Selling Mrs. Consumer: Christine Frederick and the Rise of Household EfficiencyThis first book-length treatment of the life and work of
Christine Frederick (1883-1970) reveals an important dilemma that faced educated women of the early twentieth century. Contrary to
her professional role as home efficiency expert, advertising
consultant, and consumer advocate, Christine Frederick espoused the nineteenth-century ideal of preserving the virtuous home--and a
woman's place in it. In an effort to reconcile her desire to
succeed in the public sphere of modernization and consumerism with the knowledge that most middle-class Americans still held
traditional beliefs about gender roles, Frederick fashioned a
career for herself that encouraged other women to remain at home.
With the rise of home economics and scientific management,
Frederick--college-educated but confined to the drudgery of
housework--devised a plan for bringing the public sphere into the domestic. Her home would become her factory. She learned how to
standardize tasks by observing labor-saving devices in industry and then applied this knowledge to housework. She standardized
dishwashing, for example, by breaking the job into three separate operations: scraping and stacking, washing, and drying and putting away. Determined to train women to become proficient homemakers and efficient managers, Frederick secured a job writing articles for
the Ladies' Home Journal. A professional career as home
efficiency expert later expanded to include advertising consultant and consumer advocate. Frederick assured male advertisers that she knew women well and promised to help them sell to "Mrs.
While Frederick sought the power and influence available only to
men, she promoted a division of labor by gender and therefore
served the fall of the early-twentieth-century wave of feminism.
Rutherford's engaging account of Christine Frederick's life
reflects a dilemma that continues to affect women today--whether to seek professional gratification or adhere to traditional family