A Homemaker in 1920s America [Homemaking History]

Step back in time as we explore the daily routines and responsibilities of A Homemaker in 1920s America, including housework, childcare, and managing family life. Let’s take a look at life as a homemaker in the 1920s and see what joy and trials they experienced.

portrait of a woman from the 1920s (Violet Eby)
a portrait of my Great Grandma Violet from the 1920s

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Life As a Homemaker in the 1920s Overview

The 1920s was a decade of great change and economic growth in the United States, but life as a homemaker during this era was still quite difficult.

For many women, balancing all the responsibilities that came with being a homemaker was a challenge.

The first thing to understand about life as a homemaker in the 1920s is that it was a time of great transition.

With the invention of labor-saving devices, such as washing machines and vacuum cleaners, women were now able to manage their households with ease.

The availability of these machines made it easier for women to complete their daily tasks and freed up more time for them to spend with their families or pursuing hobbies.

However, while these advancements made life easier in some ways, they also created new challenges. Women had to learn how to use the machines correctly, which could be a daunting task.

Additionally, many women felt pressure to keep up with the latest trends and styles. This meant that homemakers had to stay up to date on the latest fashion and decorating trends, as well as new recipes and cooking techniques.

Life as a homemaker in the 1920s was not all work, however.

Women often found ways to have fun and exercise their creativity. For example, many women participated in sewing circles and quilting bees, which allowed them to socialize with friends and hone their skills.

Additionally, women had more access to education than ever before, allowing them to pursue hobbies such as painting or music.

In terms of financial matters, homemakers in the 1920s had to be frugal in order to make ends meet. Many households were still living off of one income, so it was important for women to save money where possible.

1921 Sears and Roebuck Co plans for living room
Sears and Roebuck Co. Honor Built Modern Homes plans, Library of Congress, 1921

Daily Life as a Homemaker in the 1920s: A Glimpse into the Past

The 1920s are known for being a time of great social and cultural change. It was a decade of economic prosperity, and women played a significant role in shaping the domestic sphere.

While some women worked outside the home in new professional settings, many chose to focus on their roles as homemakers.

Household Duties

A homemaker’s primary role was to maintain the household. This meant performing a wide range of tasks.

Cooking, cleaning, and laundry were all part of the daily routine. Homemakers were also responsible for child care, and the care of family members, if necessary.

A homemaker’s day was filled with constant activity, and there was never a dull moment.

Home Technology

One of the most significant changes to the average American household during the 1920s was the introduction of new home technologies.

The radio became a popular fixture in many homes, and the refrigerator replaced the icebox, making it easier to keep food fresh.

The vacuum cleaner and washing machine also became more common, making household chores quicker and more manageable.

Social Life

A homemaker’s social life was largely centered on community events and family gatherings.

Women would often gather for tea or lunch to socialize and exchange recipes.

Community events like church fairs and town picnics were also popular. Socializing was crucial for women who were isolated in the home for most of the day.


The 1920s was a decade of dramatic changes in fashion.

Women’s clothing became shorter and looser, and the flapper look became popular.

Homemakers often wore more conservative clothing than their working counterparts.

Aprons were a common accessory, and simple cotton or linen dresses were popular choices for everyday wear.


Homemakers in the 1920s often felt a strong sense of responsibility for their families. They were the primary caregivers for their children and were responsible for maintaining the household budget.

The family structure between a homemaker and her husband was also important. Homemakers supported their husband’s work while their husband supported the wife’s domestic work.

While the role of a homemaker in the 1920s may seem mundane by modern standards, it was a time of great change in American society.

A housewife’s routines were essential to keep a home running smoothly. Many women found joy in the daily challenges of keeping their homes and families in order.

The daily life of a homemaker in the 1920s was a glimpse into the past, and a testament to the resilience and strength of women in a rapidly changing world.

1925 a woman ironing in her kitchen
a woman ironing in her kitchen, Library of Congress, 1925

Homemaking Tasks in the 1920s: Cooking, Cleaning, and More

Homemaking in the 1920s was a critical component of American society.

Women took care of their homes and families. Domestic life involved a range of household tasks such as cooking, cleaning, laundry, and more.

Cooking in the 1920s was much different from what we know today.

Women cooked on wood-burning stoves and used utensils such as cast-iron pots and pans.

Cooking from scratch was the norm, and women had to be creative with their meals, often relying on what they had on hand.

Canning and preserving food was also essential for preserving fruits and vegetables for the winter months.

Cleaning was also a significant part of homemaking in the 1920s.

Homemakers kept their homes neat and tidy, which involved household work such as sweeping floors, dusting furniture, and washing linens.

The washing of clothes was an especially challenging task, as washers were manual and required considerable physical exertion.

Good homemakers also had to be diligent about pest control and keeping their homes free from pest.

Aside from cooking and cleaning, women had many other responsibilities. They often took care of their families’ health needs, from home remedies for common ailments to attending to the sick.

