Electricity Makes Women Free

Queen-in-the-kitchenBy Carol Mobley


Nothing has changed the modern kitchen more than the introduction of electricity.   The early 1900’s kitchen had the ice box on the back porch and wood stove in the kitchen.  With electricity the refrigerator was moved inside the kitchen and it became the focal point instead of the stove.  By 1930 Westinghouse Electric boasted that “electricity makes women free.”

The first household refrigerator was available in 1913.  But it wasn’t until General Motors (GM) purchased Guardian Frigerator Company in 1918 that we saw mass production of electric refrigerators.  Appliance companies copied the assembly lines established by the automobile industry.  Not to be outdone, General Electric (GE) boasted that they had 64 skilled engineers working since 1913 to create “an electric refrigerator so efficient, so simplified that it could literally be installed and forgotten.”

Women-FreeGE and Frigidaire were the two biggest names in home refrigeration and kitchen design revolved around the refrigerator.  In this Westinghouse Electric brochure the effeciency of the kitchen is considered, meal preparation with the least amount of steps from pantry to table.

By the end of WWII, companies like Westinghouse, Youngstown Kitchens, Mutschler Kitchens & Mengel Royal Wood Kitchens, just to name a few, advertised designing your dream kitchen.  Postcards and booklets were readily available for the homeowner as a way to encourage households to upgrade their kitchens. The modern kitchen with all electric appliances not only saved a woman time but provided safe and sanitary food storage.

Then in the late 1950’s something wonderful happened to the refrigerator.  Americans lived in the land of plenty.  Cars were as big as boats with huge chrome bumpers and tail fins.  The design of the refrigerator door illustrates the abundance in American households.  Large chrome handles, unusual colors and larger capacity refrigerators began replacing the simple 1920’s and 1930’s plain white models.

Clough-FurnitureAnd so the modern kitchen was born. Electricity is indespensible not only for the refrigerator but for the dozens of small appliances designed to make food preparation easier.

Postcards and brochures are how companies let the public know what was available.  People collected these ephermal items and it has helped document changes to the American kitchen.

Interested in history? Then you should attend the Denver Postcard & Paper Show held on May 5 & 6, 2017 at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Golden, CO.  There will be over 20 dealers specializing in postcards, photographs, books, postal history and advertising.  Admission $5, good for both days. Contact Carol or Bill Mobley at 303-761-3755 for more info or go to www.DenverPostcardShow.com.

(Advertising postcard for J.T. Clough Furniture, Greeley, CO) A 1912 postcard illustrating the modern kitchen with the sanitary and biggest ice-saving refrigerator (ice box).  Notice the location on the back porch away from the inside heat of the wood cook stove.

“Feel like a queen in your kitchen” (1959 Advertising brochure for Frigidaire Home Appliances)

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