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Homemakers, the Forgotten Workers


In the late 1970's, approximately 57 percent of all married women, 35 million women in all, were unpaid homemakers, and most women employed outside the home also held the role of family homemaker. In 1981 I wrote in an editorial in THE NEW YORK TIMES, "Policy makers seeking to support the family would do well to abandon nostalgic but outmoded notions of home and motherhood," and help women (and men) who work as homemakers by improving their Social Security protections, redefining their status for tax-averaging upon divorce, establishing tax incentives for retraining them to reenter the workforce, and treating homemaking as productive work in divorce settlements. In the intervening years we have seen important changes in women's work patterns, and the law has given both male and female homemakers greater flexibilities and protections. Yet, we are still a long way from establishing the kinds of health care, family leave, and other policies that can make American families truly secure both financially and emotionally.

HOMEMAKERS, THE FORGOTTEN WORKERS was funded in part by a grant from the Ford Foundation and the University of Michigan Center for the Continuing Education of Women. It won the Chicago Women in Publishing Award for Outstanding Trade Publication of the Year.

THE DALLAS TIMES HERALD called it, "One of the most thorough studies to date on the homemaker--full of useful facts, statistics, examples and ways to help her achieve the respect Andre thinks she deserves."

Elinor G. Barber, in POLITICAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY, wrote: "[Andre deals in] practical terms with the painful ambivalences of the homemakers whose profiles she presents vividly; their need, on the one hand, to be loving and helping, and on the other, their sense of boredom, dependency, and lack of appreciation. She explores the possibilities of greater equality in the home; of alternative life styles, such as the incresed participation of fathers in child care; of new forms of households and experimental communities; and of the organization of homemakers for such purposes as consciousness raising, mutual assistance, and the gaining of political and economic power. The book contains useful discussions of the problems of the displaced homemaker and of the possibilities of legislative action to benefit homemakers...In sum, this is a book based on admirable values and practical familiarity with the situation of homemakers."

Catherine White Berheide in SOCIOLOGY said the book is "a welcome addition to the literature on women's work in the home."

Jessie Bernard, of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, wrote, "I find [the book] enormously stimuating. With books like this, homemakers will not long remain forgotten workers..."

Elise Boulding of Dartmouth College wrote, "The book is both scholarly and humane, giving back a large field of human interaction and joy to the women and men who have hardly dared claim it because they feared the joy was illegitimate."

Elaine Tyler May of the University of Minnesota wrote, "HOMEMAKERS is an extremely important book. anyone who has ever been a homemaker, or has lived in the same house with ahomemaker, should read it. Essentially that means all of us."