Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair(s)

Lawrence Culver


Lawrence Culver


Colleen O'Neill


Leonard N. Rosenband


In the decades following 1945, Americans moved increasingly out of cities into suburbs. The migration illustrated the emergence of a new, broader middle class as a result of growing postwar affluence. In the previous half-century, families living in a suburb could claim middle-class status. The emerging class built its identity on the forms and values adopted from this earlier, more affluent Victorian middle class. These adopted values were played out in a home designed around Progressive era ideals of the family. Through this Progressive filter, the new concept of the home was scaled down, without servants, and ceased existing wholly as the wife's sphere of influence--as in the Victorian version. The Progressive impulse also reduced the size of the house to make it more efficient, and through government subsidies shaped the home into a smaller, economically sized package. The financial framework that determined the shape of the postwar home also influenced the technology placed within its walls. This financially influenced technology particularly affected the shape and content of the kitchen. The new, efficient kitchen did not release women from their duty to provide daily family meals, but it did create a culturally safe space for men to cook as a hobby. In the postwar, suburban kitchen women and men contended with economic pressures and changing social realities which complicated the Victorian values and Progressive ideals. Middle-class women needed to leave the home for work, and--now separated from traditional urban social outlets--middle-class men sought refuge in the suburban home. By examining Sunset magazine's "Chefs of the West" column, traditional women's cookbooks and service magazines, men's magazines, building industry trade journals, and census reports, the kitchen demonstrates that women and men reshaped the home in response to changing middle-class values. While financing regulations at first shaped how the emerging middle class lived within the postwar, suburban home, residents reinterpreted the space as a reaction to the economic changes around them. This cycle continued with each new interpretation of the postwar single-family home.