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Housewife Confidential

Caitlin Flanagan

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"A tribute to the old-fashioned housewife, and to Erma Bombeck, her champion and guide."

My mother's copy of The Settlement Cook Book (1948 edition) begins, as cookbooks used to, with instructions on the proper way to run a household. To air a room: "Lower the upper sash of one window and raise the lower sash of an opposite window." To remove a glue stain: "Apply vinegar with a cloth." There are sections on the feeding of infants and of invalids: "Use the daintiest dishes in the house. Place a clean napkin on the tray and, if possible, a fresh flower"...The notion of a domestic life that purrs along, with routines and order and carefully delineated standards, is endlessly appealing to me. It is also quite foreign, because I am not a housewife. I am an "at-home mother," and the difference between the two is vast.

The success of the women's movement depended on imposing a certain narrative--of boredom, of oppression, of despairing uselessness--on an entire generation of women, a narrative that has only gained strength as the years have passed, leaving people with a skewed and rather offensive view of those women.

Read the entire article on The Atlantic Monthly website.



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