• U.S.

The Home: A Woman’s Place

3 minute read


The trouble with housewives .is that they spend too much time bemoaning their lot without stopping to realize that housewifery is a respectable and satisfying career. At least that is what Pulitzer Poetess Phyllis McGinley thinks, and her just-published Sixpence in Her Shoe is loaded with such woman-to-woman advice as how not to kill a husband (resort to flattery; don’t compete; share mutual bad habits), how to make chicken hearts palatable (braise them and serve with a sour-cream sauce), and how to understand baby talk (let one of the older siblings translate).

Miss McGinley challenges the thesis of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, which stridently proclaims that American women have been stunted and twisted in their development by accepting passively the limiting role of housewife. Author McGinley has found time to become a poet of note, but she insists that this is an accident and that her role as a housewife is more satisfying.

“Nobody,” writes Miss McGinley, “has so far received a Pulitzer Prize for contriving a poetic boiled custard, in spite of the fact (which I know from experience) that it is a feat far less easy to perform than writing a ballade.” Her own recipe for boiled custard appears on page 269. Some other hints for the elegant execution of housewifery:

∙ ON THRIFT: “Meanness inherits a set of silverware and keeps it in the bank. Economy uses it only on important occasions, for fear of loss. Thrift sets the table with it every night for pure pleasure, but counts the butter spreaders before they are put away.”

∙ ON INTERIOR DECORATION: “Only the mindless house is dull. When the mode calls for colonial they are ruffled and cobbler-benched within an inch of their lives. When the vogue stipulates wall-to-wall carpeting, everything, including stairways, smothers ankle-deep in wool. The whole” effect of such interiors is as handsome—and as lifeless—as model rooms in department stores.”

∙ ON HUSBANDS: “Let him educate you. The whole duty of a wife is to bolster her husband’s selfesteem; not his vanity but his pride. A man’s ego bruises easily. It is not nourished like a woman’s by the sheer biological ability to bear children.”

∙ ON CHILDREN: “You must never expect the very young to have a sense of humor of their own. Children are acutely risible, stirred to laughter by dozens of human mishaps, preferably fatal. They can understand the points of jokes, so long as the joke is not on them. Their egos are too new.”

∙ ON DOMESTIC CAREERS: “We crave light and warmth in this century. Only the mother, the wife, can supply it for the home. To be a housewife is not easy. Ours is a difficult, a wrenching, sometimes an ungrateful job if it is looked on only as a job. Regarded as a profession, it is the noblest as it is the most ancient of the catalog. Let none persuade us differently or the world is lost indeed.”

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