One of the woes of American women is the influence, not to the good, of frontier culture. To sprinkle some evolutionary psychology sprinkles on it, on the frontier, women are fungible and men are individual. Women are not strictly needed to cook, as the camp-style cooking is easy enough to learn and frontier life made hunger-spice the only one really needed.
There was also less opportunity for domestic niceties in setting up a home, since you were talking about stuff like slapped up shacks, lean-tos and dugouts to hold a claim. They were all meant to be pretty temporary.
Although many frontier women had large families, children’s labor was not as needed either, as during much of the frontier era the homesteaders were on the cutting edge of using as much technology and machinery as possible to minimize how many people they had to share the hoped-for wealth with. So even in that respect women were more fungible, as plenty of men were bachelor-homesteading.
Frontier culture is anti-domestic, and not terribly encouraging of feminine strengths beyond basic endurance and willingness to do repetitive labor under brutalizing conditions. And the descendants of frontier culture still treat women as fungible. And this influence has made it much more difficult for women’s strengths and desires to be taken seriously as part of a complete, functional society.
She not only admitted to having household help as a SAHM, but she was completely matter of fact about it, as if it was just obvious she’d need support to run her household. This is not at all American, but it could be if she were First Lady and women could have the model of a housewife who was unashamed of having domestic help and considered it part of her essential toolkit in managing the household.
Contrast her openness about household help with Michelle Obama, who has called herself “Mom in Chief” in her new role as SAHM, but utterly downplayed moving her mother into the White House to provide childcare gratis (so, for the last eight years). One can find this information in the Wikipedia article on Mrs. Obama, but from the horse’s lips, not so much. No, from the horse’s lips there is dissembling about having one of Obama’s female relatives provide live in help when the two Obama children were infant and toddler aged. That female relation was the “babysitter we lost” Michelle Obama has alluded to in the past. They lost her due to her wanting to receive, well, money for babysitting. Michelle Obama is very clear on that point at least, that they didn’t want to pay for childcare while both of them worked. All of this is much more sadly and typically American, downplaying free help from relatives, not wanting to pay normal wages for “watching babies”, and simultaneously flapping hands in the air about “the high cost of childcare for hard working women”.
Modelling matters, and I know what kind of SAHM model I’d prefer to see normalized. I’d love to witness the seeds of a new American ideal of housewife, one who really is a domestic administrator whose role warrants both status and the right to delegate tasks to support people (which would mean working for such housewives would be seen as legitimate work). That would be lovely and we could have that in Melania Trump as First Lady. A housewife can dream.
What it says on the tin.
One of my favorite bloggers is Zippy Catholic, who is fond of saying that many problems of liberalism can be explained as sociopathic manifestations of reality pushing through. That is, liberalism may be ideologically confused and contradictory, especially the form known as leftism, but all this means is that it treats normal things sociopathically.
We can see this with leftism and its extremist views on race, sex, family and so forth. Clan and kin matter, who you are and where you come from matter, but leftists are sociopathic about this obvious set of truths. They say clan and kin don’t matter while making very sure to save some job slots for their own children, spouses and fellow travelers. Racial and even ethnic groups where everyone’s the same skin color are different in behavior and preferred hobbies and forms of government and civilization (towns, villages, etc.) Again, an obvious truth, but leftists go all sociopathic on it by pretending those differences are trivial while demanding everyone behave like specific subcultures of white ethnic leftists in a handful of Anglo-descended nations (aka, the sociopathy of the SWPL).
We can also see this with women and politics. Women pursue politics as a response to the ways that industrialization and mass society scale larger and larger, peeling away the roles they would otherwise have. Liberalism sociopathically encourages women to pursue political solutions to their social problems, while stripping more and more traditional roles and protections away from them.
I think this is a key major point in having a normal society and a properly ordered hestia, understanding that sociopathic (anti-social, perverse, distorted) descriptions of real things are still describing real things that should be preserved. We should care about clan and kin. We should want women to be productive and happy in their home-focused spheres, with exceptional women being treated as just that. We should want men to be able to lead and support their families and have masculine spheres for the men (including but not limited to holy spheres, as not all are called to such lives) who are not married. The American conservative “colorblind” “patriotic” thing is frail and unnatural and doesn’t cut to the heart of why people are so alone and disordered. Some of the wacky hijinks of the leftists do, though, under all the rhetorical tricks and misdirection.
I was looking around in old Census data the other month and stumbled upon a fairly shocking bit of demographic information–white American women have pretty much always been at the lower end of fertility. I am defining “American” here as “after 1776”. They were having only a couple kids per woman way back in the 1840s and such.
