So, we’ve decided to do it.
For two weeks (May 17th through May 30th), I’ll be living the life of a 1950s housewife.
For fun. I think it’s easy to romanticize or demonize the era – so I’m going to attempt to “realitycize” it (well, as realistic as it can be, should you believe all the magazines and books from the time!). At the end of the two weeks my husband and I are going to see how happy / bitter we’re each feeling, if our weight changed, if our blood pressure changed, how much we spent vs. how much we normally spend, and if there are any lessons we can take from it all.
Why just two weeks? Why not a year? Or even a month?
Have you seen the crap people ate back then? Housewives were well intentioned, but we’ve learned a lot about nutrition since then. The 50s diet is fairly high is saturated fats, salt and sugar – plus it marked the dawn of the "miracle" of convenience foods (see: highly processed junk). I can only take so much. An additional reason is that I’ve managed to get a lot of client work done ahead of time, but there will be things that come up that I’ll need to get on. Going hardcore as a housewife for a long period of time would interrupt my ability to pay my mortgage, which I'm told is sort of important.
What will you do after the two weeks?
We’ll do our assessment (as mentioned above). It will hardly be scientific - after all, this is just a fluffy, fun-inspired attempt at living in this hyper-idealized manner.
What is the 50s Housewife Experiment?
For two weeks I'll attempt, in a highly superficial way, to live up to the ideals placed on housewives in the 1950s. I’ll be basing what a 1950s housewife may have strived toward on a few references:
- My 1950s era household guides – The Searchlight Household Guide, my Bride’s Reference Book and a 1952 Canadian home economics textbook
- Several cookbooks from the era
- A few vintage magazines like Redbook, Household Magazine, Today's Woman Magazine and Ladies' Home Journal
- Prelinger Archive films and commercials that were aimed at women at the time
- Create a comfortable, clean and beautiful home
- Provide nutritious and tasty meals
- Handle the household income as economically as possible
- Show pride in being a Mrs. by putting a concerted effort into my appearance
- Make home life as relaxing and supportive as possible so that the breadwinner can succeed in providing for the family to the best of his abilities
Anyway, during the two weeks, I will do these things as a 1950s housewife likely would have, using the technology and means that she had. This means that I will:
- Create meals based on nutritional rules at the time, her recipes, her serving sizes, and the types of ingredients that were available to her. Please send prayers / fairy dust / The Secret vibes / The Force our way as the strength of our gag reflexes and arteries will be tested
- Use the household instruments available to her. Sadly, I won’t presume we were wealthy, which means my microwave, dishwasher, blender and juicer are going to take a bit of a holiday
- Care for the home based on her ideals and schedule while using the cleaning products and methods suggested where available
- Take part in the beauty and exercise regiments she would have
- Work. I’ve handled a lot of my regular clients’ demands ahead of time. I still, however, expect to spend at least 2-3 hours a day managing / doing my freelance writing work. We’ll just pretend that time is spent volunteering at the Red Cross or Junior League, like a good 50s housewife apparently would
- I’m not going to get rid of my stuff and trade it in for 50s era tools – so the phone isn’t rotary. The modern washing machine will still be used. The computer will serve as record player
- The Internet exists … but! Internet time will be limited to work and blogging / blabbing of said blog. No goofing. If friends e-mail me, I’ll either call them, write them a letter (via snail mail) or be a brat and ignore them until the experiment is through
- I’ll watch TV, but no more than someone would then – so, about two hours a day? Other leisure time will be spent reading or doing hobbies
- The clothes won’t be retro – but close. Dresses and skirts will be largely in use, but I don’t plan to get costumey (only because I don't own much of that)
- I’ll have a credit card and cell phone on me for emergencies but don’t plan to use either
- I'll still be "me." I'm not going to walk around like someone who works at one of those historic forts and say things like "Golly, gee, mister, what's that strange book you're reading from? A laptop? What kind of devil machine is that?"
- Day 1: So Many Firsts
- Day 2: Failure to Launch
- Day 3: Getting Down and Dirty
- Day 4: The 50s Housewife Goes Outside
- Bonus Post: Overheard While Cleaning the Open Street-Facing Window
- Day 5: Fish on Fridays!
- Day 6: A World of No
- Day 7: Putting Friendships to the Test
- Day 8: Manly Men, Girly Girls and Things in Between
- Day 9: Keeping Up Appearances
- Day 10: Taking Advice on Boys and Babes
- Day 11: The 50s Housewife Sort of Hosts a Bridge Luncheon
- Day 12: Before, After and Baby's First Martini
- Day 13: He's a Good Sport
- Day 14: Expectations
- Bonus Post: It Had To Be Done
- Results from the 50s Housewife Experiment
- Lessons from the 50s Housewife Experiment
And now - Part 2 (October 25 - 31) - a husband-centric version!
- Explanation on why I'm doing a second housewife experiment (with some details)
- How To Have a Happy and Successful Husband - 1950s Style
- Day 1: (I Fell Into A) Blubbery Ring of Plenty
- Day 2: That'll Be $2 A Feeling, Ma'am
- Day 3: Blessed Are The Conveniences
- Day 4: Lighten Up
- Day 5: His Girl Friday Throws A Dinner Party
- Day 6: All Dressed Up And (Thankfully) Nowhere To Go
- Day 7: Finding Meaning
- Bonus Post: Good News and a Vintage Cookbook Giveaway!
- Results from the Husband-Obsessed 50s Housewife Experiment
- Lessons from a Husband-Obsessed 50s Housewife
PLUS: A SPECIAL (see: petty, ridiculous) post in response to some random critiques from the Internet:
The 50s Housewife Gets Way More Sarcastic Than Usual
Part 3: The 50s Housewife Does Christmas (December 20 - 24):
- The 50s Housewife Does Christmas (Intro Post)
- Getting Into The Spirit of Things
- More 50s Darlings and Disasters
- 50s Christmas: Everything is Aluminumated
- The 1950s Christmas Cocktail Party
Also: I post snippets of 50s Housewife stuff here and there, using the tag 50s housewife experiment. Click it to read more random finds, insights and general silliness from this era.
Please feel free to post your comments or send me a note to jenbutneverjenn (at) gmail (dot) com.
Image Source: Hamilton Beach advertisement, circa 1946.