Thanks to Emily for writing about this book. I admit that it continues to bother me that homemaking is not considered as contributing to the economy/society, unless you are paying someone else to do the work. I hope to read this book someday.
A social rhetoric surrounding household technologies, such as the dishwasher, is that these devices are “labor-saving.” Ruth Schwartz Cowan (1983) argued that this assumption of technology, especially technologies made for domestic work, is wrong. She instead posited that so-called labor-saving devices have actually increased work for women.
Cowan traced household technologies in detail from industrialism, through the great wars, and into the postwar years. Before looking at these eras closely, she examined the general tools and conditions of pre-industrialism. This was necessary to her research because industrialism is generally seen as the catalyst that made housework lighter, easier, and less time consuming. Yet as technologies emerged to improve and streamline household chores, work moved from being shared among family members and hired to domestic servants to solely resting with the housewife. Suburbia contributed to this, by causing men to travel long distances for work and requiring that somebody…
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