OCTOBER 17, 1955
NEW YORK—Recently I received a letter which raised a question of interest to many women. It reads as follows:
"Reading your article in the August Safeway Magazine gives me the inspiration and opportunity I have long been looking for, namely to 'speak' to you regarding the word 'housewife,' used to define the greatest profession we women perform.
Answer: Housewife, wife of a house.
Questioning a child: What does your father do?
Answer: He is a lawyer on Wall Street, N. Y. C.
Question: What is your mother's occupation?
Answer: Oh, she is just a housewife.
"I have heard this on TV. I am sure other women have cringed at the term. The dictionary defines the word as 'the woman in charge of a household.' Wife is defined as 'a woman joined in marriage to a man as husband.'
"Surely there is another name for us. How do you feel about it? Why not write an article which will bring opinions from other married women?"
I must confess that in days gone by I have often entered myself on questionnaires as "housewife" without feeling the slightest embarrassment. Now I put down "writer" or "lecturer," because the major part of my life is taken up in this way rather than in running a home and watching over the daily needs of a household and children plus guests, as it used to be in earlier days. I am not sure, however, that I did not feel more useful when I had to be home the greater part of the time. I had to make very careful plans when I left home so that all would go on in the same way while I was gone. I was limited in my free time. One could never be sure that there would not be sudden illness which would make a change in plans inevitable, or that home tasks would not clash with some demands outside my family—and of course, the demands outside the family were always secondary.
Those were the days when on a questionnaire I would put down "housewife" and feel very proud of it, and I am quite sure that no woman has any reason for feeling humiliated by the title. It is one of the most skilled professions in the world. When one adds to the business of running a house the care and bringing up of children, there is so much needed preparation for this occupation that I think it could be classed today among the most skilled occupations in the world. To be sure, there are good and bad homes; and there are children who are well brought up and children who are badly brought up. This happens in any business or professional activity. But when one adds up what it means to a nation, one must concede that the well run home and the well brought up children are more important even than a well run business. More people are affected by the occupation of a housewife and mother than are ever touched by any single business, no matter how large it may be.