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Honoring the Housewives of Yesteryear


A tribute for Women’s History Month

“When I grow up, I want to be a housewife.”

Words from my mouth as a child, but words that are rarely spoken by little girls today. The very term feels distasteful in today’s world; when spoken it has a tone of women’s inequality. It reeks of relegating women to the kitchen.  How sad, for in times past the kitchen was the heart of the family.

For my mother, working was a necessity, not a choice. Back when I was a kid, Blacks were excluded from most private sector jobs that paid enough to support a family of three or four on one income. My father had a job in the public sector, and in order to afford our suburban home, two incomes were required. My mom worked more out of necessity than choice. She was the only mom in my environment who wasn’t a housewife. I resented having a working mom, it made me feel less than. Hence, my goal, “When I grow up, I want to be a housewife.” 

My housewife memories came from my grandmother, not my mom. Fortunately, she lived with us, so my Gram was the housewife of my childhood, and she did a great job of it.  Our meals were all fresh; meats delivered by the grocer, seasonally fresh veggies from our garden.  There was no such thing as tv dinners, fast food or take-out.

The housewife was the preschool teacher. All learning before kindergarten occurred under her watchful eye. Gram’s lap was always available when I brought my storybooks. I spent hours sitting at her feet with my paper dolls, listening to her late afternoon soap operas while she ironed. Or performing the honored task of threading her needles while she mended. For years, Gram washed clothes on a scrubboard in the basement, then brought them upstairs to the backyard clothesline. In my sensory memory, I can still smell the freshly washed sheets on the line, an aroma that rejoined me when I snuggled down to sleep at night.

That era had more freedom for children. With the ever-present housewife available, doors were never locked. There was no such thing as play dates. If you wanted to see your friend, you just

banged on their door and walked in; or you chose the more polite way of shouting, “Can Jackie come out and play?” through the screen door. Wandering the neighborhood alone was never a problem. In case of an emergency, there was always a housewife nearby to lend a helping hand.

My mom felt the loss of housewife duties and did her best at making up for it. She took me to piano lessons and trips to the zoo on weekends. I still remember the spring coat and matching bonnet she found time to sew for me one Easter.

Over the years, my aspirations broadened with the times. As a young woman of my era, I went to college, even grad school, but that was something “to fall back on” after marriage in case, “God forbid,” I became widowed. The thought of divorce wasn’t on the list of possibilities.

Upon the first day of my sixth month of pregnancy, I quit work and began my lifelong career goal as a housewife. My children came home to the comforting aromas and warm hugs of my outstretched arms in the sacred kitchen.

Fast forward to today’s world. The definition of a successful woman has morphed over the years, certainly adding more opportunities and sometime more stress. My oldest daughter has, what seems to me to be, the best of both worlds. She and her husband own a business run from offices in their home. Having control of her time, my daughter has been able to carpool the kids, attend special daytime open houses, be a soccer mom and all the other housewifely privileges; all while being an executive in her business. With the arrival of Covid, my second daughter joined the ranks of business executive and stay-at-home mom (as they are now called).

Yes, the concept of women’s role has changed over the decades. But looking back with nostalgia at all the housewives of yesteryear, I salute you and honor you in this Women’s History Month.

written by Amy Bryant, Safety Harbor Resident Blogger
Author of “You Can Go Home Again


  1. Always fluid, this article is particularly well written, a quick read. Thank you, Amy, for reminding all of us how fortunate we were to experience that era. May our children and grandchildren feel likewise.

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