Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Homemaker's Mottos

I have a real soft spot for the inspirational poetry, creeds and mottos I find in my collection of recipe/household management books. It's not that they are simply relics from a bygone age, or examples of women's history, but that they can serve as a quite helpful geeing up to the modern homemaker. When read without prejudice, with new and fresh eyes, you can see how current the advice really is. Homemaking does has a very important social function; the physical, spiritual and creative aspects of homemaking are valuable and exciting. Here are some of the mottos and creeds I like, mainly from the beginning of the last century. I thought it would be interesting to see what my readers thought of them, and how they can be applied to modern women, with twenty-first century concerns. I would be really interested to hear you reactions and thoughts.

The Betty Crocker Creed -

I believe homemaking is a noble and challenging career.

I believe homemaking is an art requiring many different skills.

I believe homemaking requires the best of my efforts, my abilities and my thinking.

I believe home reflects the spirit of the homemaker.

I believe home should be a place of peace, joy and contentment.

I believe no task is too humble that contributes to the cleanliness, the order, the health, the well being of the household.

I believe a homemaker must be true to the highest ideals of love, loyalty, service and religion.

I believe home must be an influence for good in the neighborhood, the community, the country.

From The Scottish Women's Rural Institute Cookbook -

"They talk about a woman's sphere
As though it had a limit;
There's not a place in earth or heaven,
There's not a task mankind given,
There's not a blessing or a woe,
There's not a whispered 'yes' or 'no',
There's not a life, or death or birth,
There's not a feather's weight of worth,
But has a woman in it"

The Meal Planner's Creed

The health of my family is in my care; therefore -
I will spare not effort in planning meals containing the right kind of foods in the right amounts.

Spending the food dollar to get the most for it is my job; therefore -
I will choose foods from a wide variety, variously priced to save money without sacrificing health.

My family's enjoyment of food is my responsibility; therefore -
I will increase their pleasure by preparing a variety of dishes attractive in colour and form and pleasing in flavor and texture.

My family's health, security, and pleasure depend on my skill in planning meals; therefore -
I will treat my job with the respect due it.

From How to Keep House
Housekeeping is a profession, - The first thing to be done in order to better this state of affairs is to realise that household management is a serious profession, and that, like all apprentices, the woman who means to keep house must serve her time and give her energy to learning her profession.

What strikes me from looking at these few quotes and creeds is that they emphasise the responsibilities of the homemaker, hinting at the homemaker's function societally. They talk about homemaking as if it were a serious profession...and the question is, did people really believe this, or was it simply away of keeping women in their place? My guess is the former. Victorian male chauvinists often denigrated homemaking as work for idiots long before the second wave of feminism came along in the 1960s! These quotes, I think, are the product of the large home economics institutes which were so prevalent in the early part of the last century and the women who ran these institutes took their work very seriously indeed. Now, I'm guessing that the vast majority of the women who read my blog are homemakers (whether full-time or part-time), do you see these quotes as relevant to your work? Are they inspirational or irksome? Do you think of homemaking as a profession, with a societal function? Is homemaking simply something to be done whilst the children are still small? I'm genuinely interested in your responses and welcome all manner of opinions, so please let me know your thoughts.


~~Louise~~ said...

I too have a soft spot for the inspirational poetry found in vintage booklets, especially cookbooks and cookbooklets.

I'm saving this post for a future post I plan on doing about Betty Crocker.

Thank you so much for sharing.

Zillah said...

Loved the first and the last! How to Keep House on learning the profession certainly rings true with me - and it's an on-going learning process.

My friend Lynn over at The New Homemakers wrote a wonderful defence of the value of the modern homemaker which pretty much sums up my attitude to the importance of homemaking in an ongoing way, I'll see if I can find the link. It's a lot more political than the turn of the last century ones, but perhaps it is a more political action now to be a homemaker than it was then.


Dulce Domum said...

Hi Louise
Thank you for directing me to your site! It's really nice to meet others who have the same passion for old cook books. I'm really interested in you collection.