Homemakers also participated in social organizations, such as church groups or clubs, which gave them a sense of community and an outlet for their social needs.

Homemaking in the 1920s was a demanding job that required a range of skills and abilities.

Women had to be resourceful and resilient to maintain a comfortable home for their families.

Many women found satisfaction and fulfillment in their roles as homemakers, and their contributions helped to shape the fabric of American society for generations to come.

1926 seed catalog tomato
Stokes Seed Catalog, Library of Congress, 1926

Frugal Living in the 1920s: Managing a Household Budget

The 1920s were a time of great change in the world, particularly in terms of economics and consumerism.

As more people moved into cities and technology improved, there were more opportunities to spend money and enjoy modern conveniences.

However, many people lived on a tight budget and had to be careful with their money in order to maintain their standard of living.

Frugal living was a way of life for many households during this time, so let’s take a closer look at how they managed their budgets.

Create a Budget and Stick to It

The first step to living frugally is to make a budget and stick to it. Many households kept a ledger of expenses all written down by date and amount in a notebook.

Write down all your expenses, including groceries, bills, and any other expenses you may have. Then, try to find areas where you can cut back on expenses, such as eating out or buying expensive clothes.

Once you have a budget in place, it is important to stick to it so that you do not overspend.

Grow Your Own Food

During the 1920s, many people had their own vegetable gardens or kept a few chickens to provide them with fresh eggs.

By growing your own food, you can save money on groceries and have access to fresh produce all year round.

This also helps to reduce food waste since you can only pick what you need.

Shop Wisely

When it comes to shopping for groceries or household items, frugal shoppers in the 1920s knew how to stretch their money.

For example, they often bought items in bulk or opted for a cheaper brand.

Homemakers also saved money by making their own cleaning products and avoiding processed foods.

Reuse and Recycle

Another way to live frugally in the 1920s was to reuse and recycle as much as possible.

Old clothes were often repurposed or turned into rags, and many households used mason jars or old containers instead of buying new ones. This not only saved money but also helped to reduce waste.

Make Do and Mend

If something in the household broke, people in the 1920s were more likely to fix it themselves rather than replace it.

Sewing was a valuable skill for many women, as they could mend clothes and create new ones from old patterns. This allowed households to extend the life of items and save money in the long run.

Frugal living was a way of life for many households in the 1920s.

By creating a budget, growing their own food, shopping wisely, reusing and recycling, and making do and mend, a happy homemaker was able to maintain their standard of living despite limited finances.

These practices can still be useful today, as we look for ways to save money and reduce waste in our daily lives.

1924 a woman preparing a meal at her hoosier cabinet
a woman preparing a meal at her Hoosier Cabinet, Library of Congress, 1924

From Farm to Table: Cooking and Food Preservation in the 1920s

Food has always been an essential part of our daily lives, and it has undergone significant changes throughout history.

The 1920s marked a significant turning point in the way people approached cooking and food preservation.

With the advent of new technologies and social trends, people began to adopt a healthier and more sustainable approach to food.

From farm to table, let’s take a look at how cooking and food preservation evolved during this time.

The Rise of Home Cooking

The 1920s saw the emergence of home cooking as a popular pastime.

With the introduction of new kitchen appliances such as the refrigerator, stove, and oven, families were able to experiment with new recipes and cooking techniques.

Home economics classes in schools also played a significant role in promoting healthy eating habits and proper food handling techniques.

Canning and Preservation

Canning and preservation became increasingly popular during the 1920s.

With the availability of fresh produce from local farmers, people began to experiment with canning techniques to preserve fruits and vegetables for the winter months.

Home canning kits, complete with mason jars and boiling vats, were readily available for purchase. This helped to reduce food waste and made it easier for families to maintain a healthy diet throughout the year.

The Advent of Refrigeration

The introduction of refrigeration revolutionized the way we approach food preservation. Prior to this, foods were typically stored in root cellars or packed in ice.

Refrigeration became a ubiquitous feature in many homes, restaurants, and grocery stores. It changed the way people shopped for food, as they could now purchase perishable items such as milk, meat, and eggs without worrying about spoilage.

The Popularity of Preserves

Along with canning, preserving methods such as jam-making also gained popularity during this time.

Homemade jams, jellies, and preserves became a staple in many households.

Canning fruits and vegetables and preserving them in jam-like substances not only helped to extend their shelf life but also provided a tasty treat for the family.

1922 family at table making artificial flowers
family at kitchen table making artificial flowers, Library of Congress, 1922

Family Time and Activities in the 1920s: Entertainment, Education, and Togetherness

The 1920s was a decade of change and innovation.

Many families were transitioning from rural areas to urban cities, and new forms of entertainment and education were becoming widely available.

Family relationships and togetherness remained important values.

Here are some examples of the ways families spent time together during this decade:


One of the most notable forms of entertainment during the 1920s was the rise of Hollywood and the film industry.

