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The Labour Saving Home

The Labour Saving Home.

 

 

The Electrical Association for Women, through their belief in “technophoria” - that technology has the capacity to liberate women, contributed to the domestic science movement. This movement supposedly gave housework a scientific basis, but also reinforced women’s role within the home, by using the ‘prestige’ of male-dominated sciences.

 

The Servantless Home

 

Appliances were often advertised as labour-saving and as replacements for servants, but initially appliances tended to be bought to keep rather than to replace servants, making working conditions potentially easier by providing more efficient tools to work with. Although noticed during the First World War, the decline of  the servant in Britain was a marginal process that was not really observable until after the Second World War, but the electricity industry used the association of electrical appliances with a servant-employing, luxury life-style, and later on with the decline of domestic staff, even expressed the notion that appliances were better than employees (Figs 13 , 14 and 15 advertising using the analogy of the appliance as silent, tireless, dependable, cheaper and better than a servant )

All the difficulties apparent in staffing nowadays are really opportunities to adopt labour-saving methods. Electrical devices do not have “off-days”, and do not give notice.  

 

Even though you no longer supervised staff, you could still be manager of your home, overseeing equipment.

However even though the EAW professed a firm belief in “the servantless home” they also played a part in trying to get women to return to domestic service, introducing the Homeworker’s Certificate, a qualification for “domestic employees,” that would show a level of skill attained, and also as part of the national ‘servant problem’ allied the certificate to the Ministry of Labour Training Centres. This suggests that even “electrically-minded”  middle-class women still sought domestic servants. Although acknowledging that conditions and pay in factories were probably superior, as well as the autonomy this type of work meant, the EAW still expressed  the idea that domestic service was far more skilled than “turning a handle in a factory” and an “interesting, honoured and pleasant career, and therefore a worthy occupation for a certain class of woman.

 

Scientific Management

The new profession of “domestic scientist” had grown and been developed in the United States, by  middle-class women such as Catherine Beecher, Christine Frederick, and Lillian Gilbreth.

 They seized any science, any discipline, any discovery, which could conceivably be used to upgrade a familiar task 

 

The enhanced scientific aspects of domestic instruction provided a valuable means of elevating the status of housework, described as an “alliance of domestic craft with engineering’. By the nineteenth century many traditional skills had moved from the home into mass-production, and correspondingly the status of the housewife had declined as she had to use fewer skills, it has been written that the contrast of home and work conditions had to be closed to give the appearance of parity, hence the introduction of scientific management in the home.

 

Ellen Richards had a scientific education, and blended chemistry, biology and engineering to create “the science of right living”, testing household water purity, foods and appliances.

Christine Frederick and Lillian Gilbreth are described by  Hayden as:

Ideologues of the anti-feminist, pro-consumption suburban home. 

 

Each based their pseudo-scientific theories based on the merger of “Scientific Management” as developed by Frederick Taylor for factories; with domestic science, thereby “elevating housework to a challenging activity”. They broke down and analysed domestic tasks into separate movements to find the most efficient way of doing each chore; supposedly leading to more efficient housework that took less time.

It introduced the idea that progress in the standards of domestic life was both possible and - at least partly - attainable through improved organisation and technology in housework. This idea of progress in standards was to play an important role in counteracting the labour-saving impact of domestic appliances in the twentieth century, leaving the actual time wives spent doing housework substantially unaffected by technological changes. 

 

Scientific management had very little to offer the housewife as the home was too small-scale for any great savings to be made. The manager who monopolised knowledge to control the labour process and the worker with no initiative as described by Taylor and Frank Gilbreth were one and the same, so the housewife had to set and meet her own quality standards. Scientific management meant new work where there was no limit and always the need for further improvement, becoming the management expert of the home, analysing chores, planning and record keeping. Domestic work had become a profession that bound women to the home, and engaged women intellectually and emotionally in her tasks.