Hi Zillah
I firmly believe that homemaking is a political act. Perhaps even counter-cultural, as we choose to act against the predominant cultural norm of our time, that is to say there *is* something more important than making money. I don't like to say this too often, as I am very aware that many women must work to make ends meet, and that these women have a lot on their plate and don't need me giving them a guilt trip! I think the key to good homemaking is doing it with a sense of purpose. When I first left work to look after my kids full-time, I had little idea of what I wanted to achieve in the long term, I floundered in a kind of guilt (there's that word again)and ennui...However, it did click that my initial instinct of "I don't want anyone else rearing my children" was absolutely right and proper and not a knee-jerk reaction to a stressful situation. I then began to read up on emotional intelligence and child well-being and finally understood that the consistent side-lining of homemaking as a profession was harmful to our children, marriages and in turn society. Women were co-opted into a hyper-consumerist economy incredibly quickly, and many women have got themselves into a cycle of work, consume, debt, more work, making economies grow but well-being of nations flounder. When you look outside the world of the "homemaker blog" you still find that the majority of women are incredibly torn between the need to earn money and the need to be with their children, before I had a pregnancy induced hissy-fit at work I really didn't think I had the option but be a working mother, I suppose I blog because I want people to know that the average family can still just about manage to have a homemaker work full time in their household. However, I still admire those women who sacrifice so much to keep food on the table and the rent paid, most women work hard, but those women work an incredible amount.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with your thoughts about being torn between the need to earn and being there for my children. I may well have to go back to work in September to make ends meet. But it will be term-time, school-time, part-time.

It is impossible for some though to manage. My friend's hubby earns £14,000 a year, they have 2 children...they only manage to make ends meet because her Mum and Dad and our church have helped them...some don't get this help.

It must be so frustrating for those women who have that terribly strong urge to stay home but just can't. House prices and rent are through the roof, fuel bills are manic, petrol is unsustainably costly.

For me home is the place where we act out the play of family life. It's not the building or the decor, home is the family. Too much emphasis on many homemaking sites is about the decor and the cleaning. For me home is family. If we can move the emphasis to family from the building itself then homemaking takes on a whole different meaning. It gives a sense of purpose to those who are blessed enough to be in the house for long periods of time and it takes away the guilt of women who cannot be in the house for long periods of time.

Proverbs 31 woman had to work outside the physical walls of the house (and wouldn't it be wonderful if we could return to this agri-centred/home worker type living like my early weaver ancestors [before the mills opened]). But Proverbs 31 woman was working for the home - for her family and for her husband. Poorer women who have to work outside the house to sustain their family are still working for the home, they are feeding and clothing their children and their children will respect this.

I only wish that there were more government help for women who can't afford to stay home with their kiddies, but alas I fear that the lull of income tax doth cry louder than the lull of happy families for the government.

Sorry long rather disjointed comment.

Dulce Domum said...

Lazy Daisy said:
"For me home is family."
I agree. Home is family. I'd like to see "family" becoming a verb... "I can't work over-time tonight I'm doing family!" I think, whether we work outside the home or not, there has been too much emphasis on the "outside world"...as in "she should be in the outside world a bit more..." There is little emphasis on family life in this country, that's why child poverty has increased under New Labour rather than decreased. Home is an essential social unit, whichever way we run it, a good family life is crucial to well-being.

Dulce Domum said...

Daisy, have you thought about being a teaching assistant. The pay is rubbish, but you really do work school hours only. Look on your county website under vacancies.

Anonymous said...

I have thought about being a Teaching Assistant. A friend of mine works for a local college helping people with disabilities do their courses...this is term-time and you can pick you hours. I might look into this too.

Gumbo Lily said...

I appreciate these quotations whether they were said in earnest or not. There is always so much to do in the home that I wonder why some don't think it could be a full-time respectable job. Every woman I have ever talked to or known that left the home for work -- to make ends meet or to further the career, has said that she wishes it could be different. She misses her family and all that goes on in the home while she's away, she misses the projects she once did, and the way the laundry used to get hung out on the line when she was at home.

My children are almost grown and I still intend to be at home. My hope is that I might help my children and their spouses with their children and be able to "be there" for them when they need help or a break from the children. There's always someone who needs help from home.


