JF Ptak Science Books Post 1047 Part of our History of Women Series
"Like most busy young housewives, however, she gives little thought to the future–to satisfactory ways of spending the important years after her children have grown up and left home." [See below.]
This photo by Nina Leen [“Housewife Marjorie McWeeney amid symbolic display of her week’s housework” in “Woman’s Dilemma,” Life, June 16, 1947, p. 105] depicts part of the housewife-y stuff of attention in the course of her 100-long-week. The remarkable part of the photo is that all of this was displayed in a window display at Bloomingdales.
Part of Ms. McWeeney’s average work week included “35 beds to be made, 750 items of glass & china, 400 pieces of silverware to wash, 174 lbs. of food to prepare, some of 250 pieces of laundry.on a line, & a ringer washing machine”–that plus paying attention to her children during the 70+ hours a week in which they are awake.
In the listing of Ms. McWeeney's routine ("Her Work") I see no evidence of Mr. McWeeney's contribution to the daily chores. We see that he spends 15 minutes eating his breakfast before leaving for work at 8; returns home at 12 or a one-hour lunch before bolting at 1; and then returns at 6 for cocktails at 7:15 and then an hour long dinner at 8. Perhaps he was helping bathe the kids before cocktails, perhaps not. I can't find evidence for Mrs. McWeeney's present telephone number, so perhaps we'll never know. But my sneaking suspicion is that Ms. McWeeney ran the house and kids solo, as was the general custom of the day, basically.
From the LIFE magazine issue:
“A nice husband, three fine children keep her busy 100 hours a week.
"Mrs. John McWeeney of Rye, N.Y. has a big, good-looking husband who works in a nut and bolt company, and three children, Shawn, a grave little 4-year-old; John, called “Rusty,” almost 2, and baby Mark, 4 months old. She lives in a bright new seven-room house that has a safe backyard for Shawn and Rusty to play in and a number of modern machines to help her with her household chores. She uses a diaperservice and she can afford a cleaning woman once a week who does the heavy laundry.
" But even under these better than average circumstances Marjorie McWeeney’s hours are long and her work demanding. She must keep an eye on her children during their 70 waking hours a week and also watch over them when they are supposed to be in bed but may actually be popping down the stairs to ask for water or an extra goodnight kiss.
"The picture [above] shows the household tasks that Marjorie must accomplish every week. She has a crib and four beds to make up each day, totaling 35 complete bed-makings a week. She has hundreds of knives, forks and utensils to wash, food to buy and prepare for a healthy family of five and a whole house to dust and sweep. . . .
"Actually Marjorie’s chores are much lighter than they would have been a few generations ago. She cleans with machinery propelled by electricity, she uses food prepared in canneries, she buys clothes factory-made to fit every member of the family. But her jobs, though relieved of old-time drudgery, have none of the creative satisfactions of home baking, home preserving, home dressmaking. And, because her family unit is small with no aunts or cousins in the household, all the time she saves from housework must go into supervision of her children. Unless she makes special arrangements with a baby-sitter, she has no relief from child care.
"Many women in Marjorie’s position feel that this is a life of drudgery, that it is not good for Marjorie, a graduate of a junior college, to stay with small children long, continuous hours. Marjorie herself has no desire to work outside. Because as an individual she likes the job that she does, she has no problem right now. Like most busy young housewives, however, she gives little thought to the future–to satisfactory ways of spending the important years after her children have grown up and left home."