A Salute to All Nations but Mostly America . . .

No, no, Sam Eagle -- this is Small Works, not The Muppet Show!
You were hired to introduce today's post, remember?

Oh yes . . . AHEM . . . Today's Post:

A Salute to All Women but Mostly Homemakers

Thank you, Sam.

Yes, dear Reader, it's a Small Works salute to you, 
the American Homemaker, 
brought to you courtesy of 
Everywoman's Magazine, May 1957.

You may not know it, but while she was busy contributing to the great American Literary Canon (much to the delight of high school English students everywhere), Pearl S. Buck was also a regular contributor to women's magazines.  I've mostly come across fiction pieces, but I recently acquired a tribute essay to homemakers that I just loved.  So because it's my blog and I have complete editorial freedom, I've decided to share selected excerpts with you here.

If you are one of my (handful of) male readers, please enjoy some good writing by Pearl S. Buck.

If you are one of my more career-minded female readers, please enjoy some good writing by Pearl S. Buck.

And for heaven's sake, let's all cast aside our P.C. restraint for 5 minutes

and talk about the realities of women's lives without getting huffy, can't we?

Here are some selected highlights from "A Tribute to You the Homemaker -- Most Important Woman in the World," by Pearl S. Buck:

"One summer afternoon, well over half a century ago, a small girl sat sewing her daily seam with her mother.  The small girl was I, the mother was mine.  The seam I took as a matter of course, and it did not matter that I disliked sewing.  My mother's mother, of conservative French descent and Huguenot family, had reared her daughters to be good wives, and this included, in that generation, the making of garments for the family.  The garments were decorated with embroidery and lace, and so these arts were taught, too.

The same combination of plain work and artistic decoration was also necessary for cooking.  I was taught to make bread as well as cake, to roast and broil and fry as well as to conjure up confections.  Work and decoration, my mother declared, were equally essential to the well-being and happiness of family life."

(I loved that line and thought it was absolutely brilliant -- the combination of work and decoration seems to me to completely encapsulate so many things about a woman's existence! --smh)

"The afternoon was hot, I remember.  Needle and thread and Chinese linen cloth were sticky in my fingers.  I was rebellious.  'Suppose I don't want to be married?" I said.

'You need not be,' my mother replied tranquilly.  'But you must learn homemaking, for your own sake, whether you marry or not, because you are a woman. . . .'

How true these words have been!  Wherever I have been, whatever my work, I have always been first and foremost a woman.  And deep in the heart of all women is the need to create a home -- not only for herself, but for others. . . .

What work is greater than that of the woman who creates and maintains that center of human life, the home? Into this home children are born.  It is their world, the only world they know for the most important years of their lives, and as long as they live it will continue to be the most important influence on them.  Seldom indeed do men and women rise above the atmosphere of their childhood homes.  They may become rich and powerful, they may build houses very different from the one they first knew, but they carry within themselves always the atmosphere of their first home.  

The influence of the homemaker reaches indeed far beyond the walls of her house.  Her reach and importance as a stabilizer of civilization is so great that it is beyond her own comprehension.  She creates the center where the world begins, the world and all its peoples.  It is from her that they spring. . . .

While she sweeps and cleans and makes the beds, while she cooks and washes and puts away, she is molding human beings.  She is shaping dispositions and building character and making harmony.  The greatest need in the world today is for people of sweet disposition, good character and harmonious nature. . . . I can believe, for example, that a delegate to the United Nations may take his place there in a frame of mind conducive to understanding and patience if he has emerged a few minutes before from a pleasant home. . . .

Her house is only part of home.  Home is the total environment and atmosphere in which the family lives.  It includes the yard, the garden, the flowers on the table, the books in the living room, the music in the air, good talk as well as television, family excursions as well as indoor games on a winter's evening.  The life shared by every member of the family with every other makes the atmosphere of home.  And this atmosphere doesn't just happen.  It has to be created -- and it is the woman in the home who does the most to create it. . . .

I know that it is necessary for me to feel that around me is my home, as beautiful as I can make it.  Home is my earth, where my roots are and from which I draw spiritual sustenance.  Security itself is based upon this inner content.

The home is the center of our lives.  As the home is -- the individual home, where one woman is the matrix -- so the world will be.  We have need, we women, as we survey our present world,  to ask why it is so troubled.  If we are honest, let us search back into cause and cure.  I shall not be surprised if that search leads us home."

Wasn't that lovely?

It's almost enough to make me say, "Hooray for laundry!" 
(I said almost.)

Ms. Buck did also devote a few paragraphs to the delicate balancing act between career and home,

but I decided not to open that particular can here today.

Accompanying the essay was this: 

The editorial staff's snapshot of the average homemaker, ca. 1957.  Click on it if you want to do a line-by-line comparison of how the world has changed -- for instance, I definitely DO NOT host 3 parties in my home per month -- and how it hasn't.

It's good to realize how lucky (and important) 
we are to have this job.  
Even though a lot of days I forget to feel lucky or important . . .

A little reminder to myself.


Judy said...

What an AWESOME essay! I love Pearl Buck. There are many quotable sentences, but I love the line "Home is earth, where my roots are and from which I draw spiritual sustenance."

I also love that I don't have to spend an HOUR A DAY on dishes (except for on Thanksgiving Day).

susan m hinckley said...

There were a lot of things on that chart I was glad I don't do -- I don't clean carpet every day, for instance, and I certainly don't spend an hour+ on clothing related duties.

And I thought that line was beautiful as well. Let's face it: there are reasons that famous writers become famous writers. Glad you enjoyed it.

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