Until the mid-twentieth century, homemaking was a respected — and, frankly, expected — full-time occupation for women. The diligent homemaker studied cooking, cleaning, and child care to attain, according to Hazard’s autobiography, For Love of Mike, a “more beautiful and worthwhile Wisconsin homelife.”
Census records show that in the 1930s, most Wisconsin women lived on farms, and while certainly not working for pay, almost all women worked both inside and outside the home. While her husband and sons worked in the fields, she cooked, cleaned, and mended clothing. She also preserved meat, baked bread, churned butter, tended the garden, canned fruits and vegetables, raised chickens, and, sometimes, even worked in the fields herself. All tasks were performed largely without electrical appliances, gas, or running water.
The full-time homemaker was an icon, an ideal that women could strive to reach, even if not perfectly attain. Although program guides in the Wisconsin Historical Society archives show that the Homemakers’ Program covered such topics as the correct composition of a casserole and the many uses of cottage cheese in summer salads, Hazard’s philosophy of homemaking went far deeper: she believed that proper technique and modern technology — such as washing machines and frozen food — would vastly improve the lives of rural women.
The Homemakers’ Program had been created in 1929 by WHA Radio and the UW College of Agriculture to spread this very message. Until then, WHA Radio had periodically broadcast farm programs with domestic themes such as “Taking the Drudgery out of House Cleaning.” Reaching residents in all corners of Wisconsin was a central concern of the extension service in the 1920s, according to UW historian Rima Apple MA’74, PhD’81, and the UW College of Agriculture had come to depend upon radio broadcasts to spread useful information.