From what Amanda Erickson said in her Jan. 17 Book World review, “ How factory life helped shape our domestic life,” about Judith Flanders’s book “The Making of Home,” it sounds as though Flanders has told us nothing new about the history of home and domesticity. Historians have been writing about this subject for years.
It’s not clear from the review whether Flanders acknowledged her foremothers in the academy. Erickson should have checked Amazon or the catalog of the Library of Congress for previous works before declaring the book “an unconventional look at how our modern idea of home came to be.” Both Flanders’s lack of originality and Erickson’s apparent ignorance of women’s history are distressing, for they reveal a wide gap between the academy and trade publishing. It’s not that the existing scholarly histories of domesticity are too arcane for the lay reader; in fact, many books on the topic, including Susan Strasser’s “Never Done: A History of American Housework,” are based on excellent research and also make for highly entertaining reading.
Reviewers and trade authors should do their homework.
Sonya Michel, Silver Spring
The writer is professor emerita of history, American studies and w omen’s studies at the University of Maryland at College Park.