To the Home Page of the National Humanities Center Web Site National Humanities Center Toolbox Library: Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature  contact us | site guide | search 
Toolbox Library, primary resources thematically organized with notes and discussion questionsOnline Seminars, professional development seminars for history and literature teachersThe Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Topic: MemoryTopic: ProgressTopic: PeopleTopic: PowerTopic: Empire
Topic: Progress: The Meaning of the Machine
Toolbox Overview: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Resource Menu: Progress
Text 1. Memory and Machines
Text 2. Brooklyn Bridge
Text 3. Human Machines
Text 4. Christine Frederick
» Reading Guide
•  Link

Text 5. Thomas Eakins
Text 6. Thomas Edison
Text 7. Wealth and Weightlessness
Text 8. Southern Statis
Text 9. The 1893 World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago

RESOURCE MENU » Reading Guide Link

Reading Guide
Christine Frederick
Mrs. Frederick
Christine Frederick, The New Housekeeping, 1913, excerpts

At this time many people worried about the future of the home. Since it was no longer a center of production—goods were now made in factories—it made sense to recast the home as a center of consumption. In typical Progressive Era fashion, experts soon emerged to teach women how to fulfill their new role as consumers. Christine Frederick (1883-1970) turned out to be one of the most energetic and successful. She graduated from Northwestern University in 1906 and became a teacher, an acceptable occupation for a woman because it addressed the welfare of children and thus fell into what the age considered the domestic sphere. After a year in the classroom, she married J. George Frederick and began life as a homemaker in New York. In time she became bored with housework and sought another outlet for her energy. From her husband's associates she learned of scientific management and in 1912 began to explain it to middle-class housewives through the pages of the Ladies' Home Journal in a series called "New Housekeeping," which was later published as a book.

Scientific management meant efficiency, and efficiency meant the introduction of newly affordable household appliances into the home. Frederick embraced advertising as a way to inform women of the benefits of the new age, and soon became a recognized expert in that field as well as in the field of market research. In The New Housekeeping, Frederick does a great deal more than simply offer women new ways to clean and cook. By extending the principles of scientific management into the home, Frederick's work brought the domestic sphere into the industrial system that was reshaping business and politics during this time. The greatest change she promotes is not more efficient ways of doing housework but a change of perception and mindset that would integrate the lives of middle-class housewives into the new order. 9 pages.

Discussion questions
  1. How does Frederick establish the dual spheres of men's work and women's work?
  2. According to Frederick, what discontents will household efficiency address?
  3. What does the excerpt's list of middle-class occupations suggest about the economy?
  4. Compare the twelve principles of scientific management listed in this excerpt with the working values Frederick Taylor employs with Mr. Schmidt.
  5. Compare the way Frederick presents women with the stereotypes spoofed by Marie Jenney Howe in her monologue. (See POWER.)
  6. How is the adoption of scientific management in the home a form of assimilation?
  7. How does Frederick present scientific management as a form of emancipation?
  8. How is scientific management a form of power?
  9. How does she deploy the rhetoric of feminism in defense of traditional family life?
  10. How does Frederick's own career comment upon the issues she raises? How could she justify employment outside the home?

» Link

Topic Framing Questions
  •  How did Americans of this period define progress?
  •  What did progress mean to them?

Toolbox: The Gilded and the Gritty: America, 1870-1912
Memory | Progress | People | Power | Empire

Contact Us | Site Guide | Search

Toolbox Library: Primary Resources in U.S. History and Literature
National Humanities Center
Web site comments and questions, contact:
Copyright © 2005 National Humanities Center. All rights reserved.
Revised: May 2005