“The Homecraft Book: The 1940’s best-selling domestic guide” originally authored by Ann Hathaway and republished with edits by Thaddeus Lovecraft
This is a republished version of a Homemaker’s Guide written in the 1940”s by Ann Hathaway; though this version is currently marketed as being for “for the Post War Woman”, having been published in 1945 it more correctly would have been for the Pre-War and Wartime Woman- though it no doubt had relevancy for the Post-War Woman as well.
While it’s not my era, this was quite a rare and exciting find on Amazon during my last book haul, as books like these are hard to find in my experience; there are a plethora of Homemaker’s Guides from the 1900’s and earlier, but it seems very few from the 1930’s to the 1950’s are easy to get ahold of… My excitement, however, was quickly tempered as soon as I cracked it open.
This version of the book contains an Introduction written by one Mr. “Thaddeus Lovecraft”, the apparent Grandson of Ann Hathaway… And Mr. Lovecraft is undoubtedly my least favorite part of this book on all levels; while the no-nonsense warning about the safety and efficiency of materials and methods suggested in the book was appreciated, the introduction that he contributed was ultimately poorly written- and in incredibly poor taste and humor.
Mr. Lovecraft’s Introduction to the book provides no real insight into the 1940’s, nor offers any real wisdom. Instead, it feels as if he chooses to poke fun at not only at people who take an interest in the era (though there is something to be said abotu those who think the era was legitimately better), but also the Women of the era and the suggestions within the book- and does so in a tone that I’m certainly no stranger to; it’s the same one used by a lot of people that turn their nose up to this era, and it was a disappointing addition to such a truly exciting Amazon find.
Additionally, I have a sneaking suspicion that he has also tampered with the book in some areas. One example that smacks of tampering occurs quite early on in the book, and reads:
Every article you have to lift for dusting means so much time cut into your scanty (if any) leisure.
This struck me as being incredibly out of place as, a bit later in the book, there is an entire two paragraphs dedicated to the importance of maintaining your routine in order to provide you with the most late afternoon or evening leisure possible- considering it an especially important part of being efficient as a Housewife; sticking to a rigorous routine, being efficient in that routine, getting it done (and done fast), and not skimping on it.
The programme already suggested in these little pars., packing the greater part of the Housewife’s duties into the morning and early afternoon will be difficult to manage in many cases. It is a fact, nevertheless, that going all out to achieve results early in the day will be rewarded by the evening’s rest and freedom. Even when some jobs overflow, and have got to be taken out of their time, they may be handled in a more leisurely way than when done under the duress imposed by the lack of a methodical routine. Keep the prospect of the care free evening in mind when the work of the day tends to pall. It will make things easier.
The whole objective of our planning and plotting is to try to ensure that some little part of the day may be claimed as her own by the efficient Housewife. To be able to sit down for a couple of hours every evening with a book to read, or to indulge in any other restful pastime, is a necessity; to be able to do so in the knowledge that no duty has been neglected is a comfort and a joy. Then may the cares and the worries of the day be put aside and the luxury of complete relaxation enjoyed to the full. In the presence of friends company, the desultory family conversation and fireside dreaming, may be found every recompense for the day’s extra efforts and the rigid adherence to rules.
As a result, I feel like the tasteless humor of Mr. Lovecraft’s Introduction may have been injected elsewhere in the book- though I would genuinely need to find an unaltered copy to cross reference it against in order to prove such.
As of 7/28/2017: I have been in contact with Nottinghamshire Archives for the past few days. Currently they retain what we believe is an original first edition copy in their Archives, and are willing to provide a copy of certain sections of the book for a fee. If we are able to work out a few kinks in how to actually get them my payment (I’m in the US and it’s making it notoriously difficult to do so), I will soon have a copy of the first chapter with which to cross reference several of the above mentioned curiosities against.
As of 8/05/2017: I will be able to obtain copies of the chapter the above excerpt comes from. Or, I would, if the Archives made payment easier; as of right now the only way to make a payment is to call and pay over the phone or send a check by mail. Unfortunately I don’t currently have a phone capable of international calling nor do I use checks- and the Archives will not accept a US Money Order. I’m currently trying to figure out how to work through this problem in order to make the payment necessary.
With that being said, however, I genuinely did enjoy the book; from a purely historical perspective, it was nice to see that a majority of the information presented in Sheila Hardy’s A 1950′s Housewife stood up against a Homemaker’s Manual from roughly the same era- particularly as it pertains to how much time was actually spent on the Housework, communal aid in Housework (especially when the Housework got out of Hand), and many other tidbits that people seem to ignore when focusing on the propaganda as opposed to the reality.
From the perspective of a Homemaker, though? Obviously, as with anything old and out of date, there are some safety concerns when it comes to ingredients and methods used throughout the book. But if you are intelligent, you should logically already know to take the methods with both a grain of salt and a little bit of research. But still, I was surprised at just how many of the tips were still relevant to a Modern home. More than that, I found that I already practiced a good number of them in my own day to day routine- though there are still more that I may incorporate.
I am going to give this a 3 star rating specifically because I feel That Mr. Lovecraft’s contributions significantly ruin the book. But that being said? Overall it is an interesting historical gem that I thoroughly enjoyed and will actually be keeping in my collection- though I might prefer to buckle down and find a copy without Mr. Lovecraft’s ridiculous contributions. And if you’re like me, are interested in 1940’s to 1950’s Domesticity, and enjoy a good Vintage Homemaker Manual? I’d definitely recommend that you do so as well.