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  • MichelleMedenblik

FRAGMENTS | William Shrout and the American Houswife

In 1941, Life magazine commissioned renowned American photographer William Shrout to embark on a remarkable assignment: to document the lives of housewives in the United States. These women, constituting a staggering demographic of around thirty million, played a vital role in American society.


Jane Amberg, a young and representative figure from the middle class in Illinois, was carefully chosen to symbolize the modern housewife. Through Shrout's lens, the daily routines and experiences of these millions of women were vividly captured and shared with Life magazine's readership.


However, the course of history took an unforeseen turn. Just two months after the publication of Shrout's article, the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the United States into World War II. This event triggered a dramatic shift in the female workforce, leading to a revolution in the number of women joining various industries. From 1940 to 1945, the number of women employed surged from 14 million to 19 million, reflecting an increase in their representation from 26% to 36%.


Shrout's photographs provide a window into a bygone era, showcasing the lives and aspirations of the housewives who formed a cornerstone of American society. The subsequent changes brought about by the war only serve to emphasize the significance of his work, documenting a transformative period in the history of American women.




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