"Do Companies Know What Women Want?": The Introduction of Electrical Domestic Appliances During the Weimar Republic (2023)

Table of Contents
Works Cited Notes

Martina Hessler[1]

In 1926, the vacuum cleaner manufacturer, Vorwerk, claimed that "Vorwerk's engineers, first-class technicians, put themselves in the homemaker's shoes when they designed the Kobold vacuum cleaner. Their aim is to fulfill all the wishes and needs of the homemaker."[2] Even today a German manufacturer of kitchen and household appliances, Bauknecht, uses the slogan, "Bauknecht knows what women want." These advertising slogans, used in the 1920s and the 1990s, point to companies' attempts to persuade women that they have developed the best appliances to meet the needs of consumers. This essay focuses on the motives and interests of both producers and consumers in the introduction of electrical appliances into the German home in the 1920s and on the communication between middle-class homemakers and appliance manufacturers.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the period that electrical domestic appliances were introduced into Germany, it was not easy for manufacturers to find out what women really wanted. Homemakers were critical of the new technology, complaining that cookies baked in an electric oven tasted "electrical" and that they could not understand the purpose of some of the new appliances. Manufacturers complained, in turn, that homemakers were conservative, unwilling to try new techniques and technologies in their homes. Thus, companies had to invent the market for their goods at the same time that they produced the machines they wanted to sell.

Despite the concerted efforts of manufacturers, the spread of electrical household appliances remained modest in the interwar years for several reasons. First, few households were wired for electricity. In 1918 only 6.6 percent of all households in Berlin were wired for electricity, and in 1928 that number had only risen to about 50 percent, even though Berlin was one of Germany's largest cities (Langguth 1990). Second, many women disapproved of or rejected the idea of using electrical appliances in their homes, because they did not believe that technology should enter the private sphere. Third, many appliances were flawed. And finally, many people simply could not afford to buy them (Dörr 1996). A typical German worker had an average income of 200 Reichsmark per month in the 1920s (Petzina 1978). In 1926, an iron, the most-common appliance in the interwar period, cost between 6 and 28 Reichsmark, a vacuum cleaner about 135 Reichsmark, and a refrigerator between 900 and 2000 Reichsmark (Dörr 1996). Even middle-class families, who generally earned an average income of 400 to 500 Reichsmark, could not afford all of the new appliances. Domestic appliances did not find their way into the German household easily. In 1928 only 56 percent of households with electricity in Berlin possessed an iron; 27.5 percent had a vacuum-cleaner; 0.5 percent had a washing-machine, and just 0.2 percent had a refrigerator (Czada 1969).

In the article "Gender Analysis and the History of Technology," (1997) Nina Lerman, Arwen Palmer Mohun, and Ruth Oldenziel argue that technological change is dependent on the interplay of different social groups, who "ultimately have agency in shaping technology." The introduction of a new technology can not proceed without the active participation of different social groups, especially not without the acceptance of new products by users. One scholar, Ruth Schwartz-Cowan, argues that social groups "influence the creation, the demand for, the production, the diffusion, the acceptance, or the opposition to new technologies... A large number of relevant social groups are involved in the success or failure of any given artifact" (Schwartz-Cowan 1984). Thus, it is necessary to look at all groups who took part in the process of technological change, and producers and consumers in particular, in order to understand the cultural as well as the technological meanings of the introduction of electrical appliances into the German home.

Traditionally, historians of technology have focused more on production than on consumption. Recently, however, historians have convincingly demonstrated that consumption deserves equal attention as production in the history of technology (Horowitz 1998). But even with this new insight, historians have tended to examine either consumption or production. Few have linked both spheres. This separation between studies of production and consumption in the history of technology mirrors a larger division within historical scholarship. It reflects the constructed division between the "workplace," which has been traditionally considered the public sphere, outside of the home, and the "household," traditionally thought of as the private sphere and domestic space. Feminist historians have aptly demonstrated that this dichotomy has been exaggerated by researchers and lay people alike. However, historians of technology have been slow to integrate feminism's insights into their work. Some have begun to examine production and consumption together, but rigid dichotomies between production and consumption, the public and private spheres, and male and female still need to be reexamined in this scholarship (Lerman 1997).

