Skip to main content

Home and Work

Housework, Wages, and the Ideology of Labor in the Early Republic

Jeanne Boydston


List Price: 72.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Over the course of a two hundred year period, women's domestic labor gradually lost its footing as a recognized aspect of economic life in America. The image of the colonial goodwife, valued for her contribution to household prosperity, had been replaced by the image of a dependent and a non-producer. This book is a history of housework in the United States prior to the Civil War. More particularly, it is a history of women's unpaid domestic labor in the context of the emergence of an industrialized society in the northern United States. Boydston argues that just as a capitalist economic order had first to teach that wages were the measure of a man's worth, it had at the same time, implicitly or explicitly, to teach that those who did not draw wages were dependent and not essential to the real economy. Developing a striking account of the gender and labor systems that characterized industrializing America, Boydston explains how this effected the devaluation of women's unpaid labor.

Oxford University Press, USA, 9780195085617, 248pp.

Publication Date: January 20, 1994