Thursday, April 2, 2009

Vintage Sexism, Get-Back-In-the-Kitchen Edition

(Image via Haleysuzanne on Photobucket) Via Slashfood, a letter that ran in the New York Times in 1907, which argues not only that the job of a woman is to cook for and serve men, but that the only reason some women don't enjoy cooking and housework is that they don't know how to do it right.

A Pleasure, Not a Drudgery, Once the Art Is Acquired.

To the Editor of The New York Times:

Will you allow me space in THE TIMES to take up the discussion of the subject reported in to-day's TIMES before the Woman's Conference for the Society of Ethical Culture, in which Leslie Willis Sprague advocated the training of women for domestic service? [...] I think what I have to say may be of interest.

I am a strong advocate of schools to teach cooking, and in my professional life I advise every woman who comes to me for advice as to her future to learn to do the things which make for property house-keeping and home-making. As long as the race exists, men will have to eat, and some one will have to do the cooking. [...] I believe that if women could learn to cook well at proper schools so that they know how and why they do the various things in preparing a meal, the doing of it would be a pleasure and not a drudgery.

One of my father's pet stories is how one day he came into our home for lunch, and found me sitting in the kitchen with a cookbook on my lap, crying great tears into the pages while I tried to find out what to get him for lunch. He thinks it is a good story [!!!--ECB], but I know the trouble was that I was attempting to do a thing I did not understand, and was declaring that I never could and never would cook. After we finished that meal of bread and milk, I went at it with a will and learned to cook properly, and stuck at it under Mrs. Rorer and my mother until I could cook everything in the usual family menu, and as soon as I learned how I loved to do it. And I have never since then heard a woman decry cooking who was herself a good cook. Watch that point, and see if it is not so. [...]

Housework done intelligent is not drudgery. Cooking done well is as great a pleasure as painting a picture. Serving a good meal cooked by yourself is as great an achievement as arguing a case well in court. And the woman who can do so, and lets her servants have the benefit of her knowledge, has no trouble with her servants. [...]

New York, March 26, 1907

While it may be true, as I've written elsewhere, that men think they do a lot more housework, cooking, and child care than they actually do, we've come a long way in the last 100 years. Maybe in another 100, that 70-30 split will actually be closer to 50-50. I still doubt that either gender will have started liking housework, though.

1 comment:

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