Gender has played an important role in the process of technological change. Gender is not only a part of human identity, but plays a "structural role in societies, defining barriers and boundaries," and "shows up in symbolic forms: images and ideals of manhood and womanhood" (Scott 1988). Using gender as an analytic tool, I will show that the lines between these categories are harder to draw than they first seem to be. I will demonstrate that the boundaries between male and female, production and consumption, work and home, and public and private are not as rigid as historians have assumed.

German historians and sociologists have claimed that consumers have rarely been involved in the manufacture and development of new technology (Glatzer 1997). In fact, they have argued that men create domestic appliances and women use them (Orland 1991). Maria Osietzky writes that "when domestic appliances appeared in the household, women were in a degraded situation" (Osietzky 1992). "Women were passive consumers or just users of technology. . . . In this way technology was one of the factors that contributed to the foundation and maintenance of the gender gap" (Osietzky 1995). Judy Wajcman also sees women as victims of men's ideas about domestic appliances. She argues that "most domestic technology is designed by men in their capacities as scientists and engineers, people remote from the domestic tasks involved, for use by women in their capacity as homemakers. And, as we have seen, modern household equipment is designed and marketed to reinforce rather than challenge the existing household-family pattern" (Wajcman 1991).

However, if we use gender as an analytic tool, and if we consider consumers as well as producers, we will see that women are not passive victims, but significant players in the shaping of technology. They systematically influenced the process of technological design and self-consciously pursued their own interests. In this paper, I will focus on what Schwartz-Cowan has called the "consumption junction" or "the interface where technological diffusion occurs," the place where the so-called separate spheres are closely linked together (Schwartz-Cowan 1984).

Although a few companies already manufactured electrical appliances before World War I, the systematic introduction of domestic technology into the German home began in the 1920s. These appliances were originally introduced by companies already active in electrical engineering, by manufacturers of traditional household appliances, and by furniture companies, engineering and refrigeration technology companies, and automobile makers. Many smaller German companies chose to manufacture home appliances after World War I to replace their wartime production of guns and ammunition.

For the electrical industry, choosing to make technology-based consumer goods was a strategic decision by companies eager to secure their position within a newly emerging market. Electrical companies were convinced that domestic appliances would indeed prove to be an important market. The extraordinary expansion of the consumer goods industry in the United States was a decisive factor in their decision to begin producing domestic appliances. German companies saw the popularity and profitability of consumer goods across the ocean and they also saw that the consumers who dominated the American market were homemakers who made most of their purchases for their homes.

While developments in the States made German companies aware of new markets, they worried that American goods would flood into Germany. Concerned about what they described as the "American danger," German companies aimed to maintain their country's "march on the avant-garde of civilized nations" as they had done during the Kaiserreich (Picht 1994). Thus, in order to maintain their competitive edge, German companies used the languages of nationalism and modernity to sell their goods. German companies described electricity as the "mediator between civilization and culture" and portrayed electricity as a symbol of modernity and civilization (Picht 1994 and Kiesewetter 1992). These two ideas also frequently came together. Ultimately, economic, cultural, and nationalist factors made companies absolutely sure that the private home was a promising market that would be worth conquering.

To conquer this huge market electrical companies had to persuade homemakers to buy their new appliances. At first, electrical companies found the task of selling their products to homemakers very difficult, since they had rarely sold to private consumers in the past, let alone to women. Women constituted a new segment of consumers, so companies had few precedents upon which they could rely for marketing strategies. Furthermore, the engineers, executives, and advertising staff, almost all of whom were male, blamed discouraging sales figures on women's inability to comprehend technology (Hauswirtschaftliche Jahrbücher 1942). Manufacturers consistently argued that women experienced household technology as something new and alien and claimed that homemakers were reluctant to adopt electric appliances into their home. For example, in one 1927 article, a manufacturer claimed that "it is a fact that homemakers are not interested in technological progress at all" (Daheim 1927).

