Last week my daughter who blogs at Retrohousewife Goes Green shared a blog with me, Jen But Never Jenn. A couple of years ago Jen had undertaken a two-week experiment of living like a typical 1950s housewife. I spent the better part of two days reading all the entries (she ended up doing a second week of it, plus a “50s Housewife Does Christmas” series). I’ve read other blogs in which women do the 50s thing but this one was absolutely hilarious. After you read this post you simply MUST go read at least part of the entries. Oh, who am I kidding? Set aside a serious amount of time because you’ll end up reading them all.
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Start by reading her post about keeping house 50s-style. I’m a relatively decent housekeeper, at least by today’s standards but as I read the daily housekeeping routine she had developed for her experiment I began to feel utterly inadequate. And exhausted. I did like two parts of it: Squeezing in a 10-30 minute nap and preparing a tray for pre-dinner cocktails. Because honestly? if I did everything on that list I would NEED a drink. But then I would most likely fall asleep before finishing the rest of the day’s work.
I’m not entirely certain whether the literature available on the subject truly reflects the activities of the average housewife of that era. I’m fairly certain shows like Leave it to Beaver and The Donna Reed Show were very much idealized versions of 50s home life. Or maybe they were accurate and I’m just a terrible slacker. But those women didn’t have the INTERNETS! or FACEBOOK! or PINTEREST! to waste spend quality time on. And really, without those what else was there to do but mop floors and make gelatin-based dishes?
As I read through the posts an idea began brewing. I’ve always had a fascination with that era. Ever since I was a child, my favorite show has been I Love Lucy. And when Nick at Night started I was thrilled to discover The Donna Reed Show. Nothing gives me the warm fuzzies quite like a Leave it to Beaver marathon or catching a few episodes of Father Knows Best. And obviously, anyone who designs and decorates a kitchen like this one:
…is going to entertain thoughts of giving that 50s housewife thing a try. Ever the romantic, I had visions of serving breakfast to my husband while wearing an adorable apron:
And I already mentioned the part about pre-dinner cocktails. In fact, due to the influence of Mad Men, several months ago I moved our most attractive liquor bottles to our library with every intention of occasionally pretending to be Samantha from Bewitched.
I have the cookbooks for it:
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Deanna, I found Jen But Never Jenn's blog about a year ago and read the 50's Housewife Experiment. She does have documentation from sources about what the average 1950's housewife's list of chores would entail. She is so hilarious in her writing, that I couldn't stop reading! Her blog led me to other retro housewife blogs and they are filled with hilarity, as well as useful tips that have been forgotten over the years.
Keep on reading!!
Deanna Piercy says
Mary, I'd love to see some of the other blogs you found. I have a couple in my Google Reader but they've sort of fizzled out lately.
I have a 1959 copy of Hints from Heloise that is pretty much a home cleaning manual. And she made sure to have all afternoon free most days!
My 'new' habit of late is to try and be presentable when John comes in. If that means putting on a clean set of clothes then I do it. I try to have the coffee made and the house looking as though I slaved (even if I didn't). Another great blog to read is
http://my50syear.blogspot.com/ You'll want to read her archives too.
I think what we're all nostalgic for is two-fold: being better wives and being better homemakers in a world that tells us we have little value in either role. I do know my husband is terribly proud to announce to his co-workers that is wife is a full time homemaker and he delights in telling the girls he works with that I make him breakfast everyday. Granted it's not a big elaborate meal such as we'll have on his off mornings, but he gets breakfast put before him and yes, he does enjoy it as much for my company as for the caring it signifies.
I used to get up with B every morning and have his breakfast ready by the time he got back from PT. Feeding him before he went to go run two miles would kind of be a bad idea. But, after a few months of this, he finally admitted he doesn't really like eating breakfast, so now he wakes me up when he gets back from PT, and I badger him into taking a granola bar to work for a morning snack.
I do make sure he's got a good lunch every day, whether it's a cooked lunch (like today's pasta with fresh marinara), or a sandwich (which is still usually on fresh baked bread). He absolutely loves bragging to his co-workers about this.
I do have to say my housekeeping is rather slacking of late. I feel like I have a valid excuse, since I've been asleep almost all of the past three months with first trimester zobification, but I do need to do better. I'd like the house to look nice when he gets home in the evenings, even if I don't. Unfortunately most of my clothes don't fit anymore, so sweats and his t-shirts are the run of the mill until I get some more clothes (or get bold enough to attempt to make them… )
I love the 50's ideal as well. It's something good that has been lost. Granted, I prefer the knowledge that I do have a choice, but I like the idea of a stay-at-home wife/mother. I think it makes for less stressful homes with happier and better raised children. But, I am also a chauvinist. 😛
Most men like a bit of fussing over.
Will take a look at Jen's blog when I have the time (I've bookmarked it).
I am totally *not* into the 1950's housewife thing, but I do have to say I love your kitchen. AND – this is the BEST part – I totally have all three of those same cookbooks.
And I love vintage tablecloths.
But I do not cook. 😉
Deanna Piercy says
Jaci: That is funny that you have the same cookbooks. I'm going to start looking for more vintage tablecloths. I bought this one nearly 20 years ago and I love it.
Thanks, everyone, for your comments. You may have noticed the lack of updates on this topic. There are at least two reasons for that, which I'll share next week. 😉
Logan Howe says
Isn't the Better Homes and Garden cookbook amazing!? It says how to do everything!
Deanna Piercy says
Yes, indeed, Logan! Better Homes and Garden was the cookbook I remember while growing up. My mom still has her old copy which she has promised to leave to my daughter. I found mine in an antique store many, many years ago.
You are too funny! I get up and make hubby's breakfast every day at 4:30. Sigh… Perhaps I should start him on a cereal routine instead. LOL
Deanna Piercy says
You're a better woman than I. 😉
Oh my God, I love the update at the end! HAHA!!
Hi! I’m Holly from over at the50shousewife.com. Jenn actually references my post about a more realistic 50s day in one of her posts because, yeah. There’s a few of those day routines floating around the internet that are insane.
I interviewed a few who actually did the housewife routing back in the 50s-60s-70s. The routines they described don’t look anything like those crazy ones you’ll find out there. I promise! It’s not so bad! You are too funny though. Loved the post. Love your site. I’ll definitely be back!
Deanna Piercy says
Hello Holly! I’m so glad you stopped by. I keep saying I’m going to do another 1950s day. I have your blog in my Feedly list. I’ll do some snooping around for those more “normal” cleaning routines because I’m sure not going to be able to pull off that idealized version.
I’m currently researching the 1940s for a blog series sometime in the next month or two. I’m reading about rationing and creating menus with limited quantities of certain items. I also want to find information about homemaking/cleaning for that period. Should be interesting since vacuums were luxury items until after the war.