Technological Autobiography: My Life with Home Appliances

My Life with Home Appliances

by Deborah Taylor-Hough

“Technology serves as a Rorschach over a lifetime, a projective screen for our changing and emotionally charged commitments.”[1]  – Sherry Turkle, Inner History of Devices

my freezerBack in the days before modern appliances, the work of keeping up a home was a full-time job.  From the need to replenish meats and vegetables on almost a daily basis due to a lack of safe food storage options, to washing clothing and diapers at the riverside, housekeeping was a never-ending chore.   I will examine the history of modern work-saving devices, looking at how the development of these items saves time and effort, focusing on stories from my own life and my family’s history and also discuss the role of appliances in the liberation of women from the solitary role of housewife.

Automatic dishwashers, refrigerators, washers and dryers, microwave ovens, sewing machines, electric ranges, toasters, and vacuum cleaners are examples of the modern day “servants” which the average household now has access to that in the past, would have been time-consuming chores, often performed by domestic servants.  The idea of a “housewife”—a woman essentially married to housework—is now archaic.  Women today are no longer strapped to their homes.  An argument could even be made that the development of the modern home appliance was one of the means to allowing women to work outside their homes.   Modern appliances and Feminism, the dual paths toward equality.

In 2009, a University of Montreal economist completed an exhaustive study of U.S. census data and found that home technology, including appliances and bathroom facilities, did, in fact, have a positive effect on women’s participation in the labour force. ‘Household technology was important,’ says the economist, Emanuela Cardia … ‘It eventually did lead to women being able to work more.’ While some women might find it a stretch to attribute their empowerment to home appliances, there is a growing body of academic literature on the topic.[2]

I can remember my mother spending time reading things like Ms. Magazine and Freidan’s The Feminine Mystique.  The picture I hold in my mind of 1950’s and 1960’s housewives is a far cry from the bra-burning feminists I remember populating the news broadcasts alongside the Vietnam War footage from my childhood.  But I wonder, would my mom have been out there burning her bra if she hadn’t been at home with a small child?  At least the modern appliances freed up time for her to expand her mind and share her new found insights with her growing daughter.  The Krokers would probably see my mom’s burgeoning feminism that came out of the free time given to her by modern appliances as Code Drift, an unexpected turn in the uses and benefits of technology.[3]  I, for one, am glad of this particular drift from original manufacturing intentions.


Appliance History

“The main trouble with cyborgs … is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism … But illegitimate offspring are often exceedingly unfaithful to their origins.  Their fathers, after all, are inessential.”[4] – Donna Haraway

A number of what are now thought of as home-related appliances were originally created for the workplace.  For example, the vacuum cleaner was developed by a hotel janitor who suffered from severe asthma triggered by carpet dust.  The first electric vacuum consisted of a simple electric blower attached to a pillowcase to catch the dust. Sewing machines were originally manufactured to be used in the factory setting, and actually were the cause of a number of riots as hand-tailors and seamstresses began to find their employment being replaced by much faster machine-assisted stitching.  Eventually both the vacuum and the sewing machine found their way into homes, replacing dusty carpet beaters, inefficient carpet brooms, and women’s hand needlework.

After migrating from the workplace to the home environment, home appliances were intended for use by the servants in homes of Upper and Middle Class families.  The earliest home appliances were efficient, utilitarian, and ugly.   In the early 20th Century, the United States experienced what is often referred to as “the servant crisis,” when overworked and underpaid household employees began to seek out regular employment in factories rather than in domestic work.  Gershuny stated that “the middle classes dealt with the historical decline in domestic service by substituting their own labour to produce the domestic goods and services at the culturally required standard.”[5] Bettina Birch wrote that the decline in numbers of domestic servants resulted in the “technological fix” of housework via the development of home appliances, resulting in a shift from housework being low-waged work done by servants to non-wage work performed by housewives with the aid of a variety of technological appliances.[6]  Donna Haraway, author of the essay ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’, may have even considered the early users of home appliances as being some of the first cyborgs, “a ‘cybernetic organism,’ a mixture of technology and biology, a ‘creature’ of both ‘social reality and ‘fiction’.”[7]