This image of German homemakers was based on prominent social and cultural ideas of the time. The world of women, many argued, was a technology-free oasis, a private and secure place, the "peaceful and idyllic" counterpart to the rationality and technology that dominated the world of work.[3] Many men struggled to separate themselves from this world, working to maintain the gendered divide between all men and women. Many worried that the introduction of electrical domestic technology into the home would be a decisive change in women's previously simple lives. Furthermore, they argued that the rationalization of the household would jeopardize traditional structures and the stability of the institution of the family. For example, Eugen Schiffer feared that domestic appliances could free women from their domestic duties and make it possible for them to work outside the home (Schiffer 1932). The contemporary debate about gender and technology was full of terrifying visions of "domestic laboratories" operated by female technicians (Prowe-Bachus 1932).

The mechanization of private lives was a topic contemporaries worried about a lot. The pessimistic cultural critics regarded the penetration of the soul by technology with great mistrust and fear. Authors such as Werner Sombart, Oswald Spengler and Georg Simmel were afraid that the world would be transformed into a "mechanism" if work would be free of human influence and controlled by technology. They believe that the "mechanization of lives" would ultimately turn all of civilization into a machine and all human beings into soul-less automatons (Mai 1997).

While manufacturers and contemporary male critics claimed that women were not willing to understand domestic appliances, they were also arguing that they—the manufacturers—could not fully comprehend female consumers. One manufacturer complained, in exasperation, that "there exists almost nobody more conservative than German homemakers!" (Potthoff 1928). Clearly, this was a consumer that the modern male manufacturer could not understand—a consumer who rejected modernity in favor of conservatism, a consumer who was concerned with the private home rather than the public world of work. "Even with the best will in the world," one manufacturer explained, "men are rarely able to grasp domestic details" (Werbeleiter 1928). Thus, after encountering initial difficulties selling their appliances, companies decided that "the mechanization of the household requires greater co-operation with women . . ." Even as they insulted the female consumer in their trade journals, companies decided that the best marketing strategy they had at their disposal was one that used women's knowledge of the domestic sphere to sell appliances. "It is therefore an indisputable fact," he explained, "that the market can only be conquered by enlisting the homemaker . . ." (Werbeleiter 1928). German appliance manufacturers thus turned to middle-class housewife's associations to help them market their wares and to change German's women's attitudes toward technology.

Before World War I, the bourgeois women's movement held an anti-technology stance (Orland 1993). They pursued a politics of "organized motherliness," founded on the presumption that women and men should perform specific and distinct social tasks because it was their so-called nature to do so. Female activities were supposed to complement male culture, which was associated with work, rationalization, and technology (Werbeleiter 1928, Frevert 1986). At the time, they argued, female emotionality would counterbalance male scientism and objectivity. However, after the war was over middle-class homemakers, many of whom were active in homemaker associations, embraced the new technology. Like other middle-class Germans who celebrated the benefits of modern technological progress, these women believed that the introduction of technology into the home would help unify and modernize the family and, by extension, the nation.[4]

Middle-class homemakers' associations were organized into a large and influential national federation called the Imperial Federation of Homemakers' Associations—the Reichsverband der Hausfrauenvereine (RDH). This national organization was formed in 1915 to support the German war effort on the home front and to enhance homemakers' social status. It was part of the federation of women's associations, the Bund Deutscher Frauenvereine, and in 1924 it had 280,000 members, all middle-class homemakers (Bridenthal 1984, Schlegel-Matthies 1995, Wolff 1995).

While some social-democratic and religious women's associations also supported the introduction of technology into the household, the RDH was the only organization that was recognized and embraced by manufacturers. Manufacturers said that they favored the RDH over other women's groups because it was large and because of its ostensible political neutrality and lack of religious affiliation (National Archive, Berlin, file R 8083 /16).

