Politics of the pantry: Housewives, food, and consumer protest in twentieth-century America

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook


This book examines the rise and fall of the American housewife as a political constituency group and explores the relationship between the domestic sphere and the formation of political identity. This book is a study of how women used institutions built on patriarchy and consumer capitalism to cultivate a political voice. Using a labor history lens, it places the home rather than the workplace at the center of the community, revealing new connections between labor, gender, and citizenship. Three periods of consumer upheaval anchor the narrative: the Depression-era meat boycott of 1935, the consumer coalitions of the New Deal and the rise of the Cold War, and the wave of consumer protests in the 1960s and 1970s. The book is framed around the lives of several key labor and consumer activists and their organizations in both urban and suburban areas-Detroit, Chicagoland, Long Island, and Los Angeles. The geographic diversity of these three periods allows for a national story about the influence of domestic politics between the New Deal and the election of Ronald Reagan and the emergence of the conservative right. Some of these women have appeared in other historical work in limited ways, while the remaining women are new to the literature of consumer activism. This book tells the story of these women as they enter the public sphere to protest the increasingly challenging task of feeding their families and balancing the household ledger.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages192
ISBN (Electronic)9780190685591
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • 1970s
  • Consumers
  • Domestic politics
  • Esther peterson
  • Feminism
  • Housewives
  • Meat boycotts
  • New deal
  • Protest
  • Women’s movement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)


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