Housework Is an Academic Issue

Scientists are likely not to be interested in thinking about housework. Since René Descartes, Western culture has stringently separated matters of mind from body. Housework is, however, related to the life of the mind. Scientists wear clean clothes to the lab (at least from time to time), eat food procured and prepared by someone, and live in reasonably clean houses. This labor used to be done by stay-at-home wives. The single- earner wage of the 1950s, for example, covered the cost of unpaid services that wives performed. Now, housework is often done by wives and partners who are also full-time professionals— and the women we discuss in this study are scientists at thirteen of the top research universities in the United States.