However, manufacturers probably also preferred working with the RDH because middle-class homemakers were their target consumer group. While the RDH was not affiliated with a political party or a religious group it was not politically neutral either. Rather, it pursued a conservative and nationalist agenda, consistently arguing that the only proper role for women was an occupation as a homemaker (Bridenthal 1984, Reagin 1998). Two of the RDH's main aims were to enhance the status of homemakers and to get the government to acknowledge housewifery as a profession. Moreover, it adopted a nationalist and anti-left wing stance in national politics, and by 1933 it welcomed the National Socialist (Nazi) government enthusiastically (Landström 1998). While the RDH was more conservative than most German women were, it tried to speak for women of all classes.

Rather than accepting the divide between technology and the home that male contemporaries supported, women in the RDH saw technology as an unavoidable part of the modern household. In 1929 Gabriele Krüger, an active member of the RDH, explained that while "it is commonly claimed that women are incapable of technical thinking, technology and the household are closely connected" (Hauswirtschaftliche Jahrbücher 1929). In fact, the RDH saw homemakers as the driving force behind the introduction of technology into the German home. According to the RDH's longtime president Maria Jecker, it was in fact "homemakers that awakened technology to the domestic sphere, calling on [manufacturers] to stop ignoring the household and instead to offer it services" (Jahrbuch des RDH 1931). Thus, RDH women claimed that women should learn to deal with technology. In fact, they went even further in their critique of popular cultural gender ideology, arguing that women should reject men's help in the use and even in the maintenance of appliances. For example, in 1927, one female author in the middle-class women's journal Daheim exclaimed that while "technology started its foremarch around the globe by men, and for men, slowly, very slowly women began to join this male domain" (Daheim 1927).

RDH women thus simultaneously rejected and embraced the contemporary gender ideology about a homemaker's role in society. They rejected the condescending notion that women were technologically incompetent. But, at the same time, they embraced the constructed divide between men's and women's worlds that contemporary gender ideology relied on (Orland 1993). The introduction of technology into the home, they argued, would not bring domestic space closer to work spaces because technology was simply everywhere. One member of RDH, Hildegard Thomae, summed up the situation as follows, "since we cannot eliminate technology, we shall have to overcome it instead" (Jahrbuch des RDH 1927). Women in the RDH struggled to maintain their traditional self-image as guardians of the private sphere and as the protective barrier between the worlds of work and family even as they embraced technology. Over time, their attitudes changed from a resigned acceptance of technology to an enthusiasm for exerting their specifically feminine influence over it. They worked to develop ways to incorporate technology into their homes without changing the gender-identification of private space.

One of RDH women's formal relationships with German electrical appliance companies was on the government-sponsored "Standards Committee." This committee, originally established in 1917 to standardize war productions, worked to regulate private-sector industries after the war. It focused on making sure that German products were consistent enough to be mass marketed effectively by establishing standards for all goods produced in Germany (Bönig1993). In 1926, the committee began to establish standards for household appliances and invited members of the RDH along with appliance manufacturers to participate in this process (Frauenwirtschaft 1926).

The RDH was initially approached because its members had been vocal about their belief that if companies communicated with homemakers' associations they could save German consumers a lot of money and time. RDH women were particularly frustrated with the inconsistency of appliances from company to company (Frauenwirtschaft 1927). With numerous shapes and sizes, they argued, electrical companies participated in wasteful behavior and discouraged women from standardizing and thereby modernizing their kitchens and homes (Lüders 1930). The RDH argued that products would be cheaper if companies would standardize them, claimed that such behavior was bad for the whole nation and called on German homemakers to protest this wastefulness (Lüders 1930). The RDH served on the committee because it saw the work of standardization as a nationalist project that it aimed to support. They believed that German homemakers could contribute to national economic recovery by helping standardize electrical appliances.