As appliances shifted from the realm of the hired help to the expected work of the mistress of the home, appliances were made to be more elegant in appearance and to appeal to these new Middle Class housewives.  After every household had a refrigerator, the manufacturers discovered a new marketing difficulty.  How do you sell something new to someone who already owns a workable version of what you are selling?  Surprisingly enough, the answer to this marketing dilemma, was found in the automobile industry.  General Motors began displaying the year’s current models of refrigerators right alongside the latest car displays.  Just as with new-and-updated cars, if there was not a need for your product, you created a need.  If a homemaker’s old fridge did not measure up to this year’s new models’ standards, it just was not any good anymore.  The appliances now needed to be new and modern in the current fashionable colors.  Appliances became an important and highly lucrative part of what became modern Consumer Culture.


My Freezer, My Friend

I can remember standing in my great-grandmother’s kitchen and looking into her icebox.  Yes, she had an old-fashioned icebox, complete with delivery from the iceman.  The Iceman continued to “cometh” into many homes well into the 1960’s when electric refrigerators and freezers finally made the icebox and its daily deliveryman obsolete.  My great-grandmother’s icebox was a beautiful piece of oak furniture.  It was lined with metal throughout the inside of its thick walls.  The main thing I remember coming out of the icebox was the glass milk bottle, complete with little cardboard cover over its opening.  My great-grandfather used to take swigs directly from the milk bottle when his wife was out of the room, winking at me to show he trusted me to keep his “secret” from great-grandma.

At my other grandparents’ house, they had a large deep freeze in the dark recesses of the back of their basement.  The kitchen refrigerator only had a tiny freezer compartment, just large enough for holding two metal trays of ice cubes.  Anything else to be kept frozen was kept in the deep freeze.  Certain that the dark basement with its gigantic noisy freezer was haunted, I was always terrified to be sent to deep freeze to retrieve the box of ice cream.  Even though being sent to get the treat meant I could have my choice of flavors, it was still my least favorite duty when visiting Grandma.  I don’t think anyone in the family ever fully understood I was truly terrified of the basement.  Especially of the freezer.  Oh, the imagination of childhood.  It isn’t all rainbows and fairies.  Sometimes it consists of haunted freezers and demons hiding in dark corners.  I was so excited when Grandma finally bought a new refrigerator for the kitchen that had enough space to store the ice cream.  No more trips alone down the steep stairway into the belly of the house’s basement.  This was one time when the siren call of new-and-better Consumer Culture was a good thing, at least to my tiny childhood self.

Back at my house, my parents were young and somewhat “hip” and usually the first on our street to get the latest and greatest appliances.  For example, we were the first house on the block to have color television.  We were also the first to have a full-size refrigerator/freezer.  My clearest memory of our freezer was my mom making frozen molded treats from orange juice and lemonade.  Whenever neighborhood kids and I heard the tell-tale music of the ice cream truck, I was told it was the signal for me to come in the house and get a frozen juice treat.  One of Mom’s homemade popsicles.  At the time, I didn’t realize it was my mom’s way of saving money.  It was much cheaper to make frozen treats with juice than to purchase the individual ice pops each day from the ice cream truck.  My friends were jealous.  Mom’s juice pops were better than any blue or purple freezer-burned offering from the truck.  It wasn’t long before my mom had a line of children at the backdoor asking if they could give her their ice cream money for a juice popsicle.  Mom’s nickname in the neighborhood became The Popsicle Lady.

Fast forward to my life now.  Recently, I got back in touch with a friend I hadn’t spoken with for several years.  During the conversation she said something surprising: “I think about you every day.  At least once.  Every time I open my freezer, I think about you.”

Most people would probably feel puzzled if they heard that someone thought of them every time they used a particular kitchen appliance.  But for me, it makes sense.  Having written a series of cookbooks on cooking ahead for the freezer, Frozen Assets, I can easily understand why someone would make the connection between me and their freezer.  Especially if they’ve used my cookbooks. This particular friend developed a disability which keeps her homebound and unable to cook daily for herself.  She’s taken the general ideas from my Frozen Assets books and applied the method to her own situation and specialized diet.  On days when she feels energetic enough to cook, she’ll freeze individual servings of whatever she’s making for ease of preparation later in the week.  Her freezer is filled with healthy homemade frozen meals inspired by my books about freezing meals ahead of time, hence her daily reminder of me while opening her freezer.  Another friend told me she thinks about me whenever she sees or uses aluminum foil because she always wraps her freezer meals in foil before freezing.  My relationship with tin foil can be saved for another time.

