Housewife Facts
Housewife Facts

50 Interesting Housewife Facts

By Karin Lehnardt, Senior Writer
Published January 29, 2017Updated August 24, 2017
  • According to Salary.com, the average nonworking housewife in the U.S. in 2014 spent 94 hours a week working at jobs in the home that would earn a salary of $113,568.[13]
  • Women in Turkey and the Middle East are expected to solely fulfill the traditional roles of mother, wife, and housewife. But researchers note that empowering women to believe they can be businesswomen, politicians, and scientists will strengthen national economies in the region and provide a long-lasting stimulus to growth.[10]
  • In ancient Greece, housewives were not fully accepted by their husband’s families until a child was conceived.[12]
  • In 1963, Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique. According to Friedan, the “feminine mystique” is the false idea that devoting their lives to being housewives and mothers naturally fulfilled women (at least upper middle class, white housewives).[7]
  • Sigmund Freud saw women as childlike and as destined to be housewives. He noted that if a housewife desired a career, she was neurotic and suffered from “penis envy.”[7]
  • Interesting Housewife History Fact
    In the Middle Ages, women were primarily their husbands' possessions.
  • Housewives during the Middle Ages in Europe were not allowed to divorce their husbands or own property unless they were widows. Rich housewives had wet nurses to look after their children; however, poor housewives not only had to look after children but also had to do day-to-day work both in the home and on the land. Many women from poor families did not live past the age of 40.[12]
  • The introduction of electric clothes washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and other appliances made housework more efficient for housewives, but it also raised the minimum standard of household cleanliness. Housewives who had cleaned the carpets once a season now were expected to constantly keep them spotlessly clean with vacuum cleaners.[5]
  • A housewife in the 1950s wouldn’t go to just one store, but would have to go to several shops, including the butcher, green grocer, grocer, baker, and the dairy. In many places, there would also be a fishmonger, a draper (someone who sold knitting wool), and a chemist.[11]
  • While sexism and inequality was rampant in the 1950s, housewives then were not downtrodden doormats but “tough and ultra-organized.” While men earned the money, housewives decided how it was spent and balanced household finances with military precision.[12]
  • The word “housewife” is from the early 13th century husewif, meaning “woman, usually married, in charge of a family or household.” The word “hussy” is an alteration of the word housewife and originally meant “mistress of the household.”[8]
  • A 2005 study from the Institute of Social and Economic Research found that married men earn more than single men, but only if their wife stays at home—and does all the housework. In fact, the more wives worked outside the home, the worse the father’s physical and mental well-being.[14]
  • According to a 2013 study, a majority of British women who were over the age of 20, who were in a relationship, and who were employed full time would pick being a housewife over having a career. When it came to being financially independent, 78% of the women said they wouldn’t mind being financially dependent on their partner.[18]
  • Some feminist historians note that the early women’s movement made the mistake of propagating contempt for all things domestic and devaluing the work of housewives.[7]
  • As a housewife, I feel that if the kids are still alive when my husband gets home from work, then hey, I've done my job.

    - Rosanne Barr

  • Early in the 20th century, “housewife” was the preferred term to refer to a married woman who stayed home. But as the focus increased on efficiency and sanitation during the 1950s, a new word, “homemaker,” came into vogue. By the 1980s, the term “stay-at-home mom” became more popular.[6]
  • In Norway, the Housewives’ Association changed its name to the “Women and Family Association” when its membership plummeted from 60,000 to 5,000. According to them, the reference to “housewife” was too embarrassing and connoted drudgery.[1]
  • A recent study in the United States found that a majority of young people (80% of women and 70% of men) from all backgrounds reported a desire for an equal marriage in which both partners shared in breadwinning, housekeeping, and child rearing. However, when asked what kind of family they wanted if that wasn’t possible, over 70% of men wanted their wives to stay home as housewives. Women, however, said they would rather choose a divorce than to be a housewife.[7]
  • The terms “housewife” and “homemaker” connote different emphases. “Housewife emphasizes an “old-fashioned” devotion to the husband, while “homemaker” (and “stay-at-home mom”) shifts the focus onto the children.[6]
  • While the 1950s housewife has been idealized as bathed, perfumed, and well dressed, it was impossible for women to meet this ideal. They would have their husband’s meal ready, but it would be doubtful they would have time to wash their hair. Additionally, many housewives were also now juggling jobs of their own.[11]
  • Interesting Housewife Fact
    The media has idealized the 1950s housewife