 

And so the Domestic Void began to fill. Old work was invested with the grandeur of science: new work - challenging, businesslike - as devised. If homemaking was a full-time career the Home would be safe. 

vaccum cleaner

 

Everything had to be justified in the name of a forward-looking science, home ‘economics’, hygiene, ‘germ theory’, new titles such as “management expert of the home” were banded about, new equipment was needed to give credence to the management expert’s transformed position, only Charlotte Perkins Gilman followed the logic of rationalised housekeeping to its conclusion - if homemaking was a profession, then why not turn it over to a specialist? - why have nuclear homes at all? -let  people live in co-operative “apartment communities” that were collectivised, or professionally staffed by women and men; where housework was no longer women’s work, becoming instead human work. 

The EAW leadership was particularly interested in Gilbreth and Frederick’s  “scientific management in the home”,  each having written for The Electrical Age and The Woman Engineer. The EAW leaders found the concept of the introduction of “engineering thought” into the kitchen, very appealing. Aspects of the work was used in their own recommendations;  for example, making sure that working surfaces were of a correct and uniform height, and planning work-routes in the room. Kitchen planning and the concept of labour-saving became one of the EAW l campaigns and a strong editorial theme of The Electrical Age for most of the 1930s.

Household operations, just like those in factory or plant, may be standardised, simplified, and reduced to a basic time study. The processes of housework are identical with the processes and operations in the whole industrial field. In short, there is just as much need for “engineering” and “management” in the household as there is in the manufacturing plant. 

 

Christine Frederick wrote articles about the “progress of reconstruction” in the home for the Electrical Age. She only briefly discussed electrical labour saving appliances and the “servantless home”, soon refuting Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s ideas about communal living, which Frederick felt would mean “the end of home life”, and private homes, citing “scientific management” as the way forward.

Each of the main pieces of equipment can be so placed that the worker may proceed from one task to the other, making a chain of steps or “routed” work. Thus the food storage, the preparing table, and the electrical range should be located adjacent or in one group. It will then be possible for the worker to move expeditiously and easily from one cooking process to the other.... 

 

Christine Frederick also claimed that electricity had developed new methods and techniques of housewifery, that had led to a saving of 50%, or even 80%  of time “and that by a worker who remains neat and attractive”

 

Gilbreth designed her labour-saving kitchen for the Brooklyn Borough Gas Company, New York, using 3 principles- The correct and uniform height of working surfaces, a circular work place and general “circular routing of working”, so the housewife might be able to do routine work in the minimum amount of time, with the minimum amount of effort

and second, to illustrate to the home-maker how the kitchen might be made so attractive that she would want to spend more time in it, doing some of the really enjoyable tasks that a good kitchen makes possible. 

 

From 1935 the EAW  started their investigations based on the premise of  Domestic Scientific Management, into kitchen planning and fatigue and motion study. In 1937 they held an EAW kitchen planning competition, where entrants had to produce a diagram of how they would alter and re-plan their current kitchen arrangements to eliminate unnecessary lifting, carrying and walking: to improve storage and preparation spaces; and “generally reduce waste of time and undue fatigue in everyday kitchen activities”. The entrants obviously gained more points if they attempted to make the kitchen all-electric and included plenty of outlets, as well as taking the principles of kitchen planning into account  by dividing the rooms into working centres of storage, cleaning and cooking; and the relationship of the centres to each other.

The Electrical Association for Women often helped to plan labour-saving electrical show kitchens, houses and flats for those who tended not to be  specifically catered for by the rest of the building industry and architectural profession; for example Working class kitchens and “bachelor girl flats”.

In 1936 the EAW produced a film based on time and motion analysis in the home,  where an everyday task was photographed, first as usual , then in a way according to the motion economy plan,  thereby making a saving of 7 minutes in the preparation of breakfast and reducing the amount of walking from 199 feet to 55 feet. However, the initial kitchen used for the study was supposedly arranged and the equipment placed “in a general way” , but judging from the plans the arrangement seems to have been particularly awkward with the appliances well away from each other, and the cooker wedged between a door and a table, so it seems to have been somewhat of an unrepresentative and particularly stupid design and would naturally show a big improvement by being replanned . Although the EAW claimed that the planning of the kitchen was all-important,  of the 6 points that they produced for motion study kitchen planning, 5 were based on vague, rather unscientific human factors rather than design elements. The points were; rhythmic movements; as few parts of the body as possible should be used in movement; balanced posture; use of all of the structure of the part of anatomy being used, i.e. the hand; advantage taken of the tendency to form habits; and all materials should be within areas of easiest reach.

