Monday, October 18, 2010

A Weird Solution to the Servant Problem.

Lady of Leisure No More. This 1912 article, originally from Technical World Magazine, (a guy's magazine) and written in a prescient television newsreel style by Bailey Millard, one of the best writers out there in 1910, is SO VERY WEIRD -and for so many reasons.

I blogged a while back about the recent movie The Joneses. Well, this IS the Joneses, circa 1912. Margaret Macleod Nicholson, of was middle class, but she didn't have any maids. Not in 1910. (She had had help while raising her family, probably live out help.) She did it all herself, with the help of her daughters. The idea that the new modern gadgets would SAVE households money is such nonsense. The fact is, the home had changed over, pre 1900, from being a center of production (like a factory) to a center of consumption. Remember, in 1913, the Royal Commission Technical Training and Industrial Education would recommend that women take domestic science courses, so that women destined to marry would be better homemakers and so that women who had to support themselves could become domestics. There was this idea that these new contraptions complicated housework, but they actually deskilled women.

Here's the article:

Down with drudgery. That is the slogan of the scientific housekeeper of the day. Science has for years aided the housewife, but it has not decreased her care, labour or expense. What she has lacked has been that economic conservation of energy and money which lately have been attained in the factory and the mill. The hiring of more nd more servants has not added to her ease, but rather to her discomfort. The problem however is not how to eliminate the housemaid, for she has eliminated herself. She has turned to the factory as a far more dignified (sic) and lucrative place of occupation, and the servants that remain in the home are on high pay, far higher than the average family can afford. So the real problem, is how to get along comfortably without hired help.

There is a brainy woman in Colonia New Jersey who is doing just this. What is more, along with the work required to maintain in spotless condition a house of sixteen rooms(double sic) and big ones at that, and the providing of meals for the family; she actually finds spare time in which to teach other women how they may keep house without servants. This woman is Mary Pattison, formerly President of the State Federation of Women’s Clubs of New Jersey. What Frederick W. Taylor, the father of industrial efficiency has done for the factory, Mrs. Pattison is doing for the home.

“Mrs. Pattison lives in a large country house set upon rising ground. She has few neighbours in the new hamlet of Colonia and plenty of elbow room, which such energetic women always need. Her broad-eaved cedar shingled house is flooded with sunshine from many mullioned windows. On the west is a two storey annex which is entirely devoted to the exhibition and demonstration of hundreds of wonderful labour saving devices and to this domestic experiment station, as it is called, three thousand women have come during the past year to learn how to keep house scientifically and without servants. This station is said to be operated under the auspices of the New Jersey Federation of Women, but Mrs. Pattison conducts the show, does most of the work and pays all the bills.

Verily, the Pattison annex is a wonderful shop. It opens the eyes of the housewife.

“Why it must be more fun to run a house the way you do it,” said one of Mrs. Pattison’s visitors, “than to go to the theatre.” And so it is, considering the bad plays one often sees on the stage. But there is nothing theatrical about Mrs. Pattison or her scheme of housekeeping (SIC SIC SIC). She has reduced preparation and serving of food to their lowest terms. The coffee is ground, the eggs are beaten and the ice cream frozen with a mere twist of the wrist – that is simply by pressing the button that starts the electric motor. The electric heating and cooking are done in the same economical way, expense being reduced by the use of fireless cookers. In this way the stoking of the stove, which occupies a quarter of the time of the cook, is dispensed with and the kitchen is comfortably cool instead of being hot and stuff.

Besides, Mrs. Pattison has discovered that coal is a modern extravagance. The model kitchen is a pretty tiny affair of small floor space and few footsteps. If the housekeeper wants a spoon, a toaster, strainer or a quart measure she doesn’t take a dozen steps to the closet drawer and back again. She simply reaches up to a convenient rack, hung with many useful implements and utensils and takes it down with a simple motion of the hand. If she wants a piece of meat, some eggs or butter from the refrigerator she puts her foot upon a button and lo, the ice chest, springing swiftly from the cellar is before her. The door flies open, she takes out what she desires, removes her foot from the button and down drops the refridgerator into the cellar where it belongs; for there it is cooler and the ice consumption is far less than it is on an upper floor.

“Dining at the Pattison home is simplicity itself. You sit at a bare circular table, above the center of which is a round revolving waiter. Upon this waiter all the food has been placed in receptacles that insure the desired heat or cold. If you want the bread or the potatoes you simply turn the waiter, take down the dish, help yourself from it and replace it.

A pretty and really serviceable kind of paper plate is used at all save formal meals instead of china or porcelain, together with paper napkins, and if desired, paper cups and wooden fork and spoons. When the meal is over dishwashing consists of dropping dishes into the incinerator.This is simply an upright steel case chiefly used for the chemical reduction of garbage.

Now we shall go into the neat, sweet-smelling Pattison laundry and there we shall see any amazing array of washers, boilers, and wringers worked by electric motors. “All good” says Pattison, “but none any better than this simple hand device which, considering that you work it without artificial aid, is a wonder.” She holds up an implement that looks like a plumber’s plunger, a small funnel-shaped affair stuck on the end of a three foot stick. On examination the device is found to be a series of funnels within funnels, all of which work on the suction principle when the instrument is thrust down upon the wet clothes in the tube. The way the plunger cleanses chothes is marvellous. It is also very cheap and requires but a moderate expenditure of elbow grease.