Sixpence in Her Shoe

Sixpence in Her Shoe, by Phyllis McGinley

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!
and many more.  The section on children was fascinating to read, because here she is in the 1950s complaining about exactly the same things that people are worried about today:  over-protected, over-scheduled children with too many toys and academic pressure put on children far too young.  My goodness, just think what she'd say now! 

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!)


  1. She was an excellent poet too -- I have a couple of her books.


Post a Comment

I'd love to know what you think, so please comment!

Popular posts from this blog

The Four Ages of Poetry

Dewey Readathon post