Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Scientific Management of Homemaking

The title of household engineer was not created as a way to make housework sound more technical. It was created because housework became more technical with the introduction of modern appliances in the 1920's.

Wanda Barton, a columnist of the 1920's who wrote "Homemaking Helps: Everything about the House Helps to Make the Home" explains:

"The term "household engineer" is typical of the modern housekeeper of today, for considerable engineering of household management is required. It means adopting the best utensils for the work to be done, all the modern aids we can afford, and a definite plan of action."

This, of course, stems from a popular trend in business of that time called "scientific management" or "Taylorism" (after its inventor - Frederick Taylor). Mr. Taylor himself, in an address to The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, stated:

" ... the fundamental principles of scientific management are applicable to all kinds of human activities, from our simplest individual acts to the work of our great corporations, which call for the most elaborate cooperation."

The basic premise here is that when housework is done more efficiently, then there is more time for women to pursue other activities. It's not unlike what Martha Stewart advocates for homemakers even today. She calls for us to Maximize Efficiency. But as anyone familiar with Taylorism can tell you, the efficiency does not ultimately lessen the workload because those benefitting from the work just expect more and more. 

Do you find that modern conveniences make your work easier or do the expectations just keep increasing to keep pace with technology?

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