  • The TV show Desperate Housewives sparked a great interest in what it means to be a housewife, an occupation that many baby boomers devalued during the rise of the feminist movement.[17]
  • In 1967, mothers who did not work outside the home were 49% of the U.S. population. By the turn of the millennium, they had dropped to just 23%. However, the proportion of stay-at-home moms has risen steadily for the past 15 years.[17]
  • Women hold about half of the jobs in America, up from 32% in 1964. Women lost just one job during the Great Recession for every 2.6 jobs lost by men, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (though men are making a recovery).[7]
  • Immigrants, a rising share of the next generation, are more likely to be housewives than women born in America.[17]
  • A 2005 Simmon study on the career aspirations of about 4,000 teens found that 6% of girls say they will stop working and not return once they have children. But 86% of the girls plan to take a break for kids and then return to work.[9]
  • A 2012 study illustrated that employed men with stay-at-home wives tend to have attitudes and behavior that undermine the role of women in the workplace. Additionally, employed men with such wives hold more powerful positions than their counterparts.[3]
  • Housewives before the 1960s spent hours boiling laundry before putting it through a mangle. Before indoor plumbing, housewives had to carry all the water used for washing. It was back-breaking work.[11]
  • Random Housewife Fact
    Laundry has always been an issue for housewives,

  • A 2012 study found that a man who was raised by a working mom was not necessarily more tolerant or encouraging of working women.[3]
  • America is unusual because it does not grant statutory paid maternity (or paternity) leave or provide much affordable child care. While Eleanor Roosevelt recommended both many decades ago, her suggestions have largely been ignored to this day.[9]
  • Birth control, such as the Pill, provide young women with more control over the decision to become a housewife or to enter the workforce.[4]
  • While labor-saving devices may have eliminated the drudgery of housewife work, it also had a negative effect. Since the technology was new, kitchens and households were redesigned to accommodate them. What had traditionally been the woman’s sphere suddenly became foreign. An army of “experts” began to take over her domestic work.[7]
  • Pew Research Center estimates that there are 370,000 highly educated and affluent housewives (defined as married mothers with children under 18 who have at least a master’s degree and family income over $75,000), which equals 5% of all stay-at-home moms with a husband. One-third of stay-at-home moms are single or cohabiting and they are, on average, poorer than the rest.[7]
  • With the advent of new technology, many companies told women to make their household tasks as automatic and “brainless” as possible. One unforeseen consequence was that housework “continued to fill women’s time while it starved their brains.” Work that was traditionally passed from woman to woman was obsolete. Instead, women were taught by “experts” on how to cook, raise kids, and run their households.[7]
  • One researcher notes that consumerism has relegated the housewife into a “chauffer and shopper.” Consumerism has divorced housewives from nature, from their communities, and from their creativity and ingenuity.[7]
  • Amazing Housewife Fact
    An advertisement showing a housewife whose major role is a consumer (Tetra Pak / http://www.flickr.com/photos/tetrapak/6498149947/in/p)

