The title is the question, as inspired by several [urll=“http://www.flickr.com/photos/18454692@N00/499616800/”]old magazine ads I’ve seen online. Did the women of the era really glow with delight at the thought of a new iron, vacuum cleaner or other domestic device for Christmas, or was the reaction more like “WTF?”
They had as much relevance to real gift-giving as holiday car ads do today.
But, a nifty new appliance was a status symbol for stay-at-home moms, since they didn’t have a lot of other things to compete with against the other stay-at-home moms.
I suspect it would be much like the reaction men have to power tools today. Many men would be overjoyed to receive a new, expensive, state of the art power tool. Many would be underwhelmed, some would be insulted.
Why would they “WTF”? It’d be nice to get something that makes your life easier.
If I were a househusband I’d think it was nice of my wife to get me a dishwasher for Christmas so I wouldn’t have to bother with that task anymore.
In fact as dishwashing’s one of my jobs in my household currently I’d like my wife to buy me one (or to buy one myself) if it weren’t for the fact that the jobs would then be shuffled to make them “fairer” now that dishwashing’s gone…
My FIL bought my MIL not one but two vacuum cleaners for Christmas just a few years ago. They are very much a 50/60’s type couple with her on an allowance and him never doing a lick of housework, so the magazine ads seem plausible. Admittedly she wasn’t super enthusiastic over the gifts.
MY parents still do this sorta thing all the time…
Household appliances as gifts for Xmas for my mother usually.
Bought my wife an electric griddle for Christmas one year. Her reaction was not: gee thanks, now I can cook for you. It was more: OMG!!!1111, I CAN TOTALLY MAKE PANCAKES ON THAT!!!.
So, a win-win scenario. It all depends on what the gift receiver wants. If Santa left me a brand new Dyson ball vacum, I would be excited. I would also be following the four legged fur depositers all over the house.
I bought my wife a vacuum cleaner last year for Xmas and she absolutely loves it, and we are not a 50’s/60’s family either.
A vacuum is only a bad gift if it’s the only gift.
Utilitarian gifts are common in all demographics during the holidays - we learn this the day we unwrap our first pair of socks. But there is usually also something more frivolous under the tree as well - like toys or as we get older, jewelry - of course, for men, the nature of the toys just change and what might have been GI Joe with a kung foo grip when we were 5 becomes a Self Adjusting Wrench or Power Hammer when we are 40, but we still see them with the same glee we saw our childhood toys.
A friend of mine, upon seeing my roomba, thought about getting his girlfriend one for her birthday. But he was fearful of insulting her. It *is *a good gift for her - for many reasons she currently does not have as much time as she would like to maintain her home. But he figures she would deem it unromantic.
I’d never buy my wife anything like that, unless she specifically asked for it. But as a child, I would give my mother kitchen things, like hot air popcorn poppers (remember those?).
I also think folks need to remember back in THOSE days, most families homes were not overrun with tons of “unneeded” crap".
There often wasnt enough money to buy both the nice but totally useless stuff AND the more utilitarian items.
Yeah, some women probably got totally bent out shape about it no matter how thoughtful and useful the purchased item was that would actually make their life easier. Of course those would generally be the same women that expect a big honking diamond wedding rings and way over the top expensive weddings .
I remember my mother (housewife) getting a vacuum cleaner in the mid-70s and being pretty pissed about it. Dad didn’t understand why. So the “Gee thanks for that bright shinny new vacuum cleaner so I can do even more chores for you” midset was far from universal.
Never a vaccuum cleaner, but my thoroughly 1950s father bought my mother all types of shiny new household appliances for Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries. Of course he was careful to also get her something romantic. He may have been a traditionalist, but he wasn’t stupid.
It all depends on the person. I had a friend who told me the other day that her husband got her a vacuum for Christmas one year when they were first married, and she was thrilled. They were broke, it was their first apartment, they had no vacuum–it was what she wanted. She might be 30.
My dad likes to get frying pans for my mom for Christmas, as a joke. She gets something real too. (Come to think of it, I just bought dishtowels for her present! But I’m giving her a framed picture too. We were out Saturday at a kitchen store, kvetching about the insane price of dishtowels, so when I saw some for cheap I grinned and got them.)
I bet quite a few financially-strapped families are going to be getting utilitarian objects for Christmas this year, and they’ll be grateful.
Anyway, I’m thinking that in the 50’s things were probably much like they are today. Some people want vacuums for Christmas and some don’t. Some people will buy practical items for folks who want romantic things, and vice versa. And we’ll all muddle through as usual.
Don’t you think being one of those young families in the 50’s must have been like paradise to them? I mean, here you have these people who were kids in the Depression, and young men and women in WWII, and all of a sudden the war’s over and lots of people are home again and there are jobs everywhere and you can afford to go to college and get a house and a car and even a bright red phone if you want, and hardly anyone is hungry or getting shot at. Even if you were black and living under segregation, it must have been a huge improvement over the past 20 years. No wonder everyone was so cheerful.
Right. For some of those wives in the 50s, it might have been the first vacuum they ever owned. So it was like “Yessss! I don’t have to beat the rugs anymore!”
Not that this is a huge issue to get into a debate about, but I think this is an unfair comment to the women of the day.
I was in a lower middle class family in New England in the 60s and 70s. My mother, who didn’t work outside the home, got an allowance from dad just like my sister and I did. So she didn’t have any cash to splurge on herself. The whole family benefited from the floors being clean, not just mom. So her wanting a more personal gift, such a a simple dress or a pair of earrings from the local KMart, isn’t asking all that much.
Sort of like how I absolutely adore my Roomba. I bought it for myself, but if I didn’t have one and was in the middle of my “OMG a robot vacuums your floor!” I-want-a-Roomba phase, I would have really loved getting one as a present from my husband. Then again, I adored the KitchenAid stand mixer I got from him for one Christmas as well.
That’s part of something being a present. If it’s an expected, utilitarian item it probably won’t be acceptable to the recipient. If it’s something new and awesome and will be a big help to the person, then that’s a better gift. It’s not entirely “it’s the thought that counts” but that the giver should also put some thought in, before picking a present, about what the recipient would really like.
It might sound a little sexist now, but the role that domestic appliances had in women’s liberation cannot be ignored.
The best advice I ever got was the following: Men want gifts that do something. Women want gifts that mean something.
(And, dangermom, the best dish towels in the world are old cloth diapers. If you can find them at a garage sale, you’ll get them for pennies.)