The Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Designs for American Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities

By Dolores Hayden | Go to book overview
Save to active project

Free Lovers, Individual Sovereigns, and Integral Cooperators

Recruitment of a Radical

Melusina Fay Peirce lobbied for cooperative housekeeping, but an extremely conventional sense of Victorian propriety lay behind her insistence that women's "pure and elevating feminine influence" should prevail in a world threatened by "desire" and "lust." Marie Stevens Howland (5.1), Peirce's exact contemporary and an equally powerful critic of the isolated household, took an opposite view of traditional sexual morality, calling "the loss of respectability as defined by hypocrites and prudes," a woman's first step toward "broad sympathies for humanity." 1 I While Peirce moved among the literary and intellectual luminaries of Cambridge and Boston, Howland associated with cultural radicals, trade unionists, sex reformers, and socialists in France, the United States, and Mexico. She lived in many experimental communities, and in between campaigns for cooperative housekeeping, she painted quotations from Fourier on her doors.

Despite her unconventional lifestyle, Howland knew what it meant to earn her living. Like Peirce, she believed in economic independence for women. Her first proposal for cooperative housekeeping involved an ideal factory, making the workplace rather than the residential neighborhood the focus of these activities. For her economic independence required not only cooperative housekeeping services for employed women, but also scientific child care. In the 1880s Howland collaborated on the first plan for a city of kitchenless houses and apartment hotels with extensive child care facilities, developing some of the urban implications of these new forms of domestic organization.

Born in 1836 in Lebanon, New Hampshire, Marie Stevens became a radical when she moved to Lowell, Massachusetts, in her early teens, finding work to support her two younger sisters after her father's death. 2 Lowell, founded in 1821, was "the city of spindles," admired by many European visitors. The owners of this industrial town recruited Yankee farm women, boasted about the operatives' contentment, and hailed the opportunities for selfimprovement available to them through literary circles and lending libraries. Women operatives were housed in substantial brick boardinghouses, whose sober and well-proportioned facades hid crowded accommodations (5.2). Boardinghouse keepers enforced a strict work regimen, promptness at meals, and weekly religious observance.

As Thomas Dublin has noted, "The central institution in the female community was the corporation boarding house," and "the boarding house, with an average of twenty-five female boarders sleeping four to six in a bedroom, was above all a collective living situation." The boardinghouse residents developed unusual social and political cohesion, which supported their involvement in the strikes of the 1830s and 1840s. The boardinghouses, as "focal points of female labor protest," according

-91-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Designs for American Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 376

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?