I don't actually know that much about the mid-century American poet Phyllis McGinley, except that she won a Pulitzer Prize. And she wrote this book, which is about "the world's oldest profession," housewifery, specifically as practiced in modern America. Three sections on Wife, House, and Family organize a selection of chapters/essays, many of which ran in the Ladies' Home Journal or other magazines in the 1950s, and were then collected and edited into a book in 1960.
McGinley's thesis here is that the domestic calling is an honorable one, not to be despised -- not even by intelligent and educated women -- which can be blended, or not, with a profession, as the individual woman prefers. Every so often she is clearly rebutting Betty Friedan.
It's a fun and refreshing read. McGinley is a witty, humorous writer, and I love reading books about housekeeping. (I'm not quite so good at the actual housekeeping, but I'm improving!) Essays discuss topics such as:
- the aggravating habit some folks have of assuming that a college education is wasted on a woman who chooses to stay home and raise a family (which still crops up today!)
- the pleasures of thrift, as opposed to cheeseparing
- what kind of cookbook she would write
- the fun of slow house decoration
- why you should be a casual mother
- manners are morals!
Phyllis McGinley clearly liked cooking a lot more than I do. I got a little tired in the many chapters about the fun and creative art of cooking.
I enjoyed this book, and I think I'll read more about housekeeping soon. I've been meaning to re-read the introduction to Home Comforts, which is one of the most inspiring housekeeping pieces I've ever read. (My time is currently curtailed by rather a lot of actual house projects; we painted the hall and bathroom, got a bad piece of ceiling and a broken pocket door fixed, and there's one more project on the way. That pocket door fix -- between the kitchen and the laundry room -- is very exciting; it broke years ago, the track was no longer available, this is the third or fourth guy to look at it, and he actually managed to fix it! Yippee! Finally, I don't have to listen to my washing machine any more!)