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Why “More Work for Mother?” Knowledge and Household Behavior, 1870–1945

  • Joel Mokyr (a1)

It is widely agreed that the burden of housework in the industrialized West did not decrease as much as might be expected since 1880, and may have actually increased for long periods. The article proposes a new explanation: that increases in knowledge on the causes and transmission mechanisms of infectious diseases persuaded women that household members' health depended on the amount of housework carried out. The article traces the origin of this knowledge in the scientific developments of the nineteenth century and describes the mechanisms by which households were persuaded to allocate more time and resources to housework.

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