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Never Done : A History of American Housework Paperback – Bargain Price, November 1, 2000
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About the Author
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Top Customer Reviews
In reading the acknowledgements of Ruth Schwartz Cowan's book "More Work for Mother," I had noted that Strasser was listed there as an undergraduate research assistant of Cowan's. With that in mind, I expected the thesis of this book to be similar to that of Cowan's, especially given the similar titles. However, whereas Cowan's book claimed in an almost contradictory fashion that American women have had to shoulder more and more housework over the last century due to industrialization, Strasser takes the viewpoint that industrialization gradually wore away at the value of the contribution women could add to their households by doing work around house, leading eventually to the necessity of their taking paid work outside the home. Strasser points out that in the pre-industrial period, both men and women worked the land with the goal of being as self-sufficient as possible, but that both men and women engaged in some activities to bring in outside resources or income.Read more ›
Fast forward my life ten or so years. I'm in an English class and reading "O Pioneers!" by Willa Cather. I remember Ms. Strasser's book! So I read it to broaden my understanding of Ms. Cather's novel and of pioneer and womens domestic lives at that time.
I had a romanticised view of life in America; times were simpler and therefore better. Susan's book assisted in effectively yet politely dismissing those flowery notions from my thoughts.
The research required for such a book as this--- clearly labor-intensive, but Ms. Strasser effortlessly writes in a reader-friendly style which doesn't undermine the scholarly nature of this work and its value to Womens Studies.
The author's interest in the history of American housework traces back to a 1968 undergraduate thesis later expanded to a Ph.D. thesis. She has used as sources old cookbooks, etiquette books, woman's magazines, household manuals, catalogs, and studies by government bureaus, etc. An example of her source material is the series of comprehensive 19th century manuals published over four decades, beginning in 1841, by Catharine Beecher, Harriet Beecher Stowe's sister, which reveal in each subsequent edition essential changes in technique and expectations. Strasser noted that although it was clear that until recently woman's role was 'in the home', it was not clear what that entailed and how it meshed with broader societal and economic trends such as technology, urban growth, new work opportunities outside the home, etc.
The book's 16 chapters each address a major housework category: food availability and obtention; cooking; providing light and heat; the gradual advent of gas and electricity; water and sanitation; washing; making and mending clothing; home income opportunities like boarding, seamstressing, laundering; use of servants; growth of systemization and the home economics movement; child care; informed consumerism; proliferating appliances; fast food; and the environment of today's working mother.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Informative, about the changes in lives of women with the inventions of hurricane lamps, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, etc. Read morePublished 12 months ago by C. Braden
Amazingly informative book...when I read this, I wondered how women survived all that housework -- what was commonplace 150 years ago sounds like endless drudgery to us now. Read morePublished on January 12, 2014 by Deborah H. Gould
There are so few books that are written on the seemingly mundane and simple task of house work that go this in-depth. This book was so helpful and used so many good sourcesPublished on December 7, 2013 by casey Lauger
You will have a greater understanding of what a Victorian housewife's life was really like after reading this book. No wonder people died young - they were exhausted.Published on November 29, 2013 by D. Fellix
If you've ever wondered, "how things were done before the invention of such and such common household item?" this book has the answers for you. Read morePublished on April 6, 2010 by K. Paddock
The contemporary reader will have a new appreciation of modern appliances after reading Susan Strasser's Never Done: A History of American Housework. Read morePublished on July 23, 2009 by Meghan Goodrich
I first read Never Done in 1988 as a college student studying women's history. I enjoyed it then, and I enjoyed it again this time as a re-read. Read morePublished on October 6, 2006 by frumiousb