I can honestly say my freezer changed my life.  It saved time, money, and even my family life.  And provided me with a source of income and a career, as well. Before I’d discovered cooking ahead, it was a struggle to get dinner on the table each night.  When my children were young, my husband worked odd shifts, and we often ate our family dinner at noon.  Consequently, I ended up spending the morning (our family time) preparing the family dinner, or we’d run out to the local taco stand for quick, cheap meal if we’d decided to spend the morning at a local park.

A friend suggested cooking ahead for the freezer so I wouldn’t need to spend our family time cooking.  My initial response was, “I’d love to try that once-a-month cooking idea, but we don’t have a separate freezer—just the small one over the refrigerator.”  She suggested I try cooking ahead for just a week at a time, and using freezer bags to store meals so it’d take up less space.  I tried it and it worked!  I started cooking all of our main meals for the freezer, and prep time was a snap.  We also regained our precious family time, and I wasn’t spending nearly as much time in the kitchen.

An online friend of mine and I started talking about cooking for the freezer through email, and I ended up putting together a small website on the topic.  On a whim, I asked other online friends if they’d be interested in joining our freezer meal conversation, and nearly everyone joined our discussion group.  Our little two person discussion grew to include thousands of people from all over the world, and eventually turned into a book series.  I was contacted by a publisher who’d stumbled upon my website while doing online research for a book they were putting together of resources for single parents.  To keep a long story short, that chance online meeting led to a three book contract.

My freezer gave me back my family time.  It also brought me into a new stage of life of writing books and articles, speaking at conventions, and running workshops and classes.

Freezers were designed to extend the life of food, but my freezer extended the amount of time I have available each day for other activities besides food preparation, and also helped me stretch a limited budget by allowing me to buy foods in bulk and when they’re on sale.  I was surprised when I did the math and realized that over a five year period of time, cooking for the freezer had saved me $24,000 on our grocery budget.  We’d gone from spending about $700 per month (including expensive pre-packaged convenience foods, trips to the local drive-thru, and calls for pizza delivery) to about $300 per month on our food-related expenses.  Cooking for the freezer essentially became my part-time job, and my freezer became a prime example of Heidegger’s “standing reserve” idea.[8]  Not only was it a standing reserve of food, it also was a way of reserving money, too.

I’ve found myself brainstorming about my personal history and relationship with freezers and frozen things throughout my life, and surprisingly found a definite thread of frozen and iced memories.  I probably could’ve written this entire essay on just freezers.  The “haunted” deep freeze in my grandparents’ basement.  The homemade fruit-juice popsicles my mom made for the neighborhood kids.  Mom’s forbidden pineapple sherbet (long story).  The food locker where my dad kept each year’s deer meat.  Many meals of frozen venison.  My daughter freezing her Batman toy in cups of ice in the fridge-top freezer.  Frozen fish.  My friend’s frozen roadkill she saved for dissecting.  My mother-in-law’s freezer full of food for catering parties.  Her homemade apple fritters.  Family jokes about frozen woolly mammoths being the first “freezer meals.”  Ice skating.  Frozen pipes.  Frozen berries.  Gifts of freezer meals when my babies were born.  Maybe someday I’ll write a series of short memoir/essays on freezers.  A follow-up to my cookbooks?  Perhaps.


The Kitchen Stove

From prehistoric times until the advent of the cook stove, family cooking was done around the fire or the hearth.  Most meals consisted of something like meat that could be roasted over a spit, or simple porridges and stews that could be cooked all day in a single pot over an open fire.  Beginning with Benjamin Franklin’s stove for heating which eventually morphed into a means of heating water and then entire meals, the age of the kitchen appliance had begun. When wood burning kitchen stoves were first introduced, the idea was nearly universally rejected by women.  People who had been raised around the family hearth in the main living area—keeping warm, telling stories, reading books—couldn’t imagine raising a family around a stove in the kitchen.  The original wood-burning iron stoves were collapsible, allowing pioneers traveling the Oregon Trail store their stove flat in their covered wagons, and then to set up their kitchens before they even had a house to call home.  Armies during the Civil War even used small versions to cook in their encampments.