 

The inter-war period was a time when the use of some rooms changed. Previously some functions of the kitchen were carried out in a scullery, especially domestic tasks that involved water such as washing-up, washing clothes even washing bodies when there was no bathroom. The cooking and preparation of food would be in another room, usually a living-room and kitchen combined, although this depended on wealth of the occupants and size of house. During the inter-war years, these separate functions were combined into one room which was designed to the rationale of planning and scientific management; clinical, no longer comfortable, almost a laboratory, often without chairs, that also lead to the isolation of the housewife, hidden away from the rest of the house and family, functioning alone in her sterile environment.

This laboratory was not a place for eating, that was solely performed in the dining room, but this too could become a place for the preparation of food, particularly “clean”, “easier” meals such as breakfast or tea; when planning flats or homes for middle class occupants the EAW often made provision for the storage and use of small domestic appliances; coffee percolators, egg boilers, kettles and toasters for breakfast, even small table cookers for lone meals or immediate preparation of dinner party food.
This was also a period of time when the industry was encouraging the further use of domestic appliances to “spread the load”, and the  small appliances would be used at different times of the day rather than peak periods.
Appliances were advertised in terms of social conservatism; enhancing middle-class life styles;  electrical appliances; as a means of ‘fresh’ food, therefore better and healthier; allied to newly emerging ideas about cookery and diet - advertisers began equating the use of appliances with more economic,less wasteful cooking and more nutritious food than had been available in the recent past. Appliances were also advertised as elitist, as a way of getting the best out of life, encouraging pleasure in consumption, as a means of enhancing status and image, thereby gaining the respect of social equals.
Although time was saved walking between kitchen and dining room, labour was not, nor was money, as a plethora of small gadgets specifically designed to be used in the dining room had to be purchased.

 

Experts

 

The scientific planning was part of a move to professionalise the status of the housewife.

What matters is the age you live in, its demands and offers, and it scarcely offers any other profession so much as it offers the housewife. Once you realise this, you will see yourself as mistress of your kitchen and household, with your intelligence and brains actively employed. 

 

 The housewife had become a “modern” “domestic scientist” in a clean, white-collar managerial job, whilst maintaining her purity and feminity; “safe” in the home but doing more housework than ever before, no longer seeking relief from other sources such as laundry services, or paid help, these jobs previously carried out by commercial agencies now began returning to the housewife

They must not hope, however, that relief from these troubles will come from outside, for the only effective remedy is a change in their own mental attitude towards these complex questions  

 

During the 1920s and 1930s as part of the labour saving  movement, there seems to have been a plentiful supply of manuals written by pseudo scientific experts  on the subject of being a good home manager. These were aimed at the middle-class, in particular the women lacking the domestic help they, or their parents had been used to. The “experts” seemed to rely on inducing guilt for not doing the job better; that is, in a more scientific, hygienic and labour saving manner. Appliances seem to  possess complex, highly technical, mysterious qualities, which it seems, only people of a highly superior intelligence are able to understand.

For example, no matter how efficient a vacuum cleaner may be, unless a person of average ability and common sense can operate the machine, it is not worth-while buying it. The mistress of the house may have some knowledge of engineering or of electricity, but it is almost certain that the maid, if one is kept, will not. 

 

Housework had become too important to be performed by uneducated women . The manuals also gave advice on choosing appliances and furniture, what to look for, price ranges and how to arrange the kitchen “scientifically”.

