I found this book languishing in the bottom of a box at a Car Boot Sale many moons ago and I am sad to say it has since languished in the bottom of my vintage collection box too. But now I have unpacked all my belongings in my new home I found this wonderful book from 1950 that was initially destined for Three Jelly Moulds and a Wardrobe. However, after a quick flick through the book I have decided to hang on to it for it reveals some fascinating insights into mid-20th century domestic social history.
My copy of Every Woman’s Book of Homemaking is a first edition from 1950 published in London. As such, the book reveals much about expectations on the housewife and home life at the time.
Extract from Introduction
‘A lecturer on Domestic Science the other day described the modern house as a “machine for living in”. It sounds a soulless description. To us wives a house is far more than that. It is a home – a shrine of married love; a haven of rest for hubby when he comes in tired from his day’s work; a retreat in which husband and wife can shelter, shutting out for a time the outside world with its worries and struggles, and be a at peace; a place that the children will always think of with affection as the scene of happy childhood and a refuge in time of trouble
The weary, worried wife cannot make a really happy home; it is more than can be expected of her. Good equipment, wise planning, sound management cannot alone make a happy home of a house, but how much they can help towards it!
The modern house is far better planned than the houses of Victorian days. It is arranged to cut out as much unnecessary work as possible – the toiling up and down stairs from basement to attic, the daily cleaning of useless passages and needless kitchen space. Nowadays we have the benefits of many inventions to ease the burden of housework. Gas-stoves and domestic boilers have done away with cooking on blazing kitchen ranges and the carrying of countless buckets of coal; electric light is a clean, bright, non-troublesome means of illumination – try to imagine if you have never experienced it, the time and trouble it took to keep an oil-lamp for each room trimmed, cleaned and filled every day – carpet-sweepers and vacuum cleaners save the laborious and inefficient sweeping and brushing and dusting; hundreds of gadgets are on the market to do, quickly and easily, jobs that cost our mothers – or, at any rate, our grandmothers – endless time and work; the hire-purchase system has brought within the reach of thousands of us expensive equipment that otherwise we could never afford to buy.
Of course, these things are not for all of us. We don’t all live in towns or suburbs with electric light and gas laid on to every house as a matter of course; not every modern house is perfectly planning for labour-saving and smooth running; vacuum cleaners and refrigerators are not within the reach of everyone. But we housewives of to-day are all out to save ourselves work where we can. We are not content to be slaves to our houses. If there is a quicker, easier way of doing a household job, we are eager to learn it and try it, and give ourselves more time for rest and recreation.
Altogether, this book is planned to help you make your house both an efficient “machine for living in” and a real home’
Just this short introductory passage reveals much about the changes beginning to occur for women in the mid-20th century, no longer did they want to be slaves to their homes like their mothers and grandmothers. But those traditional structures and assumptions of domestic arrangements are still present at the time. Darling hubby needs a sanctuary to come home too and it is the wife’s responsibility to run the home.
It is a fascinating start to a rather informative book which is filled with handy advice and tips from house repairs and home design to DIY and baking. Not all of the advice would be recommended today (such as soothing a scald or burn with butter or warm water – ouch) but some might just come in handy (bookmarked ‘how to upholster an armchair’).