My Great-grandmother Taylor never did switch to an electric stove or oven.  Even into the early 1970’s, she was still cooking family holiday meals on her giant wood-burning iron stove that had travelled with the family from their homestead in Anacortes, through several moves to finally end up in Kirkland.  Grandma’s adult children frequently offered to replace her wood-burning antique with a new, modern appliance, but Grandma would have none of that new-fangled mumbo jumbo in her kitchen.  I have vivid memories of her standing over the stove in her housedress and apron, shoving wood into the opening of the stove, and sweating profusely.  And she loved every minute of it.  It was how she took care of her family.

I remember my first stove.  It was made of turquoise colored cardboard and plastic. I was four-years-old and my grandmother had decided it was time I learned to be a “lady” so she gave me a play kitchen set.  Being a woman in the early 1960’s was evidently equal in my grandmother’s mind to playing with the trappings of modern American kitchens.  I was the envy of all my friends with my new child-sized kitchen.  But what did I personally think of this modern marvel of play equipment?  I hated it.  I wanted to use the real thing.  I wanted to cook on the real stove, make a real cake in the real oven, or broil a real steak under a real broiler.  I remember my grandmother being worried that I wasn’t going to grow into a real “lady” when I didn’t play with the cardboard kitchen.  I often wonder now why she never noticed me at her elbow faithfully stirring the batter for the birthday cupcakes, or setting the timer for the casserole in the oven?


Doing Dishes

Even with an automatic dishwasher, the plates, cups, pots, and pans still pile up in my kitchen.  Maybe it’s not so much that I’m a lousy housekeeper, but that I’m a distracted one?  The dishwasher needs to be emptied prior to loading in fresh dirty dishes, but emptying the dishwasher requires I stop doing whatever else I’m doing.  It also just plain seems like too much work at times.  In reality, it isn’t a lot of work when I actually do it. But my mind tends to make emptying the dishwasher seem like a huge task looming over me that will somehow disrupt my entire day, taking me away from more intriguing ways to spend my time and energy.  Before reloading the dishwasher with fresh dirty dishes, the caked-on gunk needs to be soaked for a few minutes and lightly scrubbed or the dishwasher leaves residue.  Learned this the hard way after needing to rewash too many dishes.  Found it was easier to just soak and rinse everything rather than chiseling off the baked on goo left behind after the dishwasher’s drying cycle transformed food residue into concrete.

There’s something calming, almost mesmerizing about doing dishes by hand. The mindlessly repetitive, rhythmic movements. The soothing warm water. The fragrant lemon-scented bubbles, soft and silky on tired hands.  Sometimes I listen to music while dishwashing. My favorite dishwashing CD is the soundtrack to the No Reservations movie.  Usually I listen to the soundtrack in my head.  A song stuck in my brain, quiet random ruminations, a remembered childhood poem. There is satisfaction in the transformation of the kitchen from disarray to order. Hysteria to calm. Is it less satisfying on some internal level to only do little clean-ups here and there, but never have the transformational experience that comes from a complete overhaul? Is that why I procrastinate doing dishes?

Creative moments can surprise us. But times of quiet personal reflection are often a prelude to accessing our deeper selves.  Standing at the kitchen sink, up to my elbows in warm, soapy water, gently scrubbing my plates and glassware brings on a meditative state for me.  Standing in one place, actively involved with a mindless, repetitive, physical activity, releases my creative self.  Dreaming, meditating, creating—all part of the same deep interior well or as Rikki Ducornet would say, our own personal Deep Zoo.[9]

Many things I’ve written developed after a time of quiet personal reflection—believe it or not, usually while standing at the sink up to my elbows in warm, soapy water, gently scrubbing my plates and glassware.  Standing in one place, actively involved with a mindless physical activity, seems to release something creative.

