Marilyn Ferris Motz and Pat BrowneEdit

Motz is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Popular Culture program at Bowling Green State University, with a Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan. Her first book was published by SUNY Press. Pat Browne is an editor with the Bowling Green State University Popular Press.

Motz and Browne are editors of this essay collection.

Making the American Home: Middle Class Women & Domestic Material Culture 1840-1940Edit

In this book, Motz and Brown gather a set of essays of domestic material culture. Motz's introduction to the piece is particular instructive, offering an excellent "in the moment" analysis of the state of feminist history of female domestic life (icons like Strasser and Cowen have already published at this point).

The time frame selected corresponds largely to the cult of domesticity, the "belief that women should devote themselves to home and family since such attention would satisy women's natural desires as well as fulfill their dity to society" (1). Home played an intense role in the family psychodrama, believed to be reflecting a family's overall happiness, wealth, and moral and physical well-being. The labor involved in producing such a home has long been disregarded by more masculinist historical interests, and largely not understood as "labor" at all. Dubbed "decoration", these acts have often mistakenly been understood as purely leisure activities, rather than as the complex signifiers of social and class standards. These acts were often meant to signify a woman's awareness of trends, her free time and wealth (to have disposable income and "free time" both signified status). Moreover, women are often left to decorate because they have little access to physically changing their lived environment. Additionally, women's "craft" has not been given proper study as art because the aesthetics utilized are local and dedicated to different sets of terms than proper or high art. Thus, the essays in this collection are part of both a historical and aesthetic re-assessment of what and who "counts" in history and art. Homes becomes sites to learn about the life of women as actors in their existence, rather than passive consumers. Sites such as the garden and the porch become significant spaces of creative and expression for women with few other outlets, as does 19th century fancywork, which offered a socially acceptable mode for women to escape the mundane.