Ousehold Economics and Class (responses)
Write individual responses regarding the statements below. Write whether you agree or would like to add additional information regarding the topic.
The following responses responded to the statement below:
A good deal of our readings this week focus on differences in income, class level, and household economy, and how much women contribute to that economy. In the late eighteenth and early ninteenth centuries, women contributed a great deal to the household through all kinds of work that provided food, clothes, and other kinds of sustenance. As the middle class grew and their income levels rose, and as technology took over the production of things like clothing, middle-class women contributed less in terms of food and income, and more in terms of labor aimed toward cleanliness and hygiene, as well as caretaking and child-raising. It became a mark of status for them to manage a house and take care of their children. Working-class women, of course, did not have that luxury; they often spent 14 hours working at a washtub or in a factory, only to go home, cook, clean, and care for their children.
(During the Gread Depression, women were hard-pressed to find jobs of any kind, since everyone from the government downward made it a priority to provide jobs to men. During World War II, women of both the middle and working class took all kinds of jobs to keep the economy and war production running while the men were overseas. It wasnt until after the war that the middle-class housewife model, the one Friedan exposes so determinedly, really became prominent again. Im speaking in generalities here, though there were some significant variations from decade to decade.)
Taking into account the readings from both this week and last week, how do you think household economies have changed? Are they still divided by class? What boundaries, work models, or caretaking roles define those divisions? Do you know anyone who still follows the old model of household economy, raising and preserving their own food, making their own clothes, selling their own products? Are both working-class and middle-class homes now defined by two working people, or does the model followed by middle-class women up through Friedans generation still hold in some places? Have we created a new sort of model, or have we mixed the old ones? Have those changes occurred out of necessity or by choice?
Readings used for these responses include: (I will attach the readings to this order)
– Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique.”
– Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Chapters VII and XIV from Women and Economics
– Alexandra Kollontai Working Woman and Mother
– Jeanne Boydston The Pastoralization of Housework”
1. There are many ways that household economies have changed over time. It is no longer unheard of for women to have jobs outside the hosuehold and contribute to the economy. It is also more common for men to participate in housework instead of just the woman. Demographic Perspectives on Family Change points out that, …Births to unmarried women have accelerated rapidly, from 5% in 1960 to about 40% today.This shows that it is possible for a woman to be self sufficient without the help of her husband. Families are no longer defined by two people of the opposite sex. There are plenty of same sex families emerging. The ideas of the gender spheres are no longer commonly accepted. Roles of family members depend on the personal situations of someone instead of what sex they are no matter what class they are in. Society is still separated into the poor, middle class, and wealthy. I still do see things that show roots of the old model. In my family and in a lot of others I know the woman does most of the cooking, but I do see couples that like to cook together. I notice that most daycares are ran by women. When I was born my mother quit work for a few years and had a daycare while my father worked for the town. I know one person who somewhat follows the old model of household economy in that he grows his own food and only buys what he absolutely needs, but he lives by himself and doesnt work outside the house. He has chickens for eggs and meat, he has a vegtable garden, and rarely leaves his house.These changes have occured because people realized sometimes families didnt work out like they were supposed to. The problem that has no namethat Friedan talked about is one of the reasons for the change in family economies. People had changing desires that they needed to address. Institute of Medicine (US) and National Research Council (US) Committee on the Science of Research on Families; Olson S, editor. Toward an Integrated Science of Research on Families: Workshop Report. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011. 2, Demographic Perspectives on Family Change. Available from:
2. I think the household economies have changed in a few ways. The first one is in some middle and upperclass only one person in the relationship might have a job, and in the past this has been the man. Another thing that changed is now the woman can be the only one working, and there are a lot more stay at home housefathers. I Think it is still devided by class, because in the lower classes most of the time both partners have to work to support the family, but if the money wasnt deviding the two classes, then the same thing could occur in both classes. I dont know anybody personally, but in this area there is a lot of Amish community. These people are for the most part self sufficient, they will sell their goods, whether its corn, or baskets for money, and they will eat what they grow in their own garden. In some cases the model will follow through Friedans generation, Because the working class majority still have both patners working, but in the middle class it can go either way, with one partner working or both. I think that we didnt create a new model, we just twisted the old one, and these have occurred mainly because of the womans activists, and the cause the productive direction we have been facing the past few decades.