In its effort to influence the market and to establish itself as a serious partner of industry, the RDH established the Praktisch-Wissenschaftliche Versuchsstelle (the consumer product-testing laboratory). This laboratory was designed to test new products as they came onto the market. The lab worked to determine whether electrical appliances were useful, functional, and economical for German women. The RDH outlined criteria for the evaluation of appliances. They explained that appliances should help women save time and energy, be safe for the women using them, be safe for other objects with which they may come into contact, be reasonably priced, and finally, be advantageous to German retailers and the national economy.[5] The laboratory invited two groups of people to evaluate the products that they examined. They established a committee of "very capable and experienced homemakers" and a committee of industry experts to judge the usefulness of new appliances (Schlegel-Matthies 1995). If a new appliance fulfilled the criteria, it would be granted the laboratory's seal of approval, the Sonnenstempel (Sun Seal)—to let homemakers know that it had been tested and approved. The RDH thus saw their laboratory as a contribution to German war recovery because it was designed to prevent homemakers from spending money unwisely or wasting scarce resources.

RDH women used both their laboratory and their identities as homemakers to position themselves as legitimate partners alongside industry in the production and regulation of consumer goods. Yet the ways that they organized and described their laboratory reveals the limits of their authority over the private sphere. First, their use of industry "experts" alongside homemakers in the evaluation process shows that they did not want to present their own ideas as authoritative without the legitimacy of a more scientific voice to back them up. Second, in its literature, the RDH assumed a stance of absolute objectivity in the running of its laboratory, indicating again that a scientific knowledge was important to its sense of legitimacy.[6]

Furthermore, the women who ran the laboratory claimed that they were not concerned with what they called the "technical details" of production. Instead, they aimed to influence technology from the point of view of users. RDH women thus argued that male engineers should to maintain their concern with the mechanics of appliances, and that homemakers should have the authority to advise companies about what women really wanted in their homes (Jahrbuch des RDH 1932). While men should work to create the sophisticated machines, women were needed to shape the moral and responsible uses of technology. Women, one member of the RDH claimed, could ensure the "humanization of mechanical and inanimate things" because of their more moral natures (Zahn-Harnack 1928). The RDH thus drew a clear distinction between what it described as the masculine and immoral world of work and industry and the feminine and moral world of the home. They argued that capitalists had alienated technology from its social utility because their motivating force was profit. Women, conversely, could use technology effectively because their interests were in line with the interests of the nation. Technology, they suggested, could help modernize the German home and, by extension, contribute to the "well-being of the nation as a whole" (Reagin 1998).

By using these arguments about women's inherent virtue, moral superiority and selfless interest in improving the nation, RDH women reinforced the divide between male and female roles in shaping technology. The separation of labor that they envisioned, one where men were responsible for designing the mechanics of domestic appliances and women were responsible for determining the appropriate social role of these new machines, reinforced a traditional divide between masculine and feminine authority. Yet, while the RDH accepted this division of work, it rejected the implication that women's authority over the moral uses of machines was less important than men's decision-making power about mechanics. This distinction shows how the RDH wanted to accept traditional distinctions between masculine and feminine worlds, but reject the idea that men's authority was more powerful than women's.

While the RDH lab may have blurred the balance of power between feminine and masculine authority, it worked hard to maintain its independence from industry. For example, although it was difficult to finance the laboratory, the RDH only accepted small fees for testing appliances from the corporations that produced them.[7] At first, the laboratory received most of its funding from the local and national government (Jahrbuch des RDH 1929). The state of Saxony paid for the salary of the laboratory's director and secretary beginning in 1927, and the national government started supporting the lab in 1928.[8] By 1930, however, government funding became less available because of the international economic depression. Rather than turning to industry, the RDH began to rely on its members to raise money and keep the lab afloat.[9] While RDH women carefully separated their laboratory from the undue influence of industry, they also attached a great deal of importance to their relationships with domestic appliance manufacturers. The federation used the testing laboratory to establish direct contact and cooperation with manufacturers and retailers. As Hildegard Thomae explained in 1927, the RDH laboratory could help liberate homemakers from their position as victims of industry by providing them with a means to influence technological changes in the household (Jahrbuch des RDH 1927).

