For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

The Home

by Gilman, Charlotte Perkins (1903)

Key Passage

All industry began at home. All industry was begun by women.Where the patient and laborious squaw once carried on her back the slaughtered game for her own family, now wind and steam and lightning distribute our provisions around the world. Where she once erected a rude shelter of boughs or hides for her own family, now mason and carpenter, steel and iron worker, joiner, lather, plasterer, glazier, plumber, locksmith, painter, and decorator combine to house the world. Where she chewed and scrape the hides, wove bark and grasses, made garments, made baskets, made pottery, made all that was made for her own family, save the weapons of slaughter, now the thousand manufactures of a million mills supply our complex needs and pleasures. Where she tamed and herded a few beasts for her own family, now from ranchman to packer move the innumerable flocks and herds of the great plains; where she ploughed with a stick and reaped with a knife, for her own family, now gathered miles of corn across continent and ocean to feed all nations. Where she prepared the food and reared the child for her own family – what! Has the world stopped? Is history a dream? Is social progress mere imagination? – there she is yet! Back of history, at the bottom of civilization, untouched by a thousand whirling centuries, the primitive woman, in the primitive home, still toils at her primitive tasks. What conditions, social and economic, what shadowy survival of oldest superstitions, what iron weight of custom, law, religion, can be adduced in explanation of such a paradox as this? Talk of Siberian mammoths handed down in ice, like some crystallised fruit of earliest ages! What are they compared with this antediluvian relic! (p.82)


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Women and Work, Home and Work



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