety of innovations—vacuum cleaners, central heating, gas and electric stoves, refrigerators, freezers, microwave ovens, blenders, dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, and many smaller devices—led to the mechanization of housework (see page 98). Prepackaged meals, wash-and-wear fabrics, supermarkets, and fast-food restaurants greatly simplified household tasks. 

If anything, the figures understate the reduction of housework that actually occurred. In 1890, about two-thirds of business-class wives in Middletown had full-time servants. By 1924, only one-third of business-class wives in the Middletown sample had full-time servants. In 1999, only one of the 397 women in the community survey had full-time help at home.


Chapter 2 chart 7

Source Notes
Source Abbreviations

Middletown I, III, and IV, Community Survey, items 23, 24, 31, and 33. For married women, see Middletown I, pages 169–170.

 

<<Previous      Next>>  

  spacer
spacer

PBS Program | Trends of the Century | Viewer's Voices | Interactivity | Teacher's Guide

  spacer