Here's a letter that some people cc'd have liked, sent to MS. Magazine on the remarkable new insight of Pat Thompson we all missed for so long. I'd love to have feedback on how well I was able get past the evident social barrier that caused MS and the whole feminist movement to miss the deep positive interest and appeal of Pat's insight. The purpose of "home economics" really has always been "the care of the sacred flame" of the home. Is that simple truth just hidden from view by thinking of "home economics" in the negative, as feminism seems to have done, as "chores done with no comparable reward"...? I'm not sure how I phrase it here couldn't also be done better too, of course.
MS. Magazine, 9/26/14, Senior Editor Michele Kort,
We really missed it! Pat Thompson was a 1948 Barnard grad who “got the message”, and followed it with a varied career leading to exploring a truly fresh conception of the political science and economics of feminism. As a distinguished professor at Lehman college at the age 79 she published her “Hestian Trilogy”, beautifully laying out her radical reinvention of the concept of “home economics”. It got as close to zero attention as one can get, it seems for the usual reason, asking unexpected questions. What one finds hidden away in those books is an “accidental theorist” going ALL the way to the roots of things, to discover the original roles of women in anchoring our families, as guardians of the flame of hearth and home, found documented in the home centered cultures of early Greece.
Thompson writes beautifully too, but it seems everyone was thrown off by her asking unexpected questions, and yes, also by the pejoratives associating “home economics”, so often treated as a concern with “menial chores done by obedient women”. Yes, that is how the dominant authoritarian cultures interpret the worth of nearly everything… The labor of the home, though, as it works in the home, comes along with the role of being principle caretaker for the living culture of the home, is the center of our lives, found only in the place where we bring the spoils of the marketplace to give as gifts and share freely, fulfilling our main purpose in putting up with the increasing indignities of the daily struggle outside the home.
For humans, “home making” is not of low value because it is given away, but of high value because it is given away, in celebration of things we value more highly than money. It’s the active caring for our homes centering our lives, loves, ways of learning and traditions. Home is where we both celebrate and transmit our ancient family customs, knowledge and rituals, providing the “work place” and “fair commons” where the living cultures of our personal and extended families find security and thrive. It’s that “home making” that serves as the true essential source and foundation of all human culture, the continuity of the light within us today passed on without a break from our ancient past, not valueless because it’s free, but truly priceless.
Pat shows that’s also how it was 3000 years ago, and … offers a fascinating tale of how “something got lost in the translation” as the meanings of our words were altered again and again over time, by ever more dominant cultures of rules and commerce, having no place in their abstractions for recognizing the organic relationships of “everyday life”.
I hope I show you the right lens to for reassessing her work. Please have another look. ;Jessie
This is a fine compact essay, with a personal side, that I added to Helen Finidori's discussion on "Heuristics for discussing the commons" on CAN. She has raised the question of using "pattern languages" found in nature for better understanding and developing engagement methods for understanding of commons. Hestia and Hermes, of course, can be studied for the hints their early traces offer of the very ancient "pattern language" used by the pre-patriarchal Greek and Minoan home centered "commons cultures" two millennia BC. Those foundation cultures of our own were greatly altered as western civilization developed the "pattern language" for hierarchical and growth obsessed societies, organized around ever expanding centers of wealth and power taking ever increasing control of nature and man.