Woman Suffrage and the revolution of household technology

In 1925 when Dr. Telkes immigrated to the U.S. the Woman Suffrage Movement had peaked in both the U.S. and her native Hungary and women had obtained the right to vote in both countries (Maria, 2015) (Paletschek, 2004). Although the U.S. had yet to socially catch up to its legislation, the life of the homemaker was being revolutionized by the invention of many new industrially produced goods, electrically powered household appliances, as well as the shift from wood and coal to gas and oil for cooking and heating (Cowan, 1976) (Woman, 2015).

Innovations like indoor plumbing, commercially canned goods, electric laundry irons, and electric washing machines revolutionized housework, and consequently led to a decline in the number of hours needed for housework each week, as well as the need for paid domestic help (Ramey, 2009). Women who had been career housekeepers, as well as unpaid female relatives increasingly found work and personal domiciles outside of the family home by the end of the 1920’s (Cowan, 1976).

Traditional feminine wisdom and the advent of scientific academia

Prior to the scientific revolution of the 18th century women had been the primary keepers of our primitive scientific wisdom. Women maintained knowledge in scientific areas including midwifery, herbalism, agriculture, and general nursing of people and animals, and only after the advent of modern science did the patriarchy strip women of their power; deeming them intellectually and physically incapable of participating in the rigors and glory of the study of modern science. Consequently academia in both Hungary and the U.S. has a long history of denying women access, and Dr. Telkes’ generation was the first to experience relatively widespread acceptance of women pursuing higher education and professional degrees in Hungary. However, even more difficult than achieving an undergraduate or professional degree was to succeed as a woman professor in early twentieth century academia (Wayne, 2010).

Changing times creates space for more professional women

As the 1920’s and 1930’s progressed so did the exponential rise of women receiving advanced degrees and pursuing science careers, and the federal government supported the idea of women in professional science after WWII by encouraging women to go into science careers, although there were still many social pressures making it difficult for women to find optimal employment. The American civil rights movement and the women’s movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s made it easier for women to find equal opportunities and employment. Although Dr. Telkes lived through some amazing times of social change we know that today there is still disparity between the sexes in nearly every professional field (American, 2015) (Wayne, 2010) (Women, 2015).

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