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The everyday lives of the white South African housewives

Rommelspacher, Amy Fairbairn (2017-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study seeks to obtain an impression of the “interior” lives of English and Afrikaans housewives, as portrayed by two woman’s magazines - one English and one Afrikaans - which were in print in South Africa between 1918 and 1945. The quotidian activities of white South African housewives: their attempts to look after their families, their diets and beliefs surrounding nutrition, their concerns about society, what they wore and why they wore it, their routines inside the home and expectations of domestic life, their leisure time, hobbies and the ideologies supporting their actions are its chief concerns. Die Huisvrou and Mrs. Slade’s Good South African Housekeeping are the magazines used as primary sources to inform this work. They were chosen because both are specifically addressed to housewives and have not previously been utilised. The study of these magazines therefore provides a unique opportunity to compare womanhood and the spheres of ordinary life in these two cultures in a novel manner. Despite historical attention being paid to Afrikaans women as volksmoeders and participants in public and political spheres, the domestic realm of housewives in both cultural groups has remained largely untouched. Examining the details of the everyday lives of housewives in a specific historical context creates an opportunity to explore various aspects of women’s lives as well as the impact of the private sphere on constructing a history of South Africa. It is revealed that while the histories of Afrikaners and Anglophones are commonly considered to have emerged in opposition to each other, especially in the wake of the South African War (1899-1902), comparisons between the lives of housewives provide an opportunity to establish that most of these women’s daily activities were very similar and transferable between the two cultures. Both English and Afrikaans housewives were expected to care for their spouses, rear children, feed their families, be knowledgeable about food preparation and nutrition, clean and look after their physical appearances. Both also had access to cheap labour in the home to make their practical duties easier. More intriguingly, the pressures produced by events such as the World Wars, social changes and rapid industrialisation in South Africa affected, and in some cases, were perceived to be threatening, home life. External events and disturbances in society clearly resulted in reactionary responses within the magazines. A modification of divorce laws in the 1930s, for instance, created an atmosphere of panic in Die Huisvrou as women feared the demise of family life. As a result, pressures were put onto unmarried women to spend their time preparing for marriage and home life as opposed to joining the workforce for economic reasons. This investigation reveals the details of the lives of white South African housewives, and recognises the impacts that women’s activities within the domestic sphere had on society outside of the home and vice versa. Through comparing Afrikaans and English housewives, it is also established that women in both cultures held similar beliefs about family and society which were at the centre of their lives. Both were motivated by the philosophy that the success of a society primarily relied on the strength and success of each individual family’s home life within that society.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie poog om ń beeld van die “innerlike” lewe van Engelse en Afrikaanse huisvroue te skets, soos uitgebeeld in twee vrouetydskrifte – een Engels en een Afrikaans – wat in Suid-Afrika tussen 1918 en 1945 uitgegee is. Die alledaagse aktiwiteite van wit Suid-Afrikaanse huisvroue – hulle pogings om na hulle gesinne om te sien, hulle dieët en oortuigings aangaande voeding, hulle besorgdhede oor die samelewing, watter klere hulle gedra het en hoekom hulle dit gedra het, hulle roetines binne die huis en verwagtinge van die tuislewe, hulle vrye tyd, stokperdjies en die ideologieë wat hulle aktiwiteite ondersteun het – is die hoofonderwerpe. Die Huisvrou en Mrs. Slade’s Good South African Housekeeping is die tydskrifte wat as primêre bronne gebruik is om hierdie werk in te lig. Hulle is gekies omdat beide spesifiek aan huisvroue gerig is en nie voorheen gebruik is nie. Die studie van hierdie tydskrifte verskaf dus ń unieke geleentheid om vrouwees en die sfere van die alledaagse lewe in hierdie twee kulture op 'n nuwe manier te vergelyk. Ten spyte van die geskiedkundige aandag wat aan Afrikaanse vroue as “volksmoeders” en deelnemers aan die openbare en politieke sfeer gegee word, het die huishoudelike sfeer van huisvroue in albei kulturele groepe grootliks onaangeraak gebly. Die ondersoek van die besonderhede van die alledaagse lewe van huisvroue in 'n spesifieke historiese konteks skep die geleentheid om verskeie aspekte van vroue se lewens, sowel as die impak van die private sfeer op die konstuksie van die geskiedenis van Suid-Afrika te verken. Dit blyk dat, ofskoon die geskiedenis van Afrikaners en Engelstaliges algemeen beskou word as ontluikend in teenstand tot mekaar, veral in die nadraai van die Suid-Afrikaanse Oorlog (1899-1902), vergelykings tussen die lewens van huisvroue die geleentheid verskaf om te bepaal dat die meeste van hierdie vroue se daaglikse aktiwiteite baie eenders en oorplaasbaar tussen die twee kulture was. Dit is van beide Engelse en Afrikaanse huisvroue verwag dat hulle vir hulle gades moet sorg, kinders grootmaak, hulle gesinne voed, kennis dra van voedselbereiding en voeding, skoonmaak en kyk na hulle fisieke voorkoms. Albei het ook toegang tot goedkoop arbeid in die huis gehad om hulle praktiese pligte te vergemaklik. Meer insiggewend: die druk veroorsaak deur gebeure soos die Wêreldoorloë, sosiale veranderinge en vinnige industrialisasie in Suid-Afrika het die tuislewe geaffekteer en in sommige gevalle is dit as bedreigings daarvoor gesien. Eksterne gebeure en opwellings in die samelewing het duidelik tot reaksies in die tydskrifte gelei. 'n Verandering in egskeidingswette in die 1930s het byvoorbeeld 'n atmosfeer van paniek in Die Huisvrou geskep, want vroue het die ondergang van die gesinslewe gevrees. Gevolglik is druk op ongetroude vroue geplaas om hulle tyd deur te bring deur hulle vir die huwelik en die lewe tuis voor te berei, in teenstelling daarmee dat hulle die arbeidsmag vir ekonomiese redes betree. Hierdie ondersoek ontbloot die besonderhede van die lewens van wit Suid-Afrikaanse huisvroue en herken die impak wat vroue se aktiwiteite binne die huislike sfeer op die samelewing buite die huis gehad het en omgekeerd. Deur Afrikaanse en Engelse huisvroue te vergelyk, word dit ook bepaal dat vroue in albei kulture eenderse oortuigings oor gesin en samelewing gehandhaaf het, wat na aan die kern van hulle lewens was. Albei is gemotiveer deur die filosofiese benadering dat die sukses van 'n samelewing primêr steun op die krag en sukses van elke afsonderlike gesin se tuislewe binne daardie samelewing.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/102954
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