Friday, December 15, 2006

History in a vacuum cleaner

Somehow these pictures got published all on their own, while I was still working on the text. Richard saw them and pretty much got the point, cutting the ground from under my feet with his comment. So I was left with a bunch of mostly superfluous text, which was too long anyway, so what the hell! I can't waste it all though.

In my utility room there is an old dresser, in one drawer of which I keep all the instructions and users' manuals for the household equipment I buy. I have occasion to look through them from time to time to remind myself how to use or care for something. But I never, ever, sort out and throw away any of them. So, there are manuals there dating back to the first home my husband and I had of our own. These include instructions for several heaters, steam irons, food mixers, toasters and kettles, and for no less than six vacuum cleaners! The pictures in some of these seemed to me to show the history of the social concept of the housewife - but do not, as Richard points out, make any concessions to the 'new man'.

My very first cleaner was an Electrolux 65, bought in 1960 when we returned after three years in India to settle down in our own home for the first time. Here the ideal housewife is seen as sweetly pretty, wearing high heels and probably, if I remember rightly, a stiffened petticoat under her skirt.






An upgrade to the Electrolux Automatic 100 must have happened fairly soon, because the minidress appeared in the 1960s, I think, giving more comfort and freedom of movement for the housewife, though still in heels, if somewhat lower.



In 1985 I went for an upright cleaner, still buying Electrolux. Here we no longer see the whole vision of the ideal housewife, but just the “working parts” as one might say. This leaflet also gives detailed diagrams of the inner workings of the cleaner, with instructions for technical troubleshooting involving the use of a screwdriver, no less – something not seen in the two earlier manuals, so perhaps women are becoming more intelligent!

And finally my invaluable home-help persuaded me to buy a Henry. Here are housewives that are thoroughly familiar - I NEVER looked like the first or second ones, though I could identify with the third. But the technical diagrams are now pictures only, with no explanatory text, to allow no doubt for the multi-lingual community we are today...... Having said which, they might have found four different racial types to put into this picture, don't you think, instead of these aryan clones?

9 comments:

Richard said...

Of course, if you want to get the bloke to do the vacuuming you've got to get a Dyson. Even the Henry ad still resorts to type, doesn't it!

herhimnbryn said...

Dysons don't do Cattle dog hairs!!
J. Just to let you know that your blog is featuring in Secret Hill as a 'Christmas gift'. Hope that's ok?

Judith said...

Of course that's OK, Herhimnbryn. What a great idea for a Christmas blog.

Pauline said...

I've used Electroluxes all my life and swear by them. Richard, have you seen the new pink Dyson?

It's a wonder, Judith, that we women allowed ourselves to be typecast for so long!

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Judith said...

So glad you enjoyed my cleaner history blog. It still makes an occasional hit, even though it was posted nearly 10 years ago.
Are you in the vacuum cleaner business yourself?

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Judith said...

Nice to know this blog still hits the spot now and again, 10 years after first publication. These days I can hardly push myself around the house, never mind a cleaner, so it's nice to have the occasional comment coming in.