 

The EAW  produced their own manuals in part to demythologise the literature surrounding appliances; Household Electricity  set out to explain electricity, and to help the housewife to make the best use of the electricity that was available to her, explaining in detail how electricity was brought to the home, how costing was worked out, how appliances worked and were constructed. The Electrical Handbook For Women   included chapters on using electricity, finding faults and safety, but it was written as a text book for teaching electricity in relation to housecraft, and for demonstrators undergoing examination hence the inclusion of chapters about demonstration and salesmanship.

 

 

Leisure

It is harder to separate non-waged work from leisure-time, than to separate waged from leisure, the role of good wife and mother exerted an invasive influence over the spare-time activities of women. The leisure and free time of women is conditioned by their position in a male dominated society. The housewife can have time off only when her household duties have been satisfactorily fulfilled.

With  the time that was supposedly saved by using electricity and labour saving appliances, and the “professionalisation” of the position of housewife, women were supposed to be superwomen; “alert to her children’s studies, interested in her husband’s business, with social obligations to be filled, required to be well-informed about  new books, music and the theatre, find time for sport , exercise for the beauty culture and find “some undisturbed hours for her own quiet meditation”, be less tired , spend more time with their families, being better and more attentive mothers, wives and daughters, and therefore “should”  be more fulfilled.(Fig 24 early campaign encouraging the use of electricity to gain leisure)

Dame Henrietta Barnett wrote:

 

..it (electricity) enables individual homemakers to give less time to their necessary but mundane household duties, and this frees them for the more intelligent companionship, affectionate watchfulness and spiritual consideration of those for whom they care” 

 Caroline Haslett said

Way is being made by electricity for a higher order of women - women set free from drudgery, who have time for reflection; for self-respect. We are coming to an Age when the spiritual and higher state of life will have freer development, and this is only possible when women are liberated from soul-destroying drudgery...

I want her to have leisure to acquaint herself more profoundly with the topics of the day 

 

‘Saved’ time should not only be used to educate and improve oneself to take a philanthropic role in the affairs of the community both socially and politically, but even when one was already “electrically minded” there was always more that could be learned and achieved.

Mrs. V. DeFerranti was frequently cited as a mentor and innovator,

Her electrified home gives her time to serve on four important committees and seven sub-committees in the borough 

 

The gained leisure hours were also seen as time to carry out more domestic tasks, although of a different nature to the routine domestic chores usually done each day. When writing about the benefits of rural electrification, Elsie Edwards suggests that country women should spend the hours gained by electrification, cooking their home-grown produce bottling and making jam.

In fact the garden is electricity’s greatest friend, as is the Women’s Institute, at which women are encouraged to bottle and preserve the fruits of the earth, rather than to cultivate the tin-opener habit. 

 

The ideology of Domestic labour returning to the past  to encompass the production, manufacture and consumption of foodstuffs; viewed  either as a waste of time that could be better spent doing something pleasurable for herself, as there would be some mass produced alternatives available for purchase, or as going some way towards the reclaiming of traditional skills lost during industrialisation, and making  domestic work more creative and fulfilling, making the domestic worker more than just a machine minder. Less time would be spent in drudgery and more time in creativity; making things, cooking elaborate dishes and taking pleasure in satisfaction of a task well done.

 

Technology in the home appears to enhance task orientation and job satisfaction, even at times to encourage creativity, as through the use of blenders, mixers, food processors and other similar appliances in cooking. 

 

Therefore the qualitative demands on the housewife were increased, and the dual notion of service arrived: the service performed by the machine for the housewife allowed the housewife to be more ready to service the family.

 

Hygiene

 

Since the mid-nineteenth century the discovery of germs had also helped to extend the amount that needed to be done in the home, a source of physical welfare and health. By 1938 the fear of dirt was so ingrained that electricity seemed to be the only solution, articles in The Electrical Age would stress ‘dirt means danger’, ‘dirt means disease’, ‘all that makes for cleanliness, makes for health’,’ electricity spells cleanliness’; electricity was the only solution to ensure hygiene and health-givingness. Vacuum cleaner manufacturers frequently marketed their product as an hygienic appliance, freeing the home from dust which carried germs, reflecting the the general fear of contamination of the home from the unregulated, outside environment. Cleanliness equalled control over the domestic environment, the vacuum cleaner helping in the day-to-day struggle, spring cleaning portrayed as old-fashioned and a sign of an unhygienic home. (Fig 25 the hidden danger in dirt that the family had to be protected from).

