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Building a Housewife's Paradise: Gender, Politics, and American Grocery Stores in the Twentieth Century Hardcover – May 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


[Deutsch's] work makes a significant contribution to the growing historiography of consumer politics. . . . Deutsch demonstrates the central role that gender played in the rise of supermarkets.--Journal of American History

[A] vivid social history--Enterprise & Society

A tremendous contribution to several bodies of literature.--Reviews in American History

Paints a picture of stores alive with social interactions and struggles that often contradict the standardized model supermarkets are known for.--University of Chicago Magazine

Tracey Deutsch's well-written and impeccably researched book is a major contribution to studies of mass retailing and the politics of mass consumption . . . . [Her] richly detailed and rigorously analyzed study will find an appreciative audience among historians of gender, business, labor, and consumer culture.--American Historical Review

Deutsch convincingly shows how the creation of the supermarket was a highly contingent, negotiated, social and political process; not inevitable and not easily explained as a result of consumer demand or consumer satisfaction.--American Studies

[This] book causes readers to look more closely at one of the most important consumer experiences of the twentieth century.--The Historian

A meticulously researched study that delivers vast quantities of data. . . . Deutsch argues forcefully that retail history warrants close attention. . . . Recommended.--Choice


Taking women's food procurement seriously as labor, Tracey Deutsch combines fresh research with subtle and sophisticated analysis in this vital contribution to the scholarship on mass consumption. By exposing the policy decisions that structured distribution and the on-the-ground ideological assumptions that informed them, she illuminates the twentieth-century struggle to depoliticize the act of consumption--a crucial counterpart to the battles over production of the same decades. Building a Housewife's Paradise exposes the historical amnesia involved in reading market outcomes as a straightforward expression of consumer demand.--Bethany Moreton, author of To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise

Putting the state back into the study of consumption, Tracey Deutsch traces the rise of the supermarket as the essential form of food procurement. She highlights the embeddedness of gender within the development of modern retailing, expanding feminist understanding of unpaid labor, women's work, and political activism. You'll never be able to think about shopping in the same way after reading this compelling book!--Eileen Boris, Hull Professor and Chair, Department of Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

This is a politically charged chronicle of an everyday institution. Deutsch is at the leading edge of one of the most dynamic and innovative fields of historical scholarship today. In her exceptionally sophisticated treatment, daily food shopping becomes an act of public engagement, struggle, even resistance. This is a big story dealing with the very heart of consumer culture.--Warren Belasco, author of Meals to Come: A History of the Future of Food

Deutsch demonstrates that the history of food retailing in mid-twentieth-century America was deeply political in ways that have been underappreciated. With comprehensive research and effective presentation, Building a Housewife's Paradise makes a significant contribution to gender studies and business history.--Glenna Matthews, author of Just a Housewife: The Rise and Fall of Domesticity in America

It seems amazing that no one had yet written about this ubiquitous feature of American physical and economic landscapes. Deutsch's argument about the rise of supermarkets is important because it avoids the sense of inevitability that sometimes surrounds contemporary public debates about corporate concentration and urban sprawl in the era of Wal-Mart. The narrative she presents is not a triumphant one, nor one in which smaller groceries are necessarily victims of corporate power and a 'bigger is better' mentality. Rather, she shows a) the contests over, and even failings of, smaller stores as a driver for supermarkets, rather than a result of them; b) the historical specificity of the time (and places) in which they emerged; and c) the negotiations between historical agents, ranging from the federal government to individual shoppers, who were involved in supermarket planning. This is still a story about power, economic, politics, and of course food procurement, but it is a nuanced and sensitive story, told in a measured way.--Marina Moskowitz, University of Glasgow


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; 1 edition (May 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807833274
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807833278
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,664,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

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Great book. Very interesting. Read it for my women and gender studies course. I never thought I would be so interested in the history of grocery stores.
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