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date: 27 November 2022



  • Gillian Clark


Housework, a specifically female task, was evidently not of interest to male authors, and there are no surviving household accounts or instructions. ‘Women's work’ meant weaving and the other tasks required in fabric-making: cleaning and carding wool, spinning and dyeing thread. *Xenophon(1), in the Oeconomicus, envisages a young wife whose only domestic training is in fabric-making: he suggests that she can train slaves to make fabric, supervise household supplies, equipment, and labour, and, for exercise, fold clothes and bedding and knead dough. *Columella (Rust. 12. 1–3) says that the bailiff's wife on a Roman estate should supervise wool-working and preparation of meals, and should ensure that the kitchens, the shelters for animals, and especially the sickroom are clean. But there is silence on the details of ordinary daily tasks: providing meals and washing up; washing and drying clothes and household textiles; cleaning the house and its equipment, including fireplaces, braziers, and *lamps; and, in many households, tending plants, poultry, and domestic animals.


  • Gender Studies

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