Jenny said...

Great discussion and I love the mottos. You know I am all for homemaking being giving the community respect it deserves. It can only help the mental, physical and spiritual health of any community if a greater proportion of the population are doing creative work and that's what homemaking should be - the crafting of a living organism that supports and enriches lives and families.

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Daisy
I think being a teacher's assistant is quite a nice job for a mum.

Hi Jody
I can honestly say that you have articulated the way I felt when I was a working mum...plus I was horribly jealous of the time other people spent with my children. I don't want to go there again and my hunch is that many other women feel, or have felt, the way I do. That's why I am passionate about homemaking, I think it's good for women and good for society. I also think that women with older children have an awful lot of value, as they *know* so much and can pass this knowledge on. Also, older women are the mainstay of an extended family, and extended families enable children to have a cross-generational experience/education. Extended families also help lessen the burden on parents of small children. However, I never want my, somewhat strident (lol), views to be a condemnation of another woman's choices, but just an honest expression of my own. Does that make sense?

Hi Jenny
I think your point (and Daisy's) emphasises the basis of a good family life as important to the well-being of us all. Establishing a good family life is an essential priority. However, I do detect a shift in norms, where once a good family life was thought to be about care, protection, creativity, fun, comfort, dignity etc., a good family life is now equated with provision of material goods and costly experiences.(Just another thing which has been comodified). We have abandoned, as a culture, a sense of our "time" being something which we should use freely and give to others to create communities (family or otherwise) instead we spend freely and hold our time as something precious and personal. However, I do see more and more people examining ways in which we should live to be better people rather than have more stuff, I see homemakers as part of that movement.

Jenny said...

Hi Natalie, you might like to read this article http://www.profam.org/pub/fia/fia_1701.htm. I found it really interesting although I don't know anything about the site where I found it. (Let me know if the address doesn't work.)

Anonymous said...

I love inspirational quotes and creeds, thank you for sharing these. I found them all inspiring--no matter what the original intent. (o;

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Jenny
I've read the article and I've emailed you. It was a very good read! Thanks for the link.

Hi Michele
I think that's the general consensus, that the quotes are inspirational, no matter their original intent. My guess *is* that the original intent was to inspire...I've read too many 1930s Good Housekeeping articles to think anything but...yes, I think they are sincere. I'll email you the link to the article Jenny sent me, I think you'll enjoy it.

Gumbo Lily said...

I always appreciate your "strident" views of homemaking and I agree wholeheartedly with you.

I had very little help from the older generation (grandparents) when my children were growing up, but I did live next door to my MIL whom I learned a great deal from about living in the country, ranching, putting up foods, frugal living, laundry, gardening and much, much more. She was so wise and so practical. She made a woman out of me (lol). I aim to do the same for my children and their families.


Dulce Domum said...

Hi Jody
It sounds like you MIL was a marvelous person. I remember growing up in a huge extended family. My gran's brothers and sisters and their children and grandchildren lived in the same street, or a couple of streets away. Even in inner city Coventry I had a safe place to play as a child. Everybody knew everybody and the women meant business!!!

Elizabeth said...

P.S. I think your question is a good one. These statements were written during a century in which many things in society were changing. These changes impacted how both men and women viewed (and view today) their endeavors in life.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution and the rise of Social Darwinism, I think both men and women were more satisfied in the domestic sphere. Elizabeth Gaskell traces the changes in attitudes toward this in her book, "Wives and Daughters." The different generations of men in the book portray how things were changing in the nineteenth century, and that pattern set us up for further changes in the twentieth.

But, however these home keeping statements were intended, they are very helpful, I think. Any time you want to do something well, it's good to have a crystallized idea of what you want to accomplish and why. I think many women today really do want to excel in loving their families and managing their homes well whether society supports them or not.

Whew, that was a long-winded comment! Kudos to you for making us think.

~~louise~~ said...

Hi Dulce,
Well, the time has come to use this valuable link. I plan on posting about Betty Crocker's radio debut tomorrow March 4. It probably won't be posted until late in the day but I just think your link will fit in quite nicely.

Thanks again for sharing, Louise:)