Appliance manufacturers were far less enthusiastic about a partnership with the RDH. At first, they were skeptical of the RDH's laboratory and hostile to the Sun Seal. Companies argued that the RDH was overstepping its appropriate position by attempting to enter into the world of industry as an equal to manufacturers. Some companies went so far as to try to ban the Sun Seal and restrict the activities of the homemakers' federation. Arguing that the lab's sample size was too small to be meaningful, appliance companies attacked the legitimacy of the RDH. [10]

Companies had reason to be worried about the laboratory in the beginning because, at first, it rejected almost 75 percent of the appliances that it tested. Furthermore, because of this discouraging figure, manufacturers were suspicious of RDH women's recommendations on how to improve their products. However, it was not long before electrical appliance manufacturers realized that by cooperating with the RDH they could essentially co-opt the Sun Seal as an advertising strategy. In fact, soon after the industry lost its fight to ban the Sun Seal, many major companies, such as Siemens and A.E.G., began to use the Sun Seal in their advertisements. Moreover they started to change the construction of some appliances, taking note of the RDH's suggestions about how to revise things like the dimensions of ovens, the position of controls, the design of pots and pans, and the size of refrigerator doors (Werbeleiter 1929).

While manufacturers accepted the Sun Seal as well as some of RDH's advice, they did not begin to design appliances in close cooperation with homemakers. Rather, companies took note of homemakers' recommendations if it did not take too much effort to do so, or they responded to homemakers' complaints politely. At the same time that they began to embrace the work of the RDH laboratory, companies also started to use professional homemakers to advertise and market their goods. They enrolled "professional homemakers" to hold lectures and cooking demonstrations in order to promote the use of electrical appliances in the home, reinforcing the authority of women in the domestic sphere. The manufacturers came to realize that they would not be successful in either designing or marketing their new goods without the participation of women. First, because male engineers and technicians were not familiar with domestic matters, and second, because manufacturers needed women to publicize their products and ultimately sell the idea of technology to women. The needs of the manufactures thus began to correspond more closely with the interests of housewives' associations.

Alongside its laboratory, the RDH organized exhibitions, lectures, cooking demonstrations, presentations of appliances and advice about how to use and rent electrical equipment. These classes, workshops and presentations were part of the RDH's larger effort to educate women about how to be efficient and thrifty workers in their homes. For RDH members, household rationalization remained a central tenant of the homemakers' contribution to the nation after the war (Nolan 1995). Since two-thirds of the nation's income was spent by homemakers, the RDH explained, women's ability to deal with resources carefully was key to recovery. During World War I, women had been encouraged to "rationalize" their households. In other words, German women's responsibility on the home front was to conserve energy, time and material so that the state could use any spare resources for the war effort (Lüders 1936, Chickering 1998) Homemakers' responsibilities after the war mirrored these wartime efforts. The RDH explained that women needed to learn thrift and to modernize their homes, and declared itself the perfect educator (Meyer 1926).

According to the RDH, Germany's postwar "spiritual recovery" depended on the health of the German family, and women were responsible for the condition of their families (Frauenwirtschaft 1921). Since the family was the "nucleus of the state," it was central to the maintenance of the nation (the Volk). An overworked homemaker would thus have a detrimental impact on the health of the state because she would not be able to devote herself to such an important task. Domestic appliances would not just help women in the home, they would help women "care for life," their families, and ultimately the nation (Grünbaum-Sachs 1929). Thus, mechanization would help to "strengthen the nation and to stop the dissolution of the family" (Korrespondenz Frauenpresse 1929, Daheim 1927)

In line with their nationalist sympathies, the RDH encouraged women to believe that every single member of the nation should think about what he or she could do for Germany. The homemaker's responsibility, they stressed, was to save resources, time, and energy by rationalizing and mechanizing her housework. Specifically, German women needed to buy German products, manage food carefully, be frugal with supplies and cook efficiently. They also needed to monitor and take care of their families, ensuring that every member chewed their food well and contributed to the conservation efforts of the household. By following these guidelines, German women could help prevent their country from falling into bankruptcy and decline (Potthoff 1928). RDH women saw electrical appliances as important tools for rationalizing and improving the home. One woman in the RDH suggested that electricity could offer homemakers more than just a reduction in their work. She exclaimed that "cooking with electricity saves fat [and] helps improve nutrition!" Greta Bielefeld, another RDH member, explained that electrical washing machines could save women time and money. Since clothes were washed more gently in a washing machine than by hand, she observed, clothes lasted longer (Bielfeld 1930). Women, they suggested, needed to make smart consumer choices as individuals in order to save the nation from the ills of heartless capitalists and foreign competition.

