Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Burl L. Noggle
Christine Frederick was a home efficiency expert who worked out of her home experiment station, Applecroft, in Greenlawn, New York, from 1910 to 1939. She advocated the application of scientific management, technology, and consumer awareness to homemaking. Frederick came of age during a time when feminism was opening a window of opportunity for middle-class, educated, white women. By the time she graduated from Northwestern University, the nineteenth-century doctrine of separate spheres was being challenged. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's critique of the single-family home had been published, the woman suffrage campaign would gain new momentum within the next few years, and women were entering professions heretofore closed to them. Although she took full advantage of these developments, Frederick recognized that most middle-class Americans still held traditional beliefs about gender roles. Fashioning a career upon the premise that woman's place was in the home, she was able to fulfill her need to succeed in the public sphere. She capitalized on trends such as technology, advertising and consumerism while accommodating the still-prevailing view that the preservation of the home depended upon woman's remaining within it. Thus Frederick's career paradoxically helped to contract feminism's window. During the 1920s, when the first wave of feminism was receding in the face of conservative pressures, Frederick emphasized the importance of the housewife's role in the marketplace, and advised advertisers and manufacturers on how to sell to "Mrs. Consumer.". This dissertation examines Christine Frederick's life and work in light of two twentieth-century developments. Her career as an expert on the home coincided with the rise and fall of the first wave of feminism. Although she benefited from the advances women enjoyed as a result of that movement, her work counteracted its rise and served its fall. Secondly, Frederick participated in the rise of modern technology and business through her work in the efficiency movement, the development of modern advertising, and the promotion of consumerism. Her gender created a conflict that motivated her to employ modernization to encourage women to remain in their traditional roles.
Rutherford, Janice Williams, ""Only a Girl": Christine Frederick, Efficiency, Consumerism, and Women's Sphere." (1996). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 6279.