The narrative of the happy and professional housewife? Images and practices related to housewives in Finland in the 1950s

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The aim of this article is to analyze images and practices related to the duties of housewives in a Finnish context in the 1950s. This is done by examining narratives by women in urban, Swedish-speaking parts of Finland in which they talk about their duties at home during the 1950s in relation to the question of the professionalization of the housewife at that time. I have chosen to focus on three duties of the housewife, namely cooking, cleaning and washing, and, to some extent, practical childrearing, since this was one of the main reasons why the women stayed at home.

The material for this study consists of interviews I conducted in 2010 with women who have been housewives all their lives in the Swedish-speaking parts of Finland. They were all born in the 1920s and 1930s, and are from urban middle-class surroundings. In the narratives the women challenge and reshape existing images and ideals. Methodologically I chose to analyze the material on different levels with a focus on fixed expressions, for example, “I became a housewife”, or “You had to stay at home”. These expressions comment on the women´s experiences relating to dominant cultural story models, or master narratives.

I have focused on the use of fixed expressions in the women’s narratives, such as: “so I became a housewife”, “it was the same for all of us”, “‘just’ a housewife”, “you had to stay at home”, “you had to cook the cloth [diapers]”, “I had no money of my own”, and “washing, cleaning and puttering about”. These fixed expressions can be looked upon as crystallized comments reflecting master narratives about being a housewife.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)49–72
JournalJournal of Finnish Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • narratives
  • Human life history
  • Housing
  • Folklore
  • Interviews

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