Regionalism is part of how the myth of fecund white women oppressed into sterility by “the libs” or “feminism” gained traction. In a few regions, white women did have huge families, 8-12 kids being quite usual. However, this was a single-digit percentage of all white women of childbearing age, and this has been the case almost from the very beginnings of America as a nation. White women in America have always tended towards having relatively few children, long before 1960s or even 1920s feminism. The Baby Boom years weren’t a bunch of white women feeling free to have five or six kids, they were a bunch of white women *who would have otherwise had none having one* being added to the overall pool of mothers. This is, needless to say, not part of the conservative happy 50s mythmaking.
American women have frequently throughout American history taken more personal freedom and economic power in exchange for the lack of genuine domestic support, on average. This is part of how childrearing in America has become so awful and health-damaging for women. Men bought our great grammas off with “freedom” and this was supposed to compensate for not having a feminine or domestic sphere. And there’s always been extreme subcultures having huge families to point to, even though they never represented much more than 15-20% of the total population themselves.
But I guess that’s also part of the secret history of domesticity in America–a typical American woman really wasn’t raising six kids alone while her husband worked all day or was gone for months. She was about as likely to be raising one or two in 1870 as 1970, which explains quite a bit.
Yes, your parents were lying to you about everything, your life was a big fake production, and this happened with the extensive support of dozens of people you knew in your local town. The conspiracy was real and focused entirely on keeping you from knowing who you really were.
It is very popular these days to pick on Boomers and younger Silents as the vanguard of all that is wrong in America today, but the Baby Scoop Era not only happened, it formed a substantial subtext in the lives of many Boomers and their parents. It’s not even possible to know how exactly many babies were scooped precisely, because destroying or falsifying birth records was part of the process.
And their parents were the Greatest Generation mostly. “Great” white mothers having babies or conceiving out of wedlock at rates that supposedly didn’t exist before The Great Society, at rates that supposedly were only ever the bane of the black community. Due to the length of time, some of the oldest Boomers were themselves relinquishing mothers on top of things, so there are layers upon layers here.
This is just a little piece of the context for “the Narrative” and the idea that lying is fine if it’s for a bigger social justice good. This was not driven exclusively nor primarily by leftists, even if there is a heavy technocratic element involved in much of the Baby Scoop reasoning pushing mothers to relinquish infants.
There really are historical periods, some extremely recent and within living memory, where socially conservative people played fast and loose with the truth, abused and coerced people and were not very honorable people. And the results weren’t so great either. This is also part of the subtext behind wanting women to have more economic power and be able to be “strong independent single mothers”. That didn’t come out of nowhere.
This has interesting implications as well for those who skew heavily towards nature over nurture.
So I got diverted from my original 2014 reading list by yet another bit of old writing that doesn’t quite match up to the myths around frontier and pioneer folks.
It’s some letters a homesteading woman from about 100 years ago wrote to a former employer she’d maintained cordial relations with. She’d worked for the employer as a laundress. What is fascinating about the letters is that yet again, she didn’t do all the work alone, but routinely had other women helping her, or she traveled to help them. It is clearly normalized in these letters for the women to go around to each other and spend days or weeks assisting with, well, homesteading for each other, along with the demands of hospitality. When parties and social events are undertaken, it’s just assumed that everyone (including men) will pitch in to help the individual household tasked with hosting duties. There is, despite the fact that they all live ten and twenty and thirty miles away from each other, not actually that much rugged individualism.
Also, this woman’s body broke down having lots of babies (six, more or less, according to other information about her life elsewhere on the internet) and working hard. The letters Mrs. Stewart writes detail multiple instances of being unwell and struggling physically due to pregnancies (and infant deaths/miscarriages) and the work of homesteading. Her marriage was a mail-order marriage, but it lasted and as noted above produced quite a few surviving little bundles of joy out of it.
Mrs. Stewart promotes homesteading aggressively, feeling strongly that however hard that labor is, it still beats being a laundress in an urban metro area in the early 20th century. She really felt that women should get out there and grab a piece of land for themselves, with or without a husband. That sort of feminine self-determination is American to the core, being in regular currency prior to the 19th amendment. I continue to have my own preconceptions about traditional America rocked by the knowledge that everything old is new again. And in this case what’s old is American women waving a flag of securing financial independence through earning income rather than marriage.
It’s a short read, plus she’s a capable and engaging writer. There’s a reason her employer sent the letters to be published in a magazine.