In this way, the RDH tried to contribute to the solution of national problems, crossing the borders of "separate spheres" ideology. RDH women thought of themselves as female participants in the public sphere. They simultaneously asserted that housewifery was the true vocation for women and brought their moral authority as housewives into the public sphere.

The RDH clearly believed that individual solutions were the best way of tackling national problems, an idea that they shared with conservative politicians and industrialists. RDH women thus produced a feminized version of conservative political rhetoric. The RDH explicitly rejected the capitalist world of work at the same time that their ideas were in many ways the domestic counterpart to free-market capitalism. RDH principles of domestic work also reproduced middle-class ideas about families. The women whom the RDH imagined it addressed did not work outside the home and could afford to spend their time working without monetary compensation at budgeting, cleaning and monitoring their relatives' chewing habits. While the RDH was concerned about overworked homemakers, its preoccupation with timesaving devices does not indicate that it was interested in easing the domestic labor of women who worked outside the home. In fact, these women were rarely mentioned in their literature.

Ultimately, women in the RDH argued that domestic rationalization and the increased use of technology in the home were indispensable for German society. Failure to bring technology into the household would result in cultural decline and would spell the end of German spiritual and cultural values [Geistesgüter] (Jahrbuch des RDH 1928). The adoption of technology was meant to help "strengthen and elevate the family life of our people, in order to stop the dissolution of the family that is becoming ever more evident." They attempted to demonstrate that running a household should no longer be viewed as a homemaker's private affair but as a matter of state (Korrespondenz Frauenpresse 1929).

Works Cited


Siemens Archive, München.

Vorwerk Archive, Wuppertal.

National Archive, Files of the Reichsverband der Hausfrauenvereine (RDH).




Die Frau

Elektrotechnische Zeitschrift


Hauswirtschaftliche Jahrbücher

Jahrbuch des RDH

Korrespondenz Frauenpresse



Wirtschaftshefte der Frankfurter Zeitung

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1. Institut für Modern History, Technological University Darmstadt, Darmstadt, Germany. Hessler is a Ph.D. student with a background in political science, sociology, and modern history who is writing a dissertation on the introduction of electric domestic appliances during the interwar period in Germany.

2. Vorwerk Brochure, 1926. Vorwerk Archive, Wuppertal.

3. Hallesche Zeitung, September 26, 1928, National Archive, Berlin, file: NS 5/VI, 6927.

4. The Social Democratic Women's Association was actually one of the early supporters of the introduction of electrical appliances into the household. But the Social Democratic Women's Association soon realized that electrical appliances were not going to be available to working-class women and turned their attention to developing methods of rationalizing housework instead of mechanizing the home (Frauenwelt 1929).

5. Die praktisch- wissenschaftliche Versuchsstelle, 1925, National Archive, Berlin, file R 8083/23.

6. Das neue Heim der Versuchsstelle für Hauswirtschaft des RDH in Leipzig, Jahrbuch 1930

7. Protokoll March 1926, Bundesachiv, Berlin, file R 8083 / 4.

8. Brief der Versuchsstelle an die Vereine über die finanzielle Lage der Versuchsstelle, June 1930, National Archive, Berlin R 8083/24.

9. Ibid.

10. Niederschrift der Sitzung der Hersteller elektrischer Kühlschränke, May, 22nd 1935, National Archive, Berlin, file R 13 V 219; Generalversammlung der Versuchsstelle 1928, National Archive, Berlin, file: R 8083/23, Vorstandssitzung des RDH, September 1926, National Archive, Berlin, file: R 8083/3

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