The Decline of Drudgery?



The years around 1880 marked a critical point in the development of household technology: the introduction of the modern WC, and the arrival of cheap gas cookers, electric lighting and improved gas lighting.

Would it be an exaggeration to talk of a revolution in domestic technology between 1880 and 1939 which had a major impact on the lives of women?

For working-class women, burdened with the responsibility for cooking and washing clothes for the family, doing the household cleaning, sewing, darning and ironing and looking after young children, improved technology could only be a boon. The quality of the lives of women in Birmingham and the Black Country – as in other urban areas in Britain – improved markedly over this period.

Reliable supplies of clean water and effective drainage saw significant falls in the death rate as infectious diseases were brought under control. Better lighting and the introduction of new domestic equipment for washing, laundering and cooking also helped make women’s lives at home easier.

KEYWORDS: Women, Home, Technology, Water, Gas, Electricity

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