Chapter

‘Doing for Oneself’

Lucy Delap

in Knowing Their Place

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199572946
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728846 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572946.003.0004
‘Doing for Oneself’

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This chapter explores the advice literature and periodical press fascination with the changing nature of the twentieth-century home. It describes the ‘labour-saving movement’, and the associated development of gas and electricity within the home. The persistence of domestic service within the changing context is highlighted, and many ‘labour-saving’ devices were understood as perpetuating domestic service, rather than making it redundant. The ‘servantless’ home was thus never very firmly established, and most middle-class households continued to expect domestic assistance. The chapter outlines attempts made to employ new categories of domestic workers (nannies, lady helps, mother's helps, au pairs) to avoid the opprobrium of being a ‘servant’. The servant-keeping practices of the late twentieth century are placed into a broader time span, and ‘doing for oneself’ is seen as a brief experiment, rather than a necessary feature of ‘modern’ living.

Keywords: servantless; labour-saving; electricity; gas; nannies; au pairs; servant; homes; advice literature

Chapter.  19892 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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