Writers over the centuries have used walking as a physical meditative process.  For me, while I thoroughly enjoy a good walk, I find myself caught up in the sights and sounds, people and birds, creatures and weather around me, and my mind isn’t quite as free to wander as it is when I’m staring at a corner and small window of my kitchen.  The kitchen almost works as a sensory deprivation chamber.  There isn’t much to see, hear, or experience.  Just the warmth, the steam, the water, the suds, the rhythms of the washing.

I wonder why I delay doing dishes when it’s often such a fruitful experience for me?  I have no answer.

Perhaps one reason I don’t care for doing dishes now is related to growing up and spending many summers at my grandparents’ cabin in the mountains of North Central Washington.  There wasn’t an automatic dishwasher, so after every meal, it was the job of my cousin and me to hand wash the dishes.  Or if my cousin wasn’t there, Grandma and I would do the dishes together.  Doing dishes was a social event.  A time to stand side by side chatting with someone else.  My grandmother told me many stories of her own childhood growing up in the early part of the 20th Century that I don’t believe I ever would’ve heard if we hadn’t had our time at the dishrack together.  Now when I load dishes into my dishwasher, standing by myself in my kitchen, it feels lonely.  Incomplete.  The social aspect of dishwashing is gone.


The Automatic Washer/Dryer

In the days when women gathered together by the riverside to wash the family’s clothing, I suspect there was also a feeling of comradery with the other women scrubbing beside them.  The advent of the modern washer and dryer freed women from the need to spend an entire day each week washing clothes, usually on Mondays because people changed their weekly clothing on Sunday for church.  The expression, Blue Mondays, developed not because women were depressed doing their laundry on Mondays, but because of the bluing they used to help whiten their white clothes.  The hands and arms of women everywhere were blue.  Gaining the ability to just toss in a load of laundry whenever needed allowed women to multi-task as the laundry essentially did itself. People had fewer clothes back in the pre-appliance days.  Partly because every stitch of clothing was handmade.  Sewing machines and ready-wear garments increased the amount of clothing owned and worn by the average family.  So although time was freed by the washer and dryer, there was actually more laundry to do than before.

Other than the occasional delicate sweater or blouse, I have no memories of hand-washing clothing.  But I do remember my grandmother’s old-fashioned washing setup in her basement.  The clothes were washed automatically and much of the water was spun out of the load, but then she fed the still wet clothes through a hand-wringer to squeeze out every excess drop to aid with faster line drying.  I spend many hours feeding socks into the wringer, and helping Grandma hang clothes on the indoor clothesline in her large laundry room.

Memories of doing laundry at my house when I was a child are sparse.  Laundry was Mom’s job.  After I’d accidently dyed all our whites a lovely shade of pink from something red included in the wash by mistake, I was banned from the washer and dryer for a number of years.  I think my mom was from the “if you want something done right, do it yourself” school of management.

Before homes had access to laundry appliances and before people had so many changes of clothes available each week, the idea of a large pile of unfolded laundry sitting in the laundry room or on the kitchen table was probably unheard of.  Throughout my adult life, though, I’ve found it to be a constant struggle between myself and what my family started calling Mount Fold-Me.  I don’t think women in the pre-appliance era would have needed to read books to figure out how to conquer overwhelming piles of laundry.  They probably only needed to wash one change of clothes per family member each week.  Ideas of cleanliness related to clothing changed as it became easier to wash clothes at home with the aid of the electric servants.


The Monster Vacuum Cleaner

The first electric vacuum cleaner was simply a pillowcase attached to an electric blower.  It wasn’t developed to simplify the life of the housewife, but to ease the dust allergy of a hotel janitor.  I can’t even begin to imagine how badly beating dusty carpets over the back fence would’ve aggravated asthma and allergies.  With all our family’s allergies, I feel lucky to live now during the days of efficient vacuums and air filters.  I remember helping Grandma beat the throw rugs outside on sunny days, but my main carpet cleaning memories involved the monstrous vacuum my grandmother had hiding in her hall closet.  It was so noisy, it scared me.  It was almost as scary as the haunted freezer in the basement.  On a side note, if you’re getting the idea I was an anxious child, you’re probably not far off the mark.  While I don’t think appliances caused my childhood anxieties about monsters, they certainly didn’t help ease those concerns with all their loud noises.