  • Home economist Charlotte Perkins Gilman argued that housewives must be free from domestic work to do “more important things.” She proposed community kitchens, where all families in a community could eat together, communally rear a child, and provide outside services such as laundry for the family. She said professionals, not amateurs, should do housework.[7]
  • In the 1960s, a marketing researcher capitalized on housewives’ need to experience personal authority. He suggested that corporations should frame their products in such a way that would make a housewife feel like an expert rather than a menial worker.[7]
  • As more household items were mass produced, housewives became less responsible for making cloth, clothing, soap, and candles. While most women were relieved, something was lost when women’s domestic work was deskilled. Women in the past had concrete evidence for their productivity and contribution to the family, and many household tasks were outlets for women’s creativity.[7]
  • Some researchers note that while the industrial revolution took away a housewife’s hands-on production—such as producing clothing, soap, etc.—,housewives are still producers and what they “produce” is a healthy family.[7]
  • A 1960s consumer researcher discovered how to market housewives’ frustrated need for privacy. He suggested car dealerships translate this need into an opportunity to sell families a second car with slogans such as “Alone in the Car.”[7]
  • Random Housewife Facts
    A quarter of stay-at-home moms/housewives in the U.S. have college degree
  • A quarter of stay-at-home moms/housewives in the United States have college degrees.[17]
  • Martha Stewart is credited for almost single-handedly popularizing homemaking and the role of a housewife again.[17]
  • Researchers note that where housewives once grew and processed a considerable amount of their own food, a few powerful multinational corporations have stepped in. For example, six companies control 98% of the world’s seed sales, four companies slaughter 81% of American beef, and four companies control 70% of American milk sales.[7]
  • While housewives have been devalued over time, many researchers suggest that housework is the cultural activity of constructing the “home,” the site where many of the emotions that make us most human are fostered.[7]
  • A marketing researcher notes, “Properly manipulated, American housewives can be given a sense of identity, purpose, creativity, self-realization, and even the sexual joy they lack—by buying things.”[7]
  • The culture of professionalism of the late 19th century and the culture of consumption in the 1920s together killed off the “cult of domesticity” and led to what Betty Friedan identified in The Feminine Mystique as “the problem that has no name,” or the emptiness and devaluation of many housewives’ lives.[7]
  • One researcher notes that one of the achievements of the women’s liberation movement was that it became possible for women to restart their careers again after taking time off to raise children. She notes that this is the real difference between the 1950s housewife and the 21st-century housewife.[7]
  • Even housewives in the early 20th century had no dishwashers, clothes driers, supermarkets, food processors, or washing machines. They made beds with sheets and blankets (no duvets). They boiled the toweling and cloth diapers (which were at least 10 per baby per day). They could not take out loans or mortgages or hire purchase agreements. They even needed their husband’s consent to get a C-section. A wife who left her husband faced destitution. As the suffragettes complained before WWI, “Husband and wife are one person, and that one person is the husband.”[11]
  • Interesting Television Housewife Fact
    The most popular housewife today is Betty Draper
  • The most popular housewife today is Betty Draper on the TV series Mad Men. Her character has created a revival of the 1950s housewife look, which is fun but also powerfully symbolic and political. Designers such as Kukhareva have reinvented the 1950s housewife style into something newly emancipated and sassy.[2]
  • A 1960s advice column advised housewives to welcome the “heroic breadwinner” home. The housewife should let him talk first because “his topics of conversations are more important than yours,” and “Remember, he is the master of the house . . . . You have no right to question him.”[15]
  • According to 1950s advice books, housewives were responsible for making the marriage work, even when alcohol, affairs, or abuse were the issue. Housewives were often to blame for making their husbands stray, drink, or be violent in the first place.[6]
  • According to InStyle magazine, the 12 most stylish American TV housewives of all time are 1) Lucy Ricardo, I Love Lucy; 2) Donna Stone, The Donna Reed Show; 3) Laura Petrie, The Dick Van Dyke Show; 4) Lisa Douglas, Green Acres; 5) Marge Simpson, The Simpsons; 6) Vivian Banks, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; 7) Charlotte York Greenblatt, Sex and the City; 8) Gabrielle Solis, Desperate Housewives; 9) Mrs. Ari, Entourage; 10) Betty Draper, Mad Men; 11) Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, Modern Family; and 12) Kyle Richards, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.[16]
  • Modern full-time housewives are more likely to be obese and report poor health.[7]
References

1Bennhold, Katrin. “The Stigma of Being a Housewife.” The New York Times.” July 10, 2010. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

2Capon, Felicity. “Why Is the 1950s Housewife Making a Comeback?The Telegraph. February 28, 2013. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

3Casserly, Meghan. “Are Housewives to Blame for the Plight of Working Women?Forbes. June 7, 2012. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

4Casserly Meghan. “Why You Have the Pill to Thank for 30% of Your Paycheck.” Forbes. March 30, 2012. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

5Electricity and the Housewife.” IEEE Global History Network. 2013. Accessed: October 12, 2014.

6Grose, Jessica. “Why Do We Call Them ‘Stay-at-Home Moms’? There Must Be a Better Term.” Slate. March 26, 2013. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

7Hayes, Shannon. Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture. White River Jct., VT:Chelsea Green Publishing, 2010.

8Housewife.” Online Etymology Dictionary. 2014. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

9Kendall-Tackett, Kathleen, PhD. “Hearth and Home: The Fascinating History of Women’s Domestic Work in America.” Safe Motherhood. 2010. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

10Küçük, Sedef. “Being a Woman in Turkey and in the Middle East.” The Globalist. March 8, 2013. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

11Mann, Jessica. “What Do You Mean, the Good Old Days?The Guardian. April 27, 2012. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

12Matthews, Glenna. Just a Housewife: The Rise and Fall of Domesticity in America. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1989.

13Peppers, Margot. “What is a Stay-at-Home Mom’s Salary Worth?Daily Mail. January 23, 2014. Accessed: January 17, 2015.

14Persaud, Raj. “Housewives Make Their Men Healthy and Wealthy.” The Telegraph . June 30, 2005. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

15Tartakovsky, Margartia, M.S. “A Glimpse into Marriage Advice from the 1950s.” Psych Central. February 27, 2012. Accessed: October 26, 2014.

16The 12 Most Stylish TV Housewives of All Time.” InStyle. 2014. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

17The Return of the Stay-At-Home Mother.” The Economist. April 19, 2014. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

18Waterlow, Lucy. “Did the Feminists Burn Their Bras for Nothing? Majority of British Women Would Pick Being a Housewife Over Having a Career.” Mail Online. Updated May 15, 2013. Accessed: October 22, 2014.

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