Tag Archive | women

The Term “Housewife” in Genealogy

As summer rolls on Lorel and I have been thinking a lot about the women in our families and their lives. We’ve had several discussions and some of that will be posted here on the blog. To get that conversation rolling, we’d like to know what you think about the term “HOUSEWIFE” as so many women were and are referred to in census and other records. Their job is “housewife.” But what does and did that really mean?

Looking both in today’s society and the time of our ancestors, think about these questions:

  • Does the term housewife mean women have less value than men?
  • What does that term entail? Cleaning the house? Cooking, laundry, caring for the children and husband?
  • Does it mean she had no other skills?
  • Have you considered that maybe she had a small job outside the home but was referred to as a housewife when the census taker came around? Or that job was overlooked when an occupation was requested on a death certificate?

What does the term housewife mean to you if you are a woman today? How do you think being a housewife today compares to the role your grandmother or great grandmother played as a housewife?

Please share with us in the comments.

© 2013, Sort Your Story, Sonoma, California


Was She Just A Homemaker?

Sort Your Story creator Lorel Kapke was talking to me about women and the census recently. She had this to say, “This brought to mind the maternal side of families…. women listed in the census as “homemakers” …. were they creating quilts (worth big money today on Antiques Road Show,)  or recipes they created…enabling future generations to become famous “food network” chefs recreating their g-grandmothers recipes…. making money, how about taking care of the homestead…. from sunup to sundown… gathering herbs for remedies to help heal their children…possibly learned from the indigenous population.”

When you look at the history of the women in your family, what do you see? Only the homemaker listed in the census or much more than that? Women may have been listed as homemakers but they were, and still are today – MUCH more than that. They are…..

Business women; chefs; presidents of companies; attorneys; bankers; mothers; wives; friends; pastors; teachers; politicians; government worker; pilots; travelers; caretakers; cooks and bakers; doctors; construction workers; paramedics; police; firefighters; nurses; librarians; researchers; writers; photographers……..

The list goes on an on. How do you identify your female ancestors? WHO were they? WHAT did they do? WHEN did they do it? In a time when women weren’t doing “those” things like running a business when the majority were at home with children? What about attending the university when women were hardly ever admitted? WHY did your ancestor choose this path? WHERE was she living when she assume “this” role?

Answering these questions and looking at women as more than homemakers will open up a whole new world of story possibilities for your female ancestors. What are you waiting for? Start writing!

© 2013 Sort Your Story, Sonoma, California