I was out in the garage last weekend and found a book published in 1932, for housewives. Called "Her Book" - since of course men wouldn't be interested in household things. [cough cough] It's a fascinating book. It belonged to my grandmother, and inside the front cover she wrote her name and the year, 1932.
It contains articles like "The Importance of Refrigeration." Clearly there was debate back then. Of course, most folks had "iceboxes" - just insulated boxes that you put ice below to keep stuff cold. To the end of her life, my grandmother always referred to the fridge as the "icebox."
The ads fascinate me. The one above basically says if you don't keep your house spotless and make a big effort to look pretty, your marriage will be in trouble. The one below says you need to eat Bond bread or your family won't be healthy. These ads look laughably obvious to us today, but they were standard for 1932.
[Is it just me or does anybody else think that baby looks like Harpo Marx?!]
The book is like a living time capsule, and anyone majoring in Women's Studies in college, or studying history from a feminist perspective, should spend some time looking through a book like this.
However, even though I consider myself a feminist, I caution anyone reading the book to try not to judge it from our perspective. In 1932 most women got married and were wives and mothers who didn't work outside the home. Creating a clean, safe home where nutritious meals were served was not a bad goal for women in 1932. The Depression was in full swing so I doubt it was easy for most families to really have a good standard of living.
Cooking itself was very different. Today we can buy all sorts of frozen and pre-packaged convenience foods. We can flip on the Cooking channel or Food network and see how to do things. We can look at tutorials on YouTube. It's almost too easy. Young people [boys or girls] usually aren't really taught how important it is to be able to plan meals, shop well, stock a pantry and cook, and that's a shame. How often do you hear a college student say he/she is majoring in Home Economics? I doubt most colleges even offer that major. My grandmother majored in Home Economics at Bessie Tift College.
In 1932, even though she had been married for almost a decade, I bet Mamaw found this book useful. Planning menus must have been a chore. Unlike now, you couldn't fix vegetables and fruits unless they were in season. So for example you only got strawberries in spring and maybe summer, not all winter.. If you were living in the city you had to see a butcher about your meat. If you lived in a rural area you had to be really self-sufficient. Mamaw had to know how to kill and pluck a chicken when they lived on the farm. (She kept a small shotgun, suited to a tiny person, to kill chickens or defend herself against other varmints. Women in rural areas back then had to be tough.)
Recipes weren't always really precise. Oven temperatures varied a lot. Many women in rural areas were still cooking on wood-burning stoves, where it's very difficult to regulate the heat.
Creating a clean, safe home where good meals were served was a much bigger challenge in 1932.
The expectations for young girls are very different now, too, just in general.
Nowadays young girls heading off to college are usually preparing for a real career, not merely husband-hunting. When I started college there were 3 dorms at my tiny school and one of the dorms, the one where I lived ironically, was said to be the residence of all the girls who were simply looking for a spouse. (Then I transferred to UGA and it was a whole different story but that's another blog..)
Even when my mother was in college, she was expected to drop out of she got married. It was generally considered a waste of time for a married girl to go to college, since she was just going to stay home and have kids.
I remember one of my relatives asking my parents why they would bother to send ME to college, since "Dee's just going to get married and have children. Why would she need to go to college?!" (Thank God I did go, since I've had to support myself all my life...)
Thank God we have more choices nowadays.
I like to imagine what some woman in 84 years will think of my cookbooks or the "lifestyle" books you can still buy from Martha Stewart. How will life be different in the year 2100.