In 1936 an article in The Electrical Age described  a refrigerator as both a necessity for the health of the family so that the hidden danger of germs, bacteria and mould could be prevented, and the saving of health and money by prevention of wastage and spoilage of food; but simultaneously described as a luxurious status symbol, that would enable easier entertaining;  cool drinks would always be available, the production of delightful and varied food, thereby creating more work,  albeit of a different kind to the usual domestic chores (Fig 26. British made refrigerator stressing its healthfulness and purity, rationale made concrete by a parliamentay act)

Women did not gain any extra time in the labour-saving home because the meaning of the work had changed. Housework had become emotionalised as a voluntary expression of love for the family, a duty and no longer a chore. Medical experts were used to “show” that electricity was the safer, cleaner way of looking after one’s family, children were less likely to be burnt or scalded as they had been on old-fashioned ranges, and electrical power would supposedly reduce smoke, making the environment healthier as electricity was portrayed as a saner, cleaner, easier way of heating. The focus had gradually shifted from utilitarian to psychological values, from the product, to what the product could do for the consumer.

 The necessity of making do with less help around the house, because of the so-called servant  problem, had gradually become a virtue, as was doing more for the family with less help, even when alternatives were available. This important nurturing work could no longer be entrusted to servants, or substitutes, only the real thing would do.

New appliances had lessened the physical drudgery, but some still took the same amount of labour time. In 1935 the EAW’s  report into electricity in working-class homes, and the labour-saving advantages that electricity could bring, showed that in an unwired home the average housewife spent 26.25 hours a week attending to lamps, cooking stoves and fires, washing, ironing and cleaning; whilst in an electric house the work load was reduced by 75% to just over 7 hours. Cleaning and filling lamps and making fires disappeared; cleaning and lighting ranges dropped from 2.75 to 1.06 hours; ironing from 2.95 to 1.55 hours; cleaning from 8.26 to 4.12 hours and laundry from 4.03 to 1.60 hours.

Questionnaires issued to EAW  members, compared homes that were powered by electricity, and those that were powered by coal and oil. The tasks that were pre-chosen for analysis were those that were obviously easier and cleaner when electrified in comparison to coal and oil; electric fires take no amount of time to attend to, whilst solid fuel fires take a considerable amount of time and energy when including wood cutting, cleaning the grates or carrying the coal in  statistics. Tasks such as ironing would have taken slightly less time when using an electric iron as there would be no walking to reheat the irons on a stove; the EAW felt that the ironing would be “more satisfactory” and done in less time,  the housewife no longer needing to take a break, therefore time would not be ‘wasted’ in leisure, and the housewife would be able to do a larger amount of ironing in less time. It is noticeable that certain everyday tasks are absent, such as the preparation and cooking of meals, where presumably the amount of time taken would be similar.  The questionnaire made no comparison between the traditional rivals of gas and electricity, where the tasks would be equivalent in time and labour (apart from dusting and sweeping, although non-electrical suction sweepers were readily available, and were widely advertised). Washing machines did not ease the burden of hauling wet washing around, but time increased as more items were washed more often.  New types of housework replaced the work that appliances had “eliminated”, so that increasingly higher standards were expected, and often machines were described as better at the task than the operators.

This can particularly be seen  in the case of the dish washer,  in 1936 The Electrical Age,  ran a feature on the use of dishwashers; electrically heated water for washing up was no longer good enough, more was required of the domestic scientist, hidden dirt and film still remained; the machine was better than a human, it was hygienic, sterile, dirt and germ free. It was also described as labour saving and as a beauty aid, crockery no longer required rinsing or polishing and was now uncontaminated whilst hands remained soft.

