The Absurdly Rational Logic Of Wages For Wives

04/08/2015 12:06 pm ET | Updated Apr 08, 2015
Age Fotostock

Amidst exploding stock markets and hedonic speakeasies, the middle-class homemaker of the Roaring Twenties wrestled with the question of power. In 1920, women had won the right to vote, but the fight for sexual and economic emancipation was just shifting into high gear. In the workplace, women achieved visibility as secretaries, shopkeepers and machinists; in dancehalls and boardwalks, ladies emerged as embodiments of leisure. Inside the home, the “New Woman” was redefining herself as a modern economic citizen, no longer only an assembly-line maven or a freewheeling flapper. In 1926, long before Wages for Housework emerged as a second-wave feminist slogan, The Nation debated “Wages for Wives,” and then like now, this absurdly reasonable concept titillated and threatened.

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