Keeping the