Fusion: Deakin Exhibits Online

The science of housekeeping

Throughout the nineteenth century, all things scientific gained support. By the twentieth century, an emphasis on logic, order and efficiency began to permeate many areas of life, including the domestic sphere. Aveling and Damousi explain that [d]uring the 1920s, educated Australians tried to be modern, efficient, rational people. Factories were run by experts in scientific management, and experts in domestic science tried to do the same for homes (p.110).

The goals…were more cleanliness and order... The efforts to achieve more cleanliness were…supported by scientists, who regarded dust as unsanitary and as producing germs and illness’ states von Saldern (pp.82-83). Macintyre notes that Australians 'were quick to adopt the gospel of efficiency' and that '[p]rogressivism found application in...community hygiene, 'scientific motherhood',...child welfare and education' (pp.154-155). Furthermore, Russell Doust highlights the bold proclamation that '[t]he superiority of domestic science was established…' which he found on page 6 of the Tuesday 13 December 1910 edition of Melbourne's Argus newspaper (p.28).

Additional insight into the prevailing mindset is provided in that same edition of the newspaper which mentions a new domestic science building at the Methodist Ladies College which was officially opened by Lady Gibson Carmichael. Lady Gibson Carmichael was the Victorian Governor's wife and she stated that she 'recognised the importance of domestic economy as a school subject. The future happiness of the home depended on the domestic efficiency of the wife and mother' (p.9).


Joanne Mahony