The Grand Domestic Revolution
Long before Betty Friedan wrote about "the problem that had no name" in The Feminine Mystique, a group of American feminists whose leaders included Melusina Fay Peirce, Mary Livermore, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman campaigned against women's isolation in the home and confinement to domestic life as the basic cause of their unequal position in society.
The Grand Domestic Revolution reveals the innovative plans and visionary strategies of these persistent women, who developed the theory and practice of what Hayden calls "material feminism" in pursuit of economic independence and social equality. The material feminists' ambitious goals of socialized housework and child care meant revolutionizing the American home and creating community services. They raised fundamental questions about the relationship of men, women, and children in industrial society. Hayden analyzes the utopian and pragmatic sources of the feminists' programs for domestic reorganization and the conflicts over class, race, and gender they encountered.
This history of a little-known intellectual tradition challenging patriarchal notions of "women's place" and "women's work" offers a new interpretation of the history of American feminism and a new interpretation of the history of American housing and urban design. Hayden shows how the material feminists' political ideology led them to design physical space to create housewives' cooperatives, kitchenless houses, day-care centers, public kitchens, and community dining halls. In their insistence that women be paid for domestic labor, the material feminists won the support of many suffragists and of novelists such as Edward Bellamy and William Dean Howells, who helped popularize their cause. Ebenezer Howard, Rudolph Schindler, and Lewis Mumford were among the many progressive architects and planners who promoted the reorganization of housing and neighborhoods around the needs of employed women.
In reevaluating these early feminist plans for the environmental and economic transformation of American society and in recording the vigorous and many-sided arguments that evolved around the issues they raised, Hayden brings to light basic economic and spacial contradictions which outdated forms of housing and inadequate community services still create for American women and for their families.
"This is the missing link buried in our past, essential for our future, an enormously important book for every woman—and man—who is struggling to live on terms of equality, reconciling feminism and the family, which means restructuring home and work."
- Betty Friedan
"Women's work is not done. The design of our place to live (some still call it 'the built environment') still follows men's visions. For most women, the old household drudgeries have merely been replaced by new suburban drudgeries.
"We now have women architects - all of 3 percent of a total of 37,000 members of the American Institute of Architects. But few if any of them are addressing the issues of residential and community design that are still keeping women 'in their place' and that, a century-and-a-half ago, led to what Dolores Hayden calls 'material feminism."
- Wolf Von Eckardt, Washington Post
"This is a book that is full of things I have never seen before, and full of new things to say about things I thought I knew well. It is a book about houses and about culture and about how each affects the other, and it must stand as one of the major works on the history of modern housing."
- Paul Goldberger, The New York Times Book Review