Washday

Rosalind Mitchison

  • A woman’s work is never done: A History of Housework in the British Isles 1650-1950 by Caroline Davidson
    Chatto, 250 pp, £15.00, October 1982, ISBN 0 7011 3901 3

This book is not founded on doctrinaire feminism but on very wide reading. It uses memoirs and letters, local history publications, ballads and chapbooks, social surveys, inventories and advertisements, and the richness of its sources gives it a fine flavour. There are also some historical oddities to be noticed. One eccentricity is the confusion between Charles I and Charles II. Another is the back-to-front arrangement of some of the themes. Gas and electricity form Chapter Two, while cooking, heating and lighting, all of which are examined for the period before the modern heat and power resources became available, form Chapters Three to Five. But these peculiarities do not stop the book being an enjoyable read and a splendid repertoire of miscellaneous information.

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