Education: Wagner-Ritter House

Johnstown Area Heritage Association
Teachers' Guide

Excerpts from Lippincott's Home Manuals, chapter 1


copyright 1921


page 1

     "Housewifery is the business of the mistress of the family."  If this definition were analyzed, we should find the word, "business" meaning concern; "mistress," the person versed in everything; and "family," a group of individuals living under one roof.  Thus, to enlarge the definition, it would read:  Housewifery is the concern of the person versed in everything pertaining to a group of individuals living under one roof.

     The accepted fact to-day is that every housewife ought to become as proficient in her realm as the business man is in his.  As a man can not do good work without the best facilities and the most careful organization of his office, so the housewife is handicapped unless her workshop is suitable planned and arranged.

     In order that the plan of the house add to the efficiency of the housewife's work, there should be careful consideration given to the division of the space in the house, because it is only through dividing and planning that there can be any real organized business.

      Division of Space in the Home. - Any house already built may involve conditions that are not ideal, but the division of most homes is into three parts; the work unit, the recreation unit, and the rest unit.  No matter how small the house is, this division is automatically made.  It increases or decreases in area according to the income, and size of the family.

     Work Unit. - The work unit of the house includes the kitchen, the pantry, the laundry, and the cellar.  As long as this group of rooms is literally a workshop, these rooms must not only be arranged to give the worker good light, but the various tools and equipment ought to be so placed that the housewife is saved the fatigue which results from taking unnecessary steps, and from carrying tools and materials a greater distance than necessary.

page 3

     Recreation Unit. - The recreation unit may be one room, the living room, in which the family may assemble.  Whether it also includes a library, a parlor, a reception room, a den, and other special rooms and porches, depends entirely upon the method of living of the family.  The dining room belongs equally, or course, to the recreation unit.

     Rest Unit. - The rest unit depends largely upon the number in the household.  This is true to such an extent that if an architect is called for advice, the house plans are made around the number of bedrooms required.  The bathroom belongs to this unit, and the comfort and convenience of the family depends to a large extent on the placing of the bathroom, and its relationship to the bedrooms.  Every effort should be made to have this unit quiet, and accessible without going through the other two units.  The arrangement of the hallways will be entirely responsible for this.

page 6

     Until the housewife realizes that the standard of equipment she uses and the way it is arranged represent two-thirds of the household work problem, she has not fully started the business of housekeeping.  Until then she has no right to check up a maid as to whether she is slow or unskillful, because the best trained woman is handicapped in producing standard results if her tools are poorly selected and poorly arranged.

pages 13-14

     Score cards are like a tally sheet in which rating of some task or tool or material is made on a percentage basis.  The sum total for perfect conditions or results equals 100 per cent., and less perfect conditions are correspondingly reduced in score.  The plan is to list in score form the various essential elements, and assign a number of points to each in proportion to its importance in the ideal.  For example, score cards for testing bread are used in schools and in county fairs.  Score cards have been widely used for test of dairies and in agricultural experiment stations.  Recent use has been made of them in scoring restaurants, housing conditions, etc.

     While little as been done by the housewife, largely because each home has been thought such an individual problem, she may with profit made a test score card for herself.  Examples are given below which might be modified to be fitted to her use.

pages 15-17

     Schedule Without Help. - The housewife without employed help has duties so varied that they are difficult to reduce to an exact program or schedule.  The exact duties and the amount of time each will require will vary according to such conditions as: life in city or in country; house or apartment living; size of family and ages of children; income available; etc.  The following schedule is an estimate indicating the kinds of duties and the approximate amount of time necessary for each in a household where the mother does all the work:

     If the tasks in the second column are distributed through the week, an average of two to four hours a day would be called for, in addition to the seven to eleven hours for regular daily tasks of the household.  This means a nine- to fifteen-hour work day for the woman who does all her own work.  In such a household it is very important for the housewife to have a daily schedule of special tasks:  washing day (Tuesday is better than Monday); ironing day, baking day, cleaning days, mending day.  SOme items of work, for example, cleaning of silver, may well be brought in only once in two weeks.  It is also important for her to consider what work she can hire; for example, the family washing done by rough-dry method at pound rates.

     Schedule with Employed Help. - The housewife may list duties for which she is responsible, and plan how and when she will do them; if she employs one or more maids, the greater the need for being able to present to them a similar list of duties.  In making out the schedule she must take into account the number of rooms in the house, the size of the family, the number of guests, outside assistance (in washing, etc.), days off of helpers, etc.  A good way to begin would be to list regular duties for every day in the week, such as cooking, washing dishes, bed making, and dusting.  The next thing is to note special cleaning on certain days every week, and special cleaning on certain days every other week.  If this is done, there can be schedules so that there will be an equal amount of cleaning every week.  It is desirable that children have small household tasks and these too should be brought into the plans.


     With either schedule, apportion the work so that no day is overcrowded, so that rest periods are possible for one or both helpers.  It can be done - here is where the housewife's knowledge of the time required for each task is reflected in the organization.

pages 19-20


1.  Draw two plans - of your own kitchen and one other you know.  Compare them from the viewpoint of ease of doing work.

2.  WIth the plan of your own kitchen, trace dotted lines the journeys taken in making apple sauce and preparing for serving.

3.  Modify the plan of your kitchen so that it will be a workshop with few steps and lessened labor.

4.  Make a score card for washing dishes.

5.  Discuss ways in which home management and office management may be alike.  Ways in which they must be unlike.

6.  In your housekeeping, how many ways have you found that "your head may save your heels?"

7.  Given ten dollars to spend, what books would you buy for a housewife's library?


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