New jobs were substituted for the old jobs, less time was spent on cleaning and cooking- those jobs traditionally carried out by another paid worker; more time was spent on consuming, management, family care and washing.

 

Joann Vanek writes that the large amount of time spent on housework,  especially during the evenings and the weekends is a way of rendering their job “visible” to others, and of being noticed and valued by others,

 

The results of housework...are accepted as natural and are only noticed when they are absent. It is therefore the work itself whose existence must be felt and acknowledged; working long hours and working on Sunday can serve to demonstrate this. 

 

Domestic science would preserve the ideology of the home, and it was woman’s responsibility to create a home unlike ‘work’, away from work structures, disciplines and forms of organisation, although using them herself in her own ‘work’. This was negotiated in the kitchen, the traditional domain of the woman and the site of most appliances. Ideally scientific planning would be planned out in and centred around the kitchen hidden away from the rest of the house.

 

Men

 

Usually when men featured in appliance advertising it was as bringer and provider  of electrical gifts (Fig. 27 man as provider of domestic gifts), rarely as a joint consumer (Fig 28 the only appearance found of man as an electrical consumer, possibly lamps did not have such domestic connotations as appliances and Fig 29 only example found of  man as an appliance consumer possibly as the reminder that not all appliance consumers have to be married couples, and also to show how simple it is to operate) . In modern society only the home seemed secure and stable, and had become a container for aspirations and a scene of conspicuous consumption, having symbolic value for the patriarchal capitalist male as provider, as an outlet for demonstrating individual abilities and social and economic gradations,

....which could not be met in an increasingly stratified society: from a middle-class point of view it was a wholesome target for working-class ambitions and from a male point of view it was a sole focus for women’s energies. 

 

Domestic technology was a substitution for a more equal division of household labour, women taking over tasks previously done by other household members, helping to reinforce the gender division; this unpaid labour supporting the patriarchal and capitalist order, in return for personal over monetary rewards of caring, nurturance and job satisfaction.

Women were the living entities associated with hybrid substances. They turned solids into liquids when they cooked: and when they washed clothes and dishes, or took care of babies, they worked with, and in, things that were swampy, mushy.

The hybrid was aligned to impurity, the forbidden and danger, for men in particular the hybrid and the fluid meant dirt, dealing with dirt was ‘women’s work’.

 

The All-Electric House

In 1935 the EAW  opened the “EAW All-Electric House” in Bristol designed collectively by questionnaire, at the selling price of £1,000 , which included 3 directional fans: 6 inset fires: 12 feet of tubular heating: 3 electric clocks: 1 linen cupboard heater: 1 towel rail: 1 refrigerator (2 cubic feet) and 1 fan  ,   the EAW had put their earlier campaigns into practice by including plenty of lighting and power points. The house was planned to be ‘labour-saving’, so the housewife would “not have to carry wood and coal, clean dirty grates with the resultant dust on floors and furnishings, wind any clocks, clean any metal used in the construction, buy any material for pelmets, clean windows frequently or have any chimney swept, and her cleaning washing and decorating bills will correspondingly diminish”; costing about £30 a year to run inclusive of heating, water heating, washing, cooking, cleaning, refrigeration, lighting and the hiring and fixed charges.

The EAW also designed an electric drying room, so that clothes would be out of the way, although this was admitted later as unsuccessful, requiring more heat and ventilation than anticipated or money allowed.

The house was supposedly designed with the person of moderate means in mind,  and was usually described as a small house with a compact kitchen; although it was designed to be run without a maid, provision was made for one “if desired”.(Fig 30 floor plans of the EAW Bristol house) However the electrical items listed seem to have been luxurious, unusual and small items, the more ‘usual’ electric domestic appliances such as, irons and vacuum cleaners seem to have been ignored, and the rather more necessary cooker, water heaters and wash boilers “may  be hired from the local Electricity Supply Undertaking”, which suggests that the rather more important items were not costed into the original £1,000, and that  one of its main aims was to encourage  further consumption of  appliances and electricity.

