I recently learned that the concept of the family room originated from guidelines that the government issued in the middle of the 20th century when specifying how homes could qualify for insurance. A new model of the home emerged which deliberately detached it from labor and functionality. Government planners urged architects and home-owners to get rid of walls and doors, to eliminate various work rooms like the sewing room and the pantry, and to focus the house instead around the type of domestic bonding that was supposed to occur in rooms like the family room. As the 20th century progressed, this de-functionalized view of housing came to be the dominant view.
This shift was only possible because of the fruition of certain trends that had been put in place at the time of the industrial revolution.
Home and the industrial revolution
In some of Allan Carlson’s fascinating books, such as Conjugal America: On the Public Purposes of Marriageand Third Ways: How Bulgarian Greens, Swedish Housewives, and Beer-Swilling Englishmen Created Family-Centered Economies – And Why They Disappeared, Carlson shows that in pre-industrial eras, the economic life of the family was tightly bound to the home. In fact, prior to 1800, the vast majority of people around the globe lived and worked in the same place. Whatever else a couple’s relationship may have involved, they were quite literally in business together. The home, in turn, was not a place where people “lived” as a passive activity when they were not doing other things. Rather the home was a small factory, a bustling hub of productivity.
The geographical proximity of home and work had an impact on how couples thought of their relationship to each other. A man and wife did not think of their relationship as something that could be abstracted from their mundane life together in the world, any more than I was able to imagine living abstracted from the actual activities that make up human experience. Sexual activity and economic activity were closely bound together, and both were situated within an ecosystem of obligations, responsibilities, priorities and expectations that were bigger than the couple’s relationship. Because marriage was understood to be bigger than the relationship itself, this helped to anchor marriage in a narrative external to the two participates.
Read the full piece at THIS LINK. This is excellent and illustrates what we’ve tried to demonstrate over the years–that “work” and “life” used to be fully integrated, which meant “home” and “work” were also integrated. This is the full-orbed beauty of the biblical vision for home and family, and it’s why a “housewife” wasn’t a drudge or a dishwasher. She was queen of a domain that produced and participated in the economy. Women have always (always!) worked. Feminism was never about giving women some mythical “right” to work–it was (in part) about insisting that work outside the home for a wage was superior to anything done within the home for the family and the local economy. And when the home is gutted of its significance (its industry) and emptied of the family, the public square becomes, by default, the only “real” place to work and to exist. But it wasn’t always so, and that trend is changing as more and more people embrace the family-centered economic model and discover how they can once again integrate work, life and home.