Saturday, May 05, 2007

Homemaking: Province of the Renegade

Following is another thought from St. Gil the Jocular, on the advantages of being a homemaker. While I don't mean to be Pollyannish about the job or the disadvantages many women still face, these remarks do speak to something in my constitution that really enjoys--labor intensiveness and lack of wages notwithstanding--the creative freedom and self-management inherent in huswifery.

The paragraph is taken from an article titled Woman, which was first published in 1906. It is not surprising, given the time, that the distinction is made between the average female of the species as manager of the home and the average male as a cog in some business or industrial machine. While the expansion of employment options today enables the reverse situation to be a reality as well, home management is still largely a female province. And it is still a job--though a hard one--that we can do as we like.

...the average woman is at the head of something with which she can do as she likes; the average man has to obey orders and do nothing else...The woman's trade is a small one, perhaps, but she can alter it. The woman can tell the tradesman with whom she deals some realistic things about himself. The clerk who does this to the manager gernerally gets the sack...the woman does work which is in some small degree creative and individual. She can put the flowers or the furniture in fancy arrangements of her own. I fear the bricklayer cannot put the bricks in fancy arrangements of his own, without disaster to himself and others. If the woman is only putting a patch into a carpet, she can choose the thing with regard to colour. I fear it would not do for the office boy dispatching a parcel to choose his stamps with a view to colour; to prefer the tender mauve of a sixpenny to the crude scarlet of the penny stamp. A woman cooking may not always cook artistically; still she can cook artistically. She can introduce a personal and imperceptible alteration into the composition of a soup. The clerk is not encouraged to introduce a personal and imperceptible alteration into the figures in a ledger.

G. K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News, 24 March,1906. Collected in All Things Considered, 1908. Reprinted in A G. K. Chesterton Anthology, P.J. Kavanaugh, ed. The Bodely Head and Ignatius Press, 1985.

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