… is from page 489 of the late Wesleyan University economic historian Stanley Lebergott’s great 1984 book, The Americans: An Economic Record :
For a thousand years the greatest share of labor in most societies has been supplied by adult women. They produced and raised children. They also produced much if not most of the good and services essential to human existence and comfort. To do all this they typically worked from dawn to dusk, and even later once artificial light permitted it.
In the past 75 years, however, major changes have taken place in the pattern of women’s work in the United States. Between 1900 and 1975 the workday of U.S. housewives was cut in half.
DBx: It’s easy – and a signal of what are mistaken for higher sensibilities – to demean the hawking of, and the desire for, more and new’n’improved consumer products. Electrical appliances such as dishwashers, blenders, microwave ovens, and frost-free freezers and refrigerators. Teflon cookware. Powerful detergents. Prepared foods available at every neighborhood supermarket. Disposable diapers that reflect our understanding that nature is often something which we should be protected from rather than exposed to. Spacious automobiles that allow the transportation of lots of disposable diapers and other groceries to be stored in spacious closets and cabinets that are part of modern, spacious homes.
When you are next tempted to decry – perhaps with a tweet broadcast globally from your smartphone – commercial society and the alleged shallowness of its materialism, remember the late Hans Rosling’s celebration of the washing machine.