I’ve gotten over my fears of appliances, but even as an adult, I tend to have a love/hate relationship with my vacuum.  It seems like the vacuum cleaners in my life have had a tendency to pick up what they shouldn’t.  Pennies, buttons, needles, long strings.  Inevitably the motor burns out (with a horrible smell) due to something solid being sucked into the housing that shouldn’t, or the roller stops spinning due to hair and yarn coiled endlessly around it.  There’s nothing quite so lovely as the fresh smell of friction-burnt human hair mixed with the scent of burning rubber as the belt once again wears out.  Somewhere along the line, I guess someone forgot tell me that the roller needs to be cleared of long hair and strings regularly.  Or I forgot to read the instructions.  Either way, I’ve burned out more than my share of vacuum cleaners over the years. This past Christmas, I was given a brand new vacuum without bags and has stronger dust filters.  It has an easier turning capacity (which is nice but nothing something that ever really bothered me about the older models), and its best feature is that it has non-stop suction that doesn’t quit even when the dustbin is full.  So far, so good.  It’s already June and I haven’t killed it yet.


A Houseful of Small Appliances

Walking through my house, I did a head count of small appliances used by various members of the family.  Just a cursory scan revealed the following: An electric toothbrush, electric shaver, several hair dryers, three curling irons of various sizes, a flat iron, two sets of hot rollers, two toasters (one for gluten and the other to be kept gluten-free for the Celiac members of the family), coffee maker, blender, microwave oven, electric knife, slow cooker, food processor, and electric ice cream maker.  If I’d gone into the storage shed or looked in the back recesses of cupboards, I’m relatively sure I would’ve found a number of other appliances of various sorts.  Yes, over the years I have become the keeper of many electric servants.

I probably get the most use out of my microwave, although last year when mine broke down, I rediscovered how to boil water on the stovetop.  I’d become so dependent on just putting a cup into the microwave to heat water or reheating a single serving of something that it actually took some thinking to even remember where my small saucepan was kept.  As I thought about my microwave oven, I realized it was a perfect example of McLuhan’s technological tetrad[10]:

  • Enhance – Faster cooking times
  • Retrieve – Benefits of having a chef serve you without long preparation times
  • Obsolete – Toaster oven
  • Reverse – Lost family dinner hours / loss of healthier lunches

When I was a child, we were one of the first families I knew to have a microwave oven.  I thought it was almost magical, but my mom was afraid of it.  She kept insisting that she could “feel” leaks of microwave energy coming from the appliance, so she hardly ever wanted to use it and would make me leave the kitchen while it was in use.  Nobody else could sense anything wrong with the microwave.  We enjoyed its convenience, abut didn’t enjoy what we all thought was Mom’s paranoia about a new technological gadget.  Eventually my mom found a repairman who had a device for detecting leaks in microwaves ovens.  Surprisingly, our oven was leaking microwave energy just as Mom had feared.  She was always convinced that it was her artificial heart valve that helped her to sense the escaping microwaves.  We never really found out what Mom was really sensing, but Dad and I never laughed at her again when she said she had a “feeling” about something.  After we replaced the leaking microwave with a safe one, it became a family joke that we could always find Mom’s missing coffee cup in the microwave.

When my own microwave broke down last year, I didn’t replace it for several months.  I’d thought it would be horribly inconvenient not having a microwave, but after the first few days, I hardly missed it.  The time I missed it the most was when I needed to warm tortillas to go with fajitas.  There’s just nothing quite so simple and tasty as a nicely steamed tortilla from the microwave.  Before our stint without a microwave oven, I mainly used mine to reheat things like coffee, and defrost frozen meats for meals, but now that I’ve broken the habit of using it constantly, I only really use it for reheating leftovers and warming tortillas.  We’re a lot less microwave dependent than a lot of families I know.