The white house designed by Adrian E. Powell A.R.I.B.A., a “gentleman of modern outlook” was in the modernist style of angular clean lines with no added decorative features;  The interior planning ( most furnishings were not included in the price) also reflected this modernist approach, many furnishings were “built-in”, especially in the scientifically planned kitchen. 

 

...we have aimed at the highest efficiency without sacrificing design, and we have found for the most part where the greatest utility value lies, there is also to be found the most pleasing combination of line and colour. 

 

The house was described as one of the first  “all-electric homes”, although there are plenty of references to other all-electric homes all over the country before this time,  popular because of their publicity value, although they usually had a solid-fuel fire to create a focal point, also for the traditional associations of comfort, coziness and homeliness that that in the opinion of the public had not yet been achieved by electric fires.

The EAW all-electric house was built for no charge, the EAW owning the plans, and was constructed for publicity purposes, to encourage women to think about electricity and to be a talking point, but also to prove to builders and architects the valuable role that practical women could play in the planning of a house.

 

... greatest essential in the improvement of housing was the incorporation of the ideas that the occupant of the home, the worker in and for the home unfailingly produced. 

 

 The modernist design  was deliberately chosen for it’s impact, the EAW expecting to be heavily criticised by the public and press for their choice, although this did not seem to happen, perhaps because it was not as radical in design as was originally thought, the interior layout still reflecting the planning of most middle-class homes.  The EAW wrote,

 

New ideas have been incorporated, but they are not  freakish, and all “stunts” have been avoided 

 

 the house sold within the first week and attracted many enquiries. The design of the house reflected the concerns of the EAW and the “official” depiction of electricity, as a new, modern, exciting, futuristic and clean source of power, the ‘triumphalism’ of Bill Luckin or the ‘millenarianism’ of Adrian Forty.

 

 The EAW  were enthusiastic collaborators in the ideology of the labour-saving home, uncritically believing that appliances lessened the drudgery of domestic work, even the fashionable phrase “labour-saving” was enthusiastically used although the EAW  acknowledged that labour-saving appliances did not save much labour in the sense that  when making any claims about labour-saving properties, they always noted that drudgery  was eliminated. However the EAW still enthusiastically advocated  purchasing  the maximum amount of appliances available, as the solution to the labour saving problem which suggests collaboration with the industry.

However, with the introduction of  the concept of scientific management, it was noted that electrical servants were not enough, planning was needed as well.

Planning routes in the kitchen tended to be used by the EAW superficially, so that it did not really matter if it was a useful and time saving method, as long as it gave an aura of  managerial skill as part of the move to professionalise and give status to the work of the housewife and simultaneously relieve her boredom, by making the old work seem fresh and exciting. Partly the ideology of the labour-saving home was the semi-superficial aim of making women happier, later identified by Betty Friedan as ‘the problem that has no name’, by imparting the aura of skill and efficiency and retitling the job. Believing that the work would become ‘pleasant, cleaner more dignified’, more appealing to the intelligence and less physically exhausting relieving the domestic worker from the frustration and fatigue. The EAW uncritically believed in electricity’s role in reinstating domestic work, making it an interesting, honoured and pleasant career.

The notions of scientific management and the expert in the home were filtered to the EAW membership in terms of women’s future role in the home as a manager, planning tasks, a scientific expert doing a different type of domestic job to before, she was no longer a labourer, but  supervised ‘them’, whether appliances or staff, whilst seeming to show that not every body had the skill to be a domestic manager. The fact that there was always room for further improvement was never acknowledged by the EAW leaders and never debated among members, presented uncritically with the ultimate aim of enabling women to have more leisure time to do what they wanted.

The EAW leaders were enthusiastic transmitters of new ideas to their membership, but not necessarily always in a particularly scientific or technical manner, modifying and loosely applying other ideas for their own uses, taking what sounded interesting, or evolving a particular aspect such as the 6  rather vague, unquantifiable motion economy points which seemed to have evolved from Gilbreth’s ‘circular routing”

The unswerving faith of the EAW in technophoria often seeming to get in the way of a more critical  judgement or analysis.

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