Families would often go to the cinema together to see the latest releases, such as “The Kid” starring Charlie Chaplin, or “The Jazz Singer”, the first movie with synchronized sound.

With the advent of radio, families could also listen to music or dramas together in their own homes.

Board games and card games also remained popular pastimes for families.


Families would spend time together reading books or listening to educational lectures on the radio.

Museums and libraries were also popular destinations for families to learn together. Educational toys, such as puzzles and science kits, were also becoming more widely available.


Despite the increasing use of automobiles and urbanization, families in the 1920s still valued spending time together.

Sunday was often reserved as a day for family activities, such as picnics or attending church together.

Families would also take trips together, such as going to the beach or visiting relatives in other towns.

Many families also had traditions, such as gathering around the piano to sing or telling stories before bed.

The 1920s was a decade of change, but family time and togetherness remained important values.

Entertainment, education, and spending time together were all ways in which families enjoyed each other’s company during this time.

Even today, we can learn from these examples and prioritize spending time with our own families.

1922 woman on Bell telephone
Woman on Bell Telephone, Library of Congress, 1922

Final Thoughts of Life As a Homemaker 1920s

The 1920s was a time of significant changes in the way people approached cooking and food preservation.

From the rise of home cooking to the advent of refrigeration, these innovations have had a lasting impact on how we approach food today.

The focus on sustainable, healthy eating habits continues to be an important part of our food culture.

It is essential to keep in mind our rich history when it comes to food, and the evolution it has gone through over the years.

Homemaking in the 1920s was an essential part of American society, particularly for women.

One of the central themes of homemaking during the 1920s was efficiency.

Women managed their households in a manner that maximized their time and resources. This meant using new appliances and new technology to reduce the time and effort required for tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and laundry.

Another important aspect of homemaking during this era was the appearance of the home. Women kept their homes clean and tidy.

This emphasis on appearances was seen as a reflection of a woman’s social status and her ability to manage her domestic affairs.

The 1920s were a transformative time in terms of technological advancements, particularly in the home.

New appliances like refrigerators, washing machines, and vacuum cleaners made homemaking tasks easier and take less time. This allowed women more time and freedom to pursue other interests, like socializing or pursuing careers outside of the home.

Despite the advancements in technology and the emphasis on efficiency, homemaking during this era was not without its challenges.

Women often faced a tremendous amount of pressure to maintain a perfect home, while also fulfilling the expectations of society at large.

The legacy of homemaking during the 1920s has had a lasting impact on American society.

While the role of women in the home has evolved significantly in the decades since, the importance of managing a household has remained a fundamental aspect of American culture.

Homemaking during the 1920s paved the way for advancements in technology and helped to shape the American home as we know it today.

In conclusion, homemaking in the 1920s was an important aspect of American society. While it was a time of significant progress in terms of technology, it was also a time of great pressure and challenges for women.

However, the legacy of homemaking during this era has had a lasting impact on American culture, shaping our ideas about the importance of the home and the role of women within it.  

If this homemaking history is of interest to you, then be sure to check out our other posts in this series!

FAQs about Homemaking in the 1920s

In the 1920s, cleaning and cooking were some of the most common household chores, which also required a lot of manual labor as modern technology wasn’t available at that time. Washing clothes was also a time-consuming task because it was usually done by hand using a washboard and a tub. Ironing clothes was another essential task, and it required heating the sad iron over a stove. Women also had to tend to the children and take care of their education while managing the household chores.

The 1920s were a time of great change in the United States, and this extended to the foods that people were eating. One of the most noticeable changes was the emergence of convenience foods, which were designed to save time and effort in the kitchen. Some of the most popular foods of the time included canned fruits and vegetables, processed cheeses, and precooked meats. In addition to these new options, traditional favorites like roast beef, potatoes, and layered cakes remained popular.

In 1920, $1 had significantly more purchasing power than it does today. With $1, you could buy a variety of everyday items, such as a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, and a dozen eggs. A movie ticket would cost around 15 cents, while a gallon of gasoline was only 30 cents. While $1 in 1920 may not seem like a lot of money by today’s standards, it could actually buy a decent amount of goods and services.

In the 1920s, families had various forms of entertainment and recreation. Many people enjoyed going to the cinema to watch silent films, which often had live music accompaniment. Dancing was also a popular pastime, and jazz music became particularly popular in this era. Board games, card games and puzzles were other popular indoor activities. Outdoor activities such as swimming, hiking, and camping were also enjoyed by families. Sports such as baseball, basketball and tennis were also very popular during this period.

During the 1920s, the lives of American women underwent significant changes both at work and at home. The First World War had opened up job opportunities for women, and this led to a number of women entering the workforce during the 1920s. The 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which granted women the right to vote, also helped to boost the status of women in American society. At home, women also began to enjoy more freedom and independence. The availability of household appliances and convenience foods made housework easier, freeing up time for women to pursue other interests.

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