1940’s Fashion – Housewifes Daily Routine

A typical day of a 1940’s housewife

The 1940’s was great era for fashion and glamour, and during the war – it seemed to herald a new age for women’s freedom, but from 1946  – women who were starting out as a housewife for the first time, discovered that there was a strict gender biased code which dictated that the model wife was expected to effortlessly fill the roles of glamorous mum, cook, laundress, cleaner, dishwasher, nurse and finally hostess.

Effectively – women were demoted from home manager to labourer . This nightmarish PleasantvilleStepford Wife scenario was to remain well into the 1960’s.

See the Concise Illustrated History of 1940s Women’s Fashion – 1940 to 1949

6.00- Nurse baby
6.45- Fix breakfast for herself and John
7.15- John and Marjorie enjoy time alone before wakening kids

A typical 1940s breakfast – Life

7.45- Breakfast for all
8.00- Husband John to work
– wash dishes -clean downstairs-call grocers
9.00- Bathe baby – make beds – clean upstairs

Making the beds -1946-Life

10.30- Nurse baby
11.00- Fix lunch


11.30- Lunch for Shaun and Rusty
12.00- John home – Lunch

1940’s Lunch at home -image-Life

1.00 –  John back to work – naps for the boys – wash dishes – nap for Marjorie
2.30 – Nurse baby
2.45 – Clean living room

Housechores -1940’s -Life

5.00- Fruit juice for baby – fix supper
5.30- Supper for Shawn, Rusty
6.00- John home – baths for Shawn and Rusty.
6.30- Shawn and Rusty in bed
7.00- Dress for dinner – yep – you dressed before cooking the meal.
7.15- Cocktail with John
7.30- Fix dinner
8.00- Dinner with John


9.00- Wash dishes
10.30- Nurse baby
10.45- Personal bath – luxury !


11.00- Bed
And just to put it all in perspective – here’s an amazing picture – again courtesy of the fabulous Life archive.


Housewife Marjorie McWeeney stands amongst a symbolic display of a  full week’s housework for a typical 1940’s housewife. Labour includes 35 beds to be made, 750 items of glass & china, 400 pieces of silverware to wash, 174 lbs. of food to prepare, and 250 pieces of  laundry.
It’s a wonder she has time to put on her makeup.
Images courtesy of Life Magazine

You can download beautiful original vintage 1940’s make-up and beauty guides now.


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14 thoughts on “1940’s Fashion – Housewifes Daily Routine”

  1. I have to agree with Hestia…and ask: How did she get anything done when baby was screaming because he/she was hungry? I’m a breastfeeding mom and if I don’t feed my baby (and I’ve had two) every 2 hours, he’s screaming to eat. (She feeds him every 4 hours and 5 1/2 hours after the dinner feeding!) What did she do with the screaming baby when she was making beds, cleaning the living room?

  2. I love the time for a bath and a cocktail!

    I do think that although we have dishwashers and technology, there are some new tasks replacing the old ones. Checking emails, online banking. Plus these days it's seen as more important to spend time with your children and play with them for their development and emotional wellbeing, not just sticking them in a highchair or play pen for hours on end. Plus we're more safety conscious. I prefer not to clean the toilet with strong cleaners with a baby in tow!

    I do think we can learn some things, like letting children learn to help with chores and entertain themselves for some of the day.

  3. That poor baby sure went hungry!

    The "breastfeeding-on-schedule" was the kiss of death to the breastfeeding culture that still existed previous to WWII, and the precursor of lots of women not making "enough" breastmilk. (You need to breastfeed baby on demand in order to produce all the milk he requires- the more you latch him on, the more milk you produce, that's the mantra!). No wonder formula-making companies had such a field day, and are still ruling the nutritional lives of babies even today. :-(

  4. Loved this post. "It is a wonder she has time to put on makeup" made me chuckle. One thing I love about older eras is impeccable grooming!

  5. That looks like a typical day in MY life; only I never make the beds, I have twice as much laundry and children, and I also have a blog and an etsy shop….definitely busy, definitely tired; but I wouldn't change a thing! Although much of what I do is mundane labor, I still consider myself a manager of the household and know how pivotal my role is. Perhaps more women would have chosen otherwise if given the choice in generations past, but I suspect there were women who, like me, were happy to make a home for their family and considered it a blessing. Or course, I do have a dishwasher, which changes things significantly!

  6. I am going to try to do this schedule tomorrow. Only I'll replace anything that has to do with familia with computer time! :-D

  7. A wonderful book you may enjoy is Russel and Mary Wright's "Guide to Easier Living". Following the research done on the 1940's houswife's daily life, many moves were made to change the way that household duties were done. Even making the bed is detailed in the book – in a way that saves time and work. It's available on Amazon or in the back on Atomic Ranch Magazine.

  8. Interesting difference of standard of living between US and UK, I don't think many families in the UK would have much silverware, even flatware was likely to be nickel or stainless. And the food problem was where to find it not how to prepare it.

  9. True…although worth noting that for the 'working class' in the UK it was definitely the norm to work at least part-time as well as all the housework! This was seen as an 'ideal' because it was better than doing all that AND a few hours cleaning/laundry/cooking/shopwork per day to make ends meet. I remember my Gran remeniscing about it!

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