Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

A Woman’s Place Is In The House

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 3, 2013

Have you ever heard the expression: A woman’s place is in the house? If you hear that these days, it’s a good chance the speaker is either baiting you, or there’s a witty play on words about to happen.

On January 5, 2007 the Sydney Morning Herald ran a story about Nancy Pelosi in the U.S. House of Representatives. It was an article that heralded her accomplishments as a politician, with the article aptly titled, “A Woman’s Place Is In The House: Pelosi Opens Doors On Her Life.” Partway through the article, the following was found:

Five hundred women wore badges with Ms Pelosi’s face, in pearl earrings, above the slogan: “A woman’s place is in the House … as Speaker.”

Feminists of the 1970s took offence to the expression and came up with their own version:

A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.

But the fact remains that the expression will always have a place in society.

Back on Jun 6, 1925, the Toledo News Bee newspaper published a United Press story out of San Antonio, Texas that had to do with elections for President of the General Federation Of Women’s Clubs. It was reported that by a convention vote of 555 to 434, the candidate from Baltimore had been elected President.

Mrs. John F. Sippel of Baltimore, whose campaign slogan that a “woman’s place is in the home” won her a victory over her “business woman” opponent.

Almost 100 years before that, back in 1832, the New Sporting Magazine, Volume 3 published an article that stated:

A woman’s place is her own home, and not her husband’s countinghouse.

When British physician and preacher Thomas Fuller (24 June 1654 – 17 September 1734) published “Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs; Wife Sentences and Witty Saying, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British” in 1732, the following was included:

A Woman is to be from her House three times: when she is Christened, Married and Buried.

Since his book included ancient sayings and since Thomas Fuller was also a preacher, it’s not surprising that this was found in his book. After all, the phrase originated with the Greek, and more specifically with Greek playwright Aeschylus, who wrote this in 467 B.C.:

Let the women stay at home and hold their peace.

As much as some women may  not appreciate hearing the expression, the fact of the matter is that it has a history that stretches far back into Ancient Greece.  In the end, however, perhaps the expression is more of a compliment and acknowledgment of the great impact mothers have on their children than a slight against them.

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