The author shows how the nineteenth century's `cult of domesticity' had invested the home with great importance - as the centre of republican virtue, as the source of religious values and as an area of heady female responsiblities. But this emphasis meant that women were relegated to the domestic sphere, especially when Darwin's `survival of the fittest' doctrine seemed to indicate that women were physically inferior to men. Ironically, the industrialization of the home in the early twentieth century failed to improve women's lot; on the contrary, it helped lose the home its place of centrality in American culture and produced a terrible dilemma for women by urging them to go into the work place but offering them very little social support for doing
"`this groundbreaking book provides an essential historical backdrop to Betty Friedan's classic The Feminine Mystique Library Journal"
"`Her scholarly but very readable history gives women, like other oppressed minorities, the past they can be proud of.' San Jose Mercury News"
"'a lively account ... Matthews' portrayal of the currents surrounding the 19th-century household are fresh and convincing.' The Philadelphia Inquirer"
"'her experience and good common sense enliven, and enrich, this valuable study. One looks forward to her next book.' Washington Post"