Christina Hardyment

Author and Journalist

From Mangle to Microwave

Originally titled Labour Saved, this account of a hundred years of changes in domestic technology between the Great Exhibition of 1851 and the Festival of Britain in 1951 argues that it was not so much male oppression as practical domestic necessity that kept women at home until the age of electricity for everyone and reliable contraception. It grew from the collection of sewing machines that Tom and I built up in the early years of our marriage. The articles that I wrote about them and other aspects of early domestic technology were noticed by Russell Ash of Ash and Grant, and he commissioned a book on the subject from me. While Tom, then a classic master at Mill Hill School, looked after our first baby Matilda between lunch and prep, I spent happy hours in the British Museum’s Newspaper Library in Colindale, reading early women’s magazines and such periodicals as the Journal of Domestic Technology and the Sewing Machine Gazette, and acquiring out-dated household manuals in secondhand bookshops. Ash and Grant went bust, but the book served to win me a contract from Cape to write Dream Babies, and was jumped on with enthusiasm by Martin Richards, a scout for Blackwell publishing, as well as a Cambridge don specialising in Childcare, who had enjoyed Dream Babies. The relationship with Blackwell led to their appointing me founding editor of Oxford Today, Britain’s first alumni magazine. Not very logical but the job was great fun for the next ten years.

The full story of Mangle to Microwave can be read at