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At Home in Nineteenth-Century AmericaA Documentary History$
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Amy G. Richter

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780814769133

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814769133.001.0001

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The Persistence of Domestic Labor

The Persistence of Domestic Labor

(p.52) 2 The Persistence of Domestic Labor
At Home in Nineteenth-Century America

Amy G. Richter

NYU Press

Despite the celebration of home’s isolation from the public world of paid labor and commerce, the two realms remained intertwined. This chapter looks beyond the ideal home to explore the ongoing significance of paid and unpaid domestic labor and reveals the variety of work (economic and cultural) done at home. The documents in this chapter include accounts of boardinghouse life by a Lowell mill girl and journalist Nellie Bly. Writings by Catharine Beecher, Clarissa Packard, and Lizzie Goodenough explore the relationship between mistresses and domestic servants. An excerpt from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women emphasizes the importance of middle-class women’s unpaid domestic labor, while Maria Sedgwick and Ward Stafford show the impact of the moral home on depictions of the poor. Finally, an excerpt from Solomon Northrup’s narrative describes domestic arrangements under slavery and offers a contrast to the moral slave cabin envisioned by some slaveholders.

Keywords:   boardinghouse, domestic servants, domestic labor, slavery, moral home, Nellie Bly, Clarissa Packard, Louisa May Alcott, Maria Sedgwick, Solomon Northrup

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