“Examining individual relationships with technology can be a window onto larger social forces.”[11] – Sherry Turkle

My personal technological history with small appliances is my family’s history.  In my life, I’ve had contact with seven generations of women and seen the appliances used by everyone from my great-grandmother’s wood burning kitchen stove and icebox, to hand wringers on the washing machine, to the ease of modern conveniences like microwaves and slow cookers.  When I look back on my family, it seems that appliances were responsible for liberating the women from the ongoing drudgery of housework.  My own mother became an avid Feminist through reading she was able to pursue during times when her electric appliance servants were cooking, cleaning, and doing her laundry.  But appliances also opened up a new area for Consumer Culture as evidenced by my own survey of the small appliances in my home which I believe is fairly representative of most homes these days.  As appliances made keeping things like laundry clean an easier process, cleanliness standards changed so the workload actually increased.  Baking could be done every day with modern kitchen appliances, so something that was formerly maybe a once-a-week process became a daily chore.  As time was freed up, it filled with other things.  Some of those things—such as reading and working outside the home–helped to further women’s move from being housewives and toward equality.

Reflecting on my own life and my involvement with household appliances, I feel I came to understand in a deeper way what Sherry Turkle meant when she stated that “the inner history of devices is about stories not heard unless one begins with quiet.  Intimate ethnography takes patience; it makes room for people to discover what is really on their minds; it creates a space for self-reflection.”[12]  By taking the time to reflect on my personal technological autobiography as related to appliances, I have reconnected with the women in my past who paved the way for myself and my daughters.  The 1950’s and 60’s housewives/feminists who missed out on achieving their dreams of college and career, but were able to infuse those dreams—that later became realities—into the lives of their daughters and granddaughters.  For those women who went before me, I’ll be forever grateful.


  • Bittman, Michael, James Mahmud Rice, and Judy Wajcman. “Appliances and Their Impact: The Ownership of Domestic Technology and Time Spent on Household Work.” The British Journal of Sociology 55, no. 3 (2004).
  • Chung, Andrew. “The Link Between Appliances and Feminism | Toronto Star.” April 5, 2009. Accessed May 14, 2015.
  • Ducornet, Rikki. The Deep Zoo: Essays. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2015.
  • Gray, Chris Hables, ed. and Chela Sandoval. “New Sciences: Cyborg Feminism and the Methodology of the Oppressed.” In The Cyborg Handbook. New York: Routledge, 1995.
  • Gregson, Nicky, and Michelle Lowe. Servicing the Middle Classes: Class, Gender and Waged Domestic Labour in Contemporary Britain. London: Routledge, 1994.
  • Haraway, Donna J. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, 1991.
  • Heidegger, Martin. The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.
  • Kraft, Timothy. “McLuhan’s Tetrad Applied to Internet.” Mind Before You Mine. July 12, 2010. Accessed May 9, 2015.
  • Kroker, Arthur, and Marilouise Kroker, eds. Code Drift: Essays in Critical Digital Studies. Victoria, BC: CTheory Books, 2010.
  • Turkle, Sherry, ed. The Inner History of Devices. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011.

[1] Sherry Turkle, ed., The Inner History of Devices (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011).

[2] Andrew Chung, “The Link Between Appliances and Feminism,” Toronto Star, April 5, 2009.

[3] Arthur Kroker and Marilouise Kroker, eds., Code Drift: Essays in Critical Digital Studies (Victoria: CTheory Books, 2010).

[4] Donna J. Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (New York: Routledge, 1991).

[5] Michael Bittman, James Mahmud Rice, and Judy Wajcman, “Appliances and Their Impact: The Ownership of Domestic Technology and Time Spent on Household Work” (The British Journal of Sociology, Volume 55, Issue 3, 2004).

[6] Nicky Gregson and Michelle Lowe, Servicing the Middle Classes: Class, Gender and Waged Domestic Labour in Contemporary Britain (London: Routledge, 1994).

[7] Chela Sandoval, “New Sciences: Cyborg Feminism and the Methodology of the Oppressed” in The Cyborg Handbook edited by Chris Hables Gray (New York: Routledge, 1995).

[8] Martin Heidegger, The Question Concerning Technology, and Other Essays (New York: Harper & Row, 1977).

[9] Rikki Ducornet, The Deep Zoo: Essays (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 2015).

[10] Timothy Kraft, “McLuhan’s Tetrad Applied to Internet” (Mind Before You Mine, July 12, 2010).


[12] Inner History of Devices, Turkle.


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