Friday, 14 May 2010

Friday Feminist - Crystal Eastman

Cross posted

A growing number of men admire the woman who has a job, and, especially since the cost of living doubled, rather like the idea of their own wives contributing to the family income by outside work. And of course for generations there have been whole towns full of wives who are forced by the bitterest necessity to spend the same hours at the factory that their husbands spend. But these bread-winning wives have not yet developed homemaking husbands. When the two come home from the factory the man sits down while his wife gets supper, and he does so with exactly the same sense of fore-ordained right as if he were "supporting her." Higher up in the economic scale the same thing is true. The business or professional woman who is married, perhaps engages a cook, but the responsibility is not shifted, it is still hers. She "hires and fires," she orders meals, she does the buying, she meets and resolves all domestic crises, she takes charge of moving, furnishing, settling. She may be, like her husband, a busy executive at her office all day, but unlike him, she is also an executive in a small way every night and morning at home. Her noon hour is spent in planning, and too often her Sundays and holidays are spent in "catching up."

Two business women can "make a home" together without either one being over-burdened or over-bored. It is because they both know how and both feel responsible. But it is a rare man who can marry one of them and continue the homemaking partnership. Yet if there are no children, there is nothing essentially different in the combination. Two self-supporting adults decide to make a home together: if both are women it is a pleasant partnership, more fun than work; if one is a man, it is almost never a partnership -- the woman simply adds running the home to her regular outside job. Unless she is very strong, it is too much for her, she gets tired and bitter over it, and finally perhaps gives up her outside work and condemns herself to the tiresome half-job of housekeeping for two.

Crystal Eastman, "Now we can begin" in The Liberator, 1920


A Nonny Moose said...

I was like Woah when I saw the date at the bottom of the piece.

Deborah said...

I'm never sure whether I'm thrilled or disheartened when I find a woman from 100 years ago saying something that could be said today.

Amelia said...

One of the earlier sentences in this article struck me, the one that said (something like), "in some towns, all the women have worked for pay for generations." This is something that is often forgotten when we talk about this "new" trend of women entering the work force. For working class women (the majority of women) this has been the norm for centuries.

My ancestors were working class, and (from my grandmothers back) almost all my female ancestors worked full-time for pay, even when they had preschool kids. They did this because, financially, they had to - but they also took pride in being so hardworking. My female ancestors definitely had the same "double shift" that is seen today, where they were solely responsible for all the cooking, laundry and child-rearing on top of doing their paid job.

My female ancestors were disadvantaged due to both the British class system & their gender. The class system may have been the biggest (or at least, the most obvious) curse for them.