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More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave by Ruth Schwartz Cowan (99,000 words, 45 illustrations)

Surrounded by mechanical appliances and electronic gadgets, today’s woman devotes as much time to housework as a woman living in the early decades of the 20th century. This book explains why.

“This work won the 1984 Dexter Prize of the Society for the History of Technology. It is a history of housework and household technology from the 17th century to the present. Ruth Schwartz Cowan contends that households were not industrialized the way other workplaces were in the 19th century and that women’s work was industrialized incompletely or differently from men’s. Despite technological advances, housework thus remains a full-time task. Critics praised the book’s clarity and insights.” —
The New York Times

More Work for Mother is a major contribution to the social history of technology and a book that attempts feats few scholars undertake... it is lucid, engaging, and provocative... On balance, More Work for Mother is a remarkable book. It makes some important aspects of the history of technology accessible to a popular audience; provides a stimulating, scholarly overview of domestic technology for courses in the history of women, labor, or technology; and seems destined to set the next decade’s research agenda for scholarship on housework and household technology.” — Judith A. McGaw, Isis

“[A] perceptive contribution to the social history of technology.” — Guy Alchon,
The Business History Review

More Work for Mother is an engaging and thought-provoking general history of household technology in America from colonial times to the present... All students of the subject will greatly benefit by the framework [Cowan] has constructed and the stimulating ideas she has put forward.” — Carole Shammas, Journal of Social History

“The strength of Cowan’s work is her consistent ability to demonstrate how tools have shaped human behavior... Cowan’s book is knowledgeable, deft, and stimulating.” — Faye E. Dudden,
The American Historical Review

“For students of material culture and American Studies, this book is especially welcome, for it opens up several fields for exploration. First is the material culture of work and the way it does indeed affect our attitudes. Second is the history of technology and its profound effect on economy and polity. Then is women’s history and the way the material life of women helps explain the cultural rules people subscribe to, often more visibly than documents can. The book is a delight to read. It is not marred by jargon... Engaging, provocative, this book is a model of careful, and imaginative, study.” — Simon J. Bronner,
Material Culture

“Cowan’s greatest contribution is her powerful integration of material from family history, gender stratification, and household technology with the history of technology... the task is monumental — to shift the traditional focus in the history of technology to include women’s experience — and the book is a challenging and ground-breaking contribution to the field.” — Sally Hacker,
Technology and Culture

“[O]ne can see why this book won the 1984 Dexter prize from the Society for the History of Technology. Not only is the book well-written but it also draws on a wide range of sources...
More Work for Mother should be recommended for its salient and lively description of the emergence of household technology and the social relations of production which accompany it... this book should provide readers with many thought-provoking ideas and insights.” — Linda Kealey, Labour/Le Travail

“This book... is one of those ‘well-digested’ books that are becoming more and more of a rarity and presents a wide range of evidence in an extremely lucid and accessible manner.” — Jane Lewis,
Work, Employment & Society

“[A] detailed but fascinating account of the impact of changes in technology in the home over the last two hundred years on women’s domestic load... [a] meticulously researched study.” — Teresa Rees,
The British Journal of Sociology

“[T]his is history as it should be written: bright, witty, straightforward, and mercifully free of sociological jargon... Mrs. Cowan has done a superb job of analyzing the historic forces at work behind the changes in household technology and their impact on the home and on society at large.” — Mary Lou M. Schultz,
The Wisconsin Magazine of History

“The book is an authentic gem as far as the style and the articulation of arguments is concerned. The documentation of specific innovations, the caveats concerning the social selectivity of the sources available, and the doubts of the author toward the fallacies generated by an excessive feminist ideology... constitute so many landmarks of the high scholarship of Schwartz Cowan.” — Remi Clignet,
American Journal of Sociology

“Ruth Cowan’s knowledgeable, witty, and concise survey of three hundred years of household work — and her original interpretation of the industrialization of the household — will open the eyes and provoke the thoughts of historians and general readers alike.” — Nancy Cott, Yale University

“An intriguing study of the evolution of household labor.” —
Boston Globe

“It is written with eloquence and fluency revealing a subtlety of mind and an eye for the neglected obvious which I much admire.” — Daniel
J. Boorstin, The Librarian of Congress

“So interesting and so well written that you scarcely realize how much you are learning.” —
Jessie Bernard, author, The Female World

“Illuminating and thoroughly entertaining. Cowan draws from a very impressive array of period sources — with facility and grace... Not to be missed are the photographic sections depicting house-work through the past two centuries.” —
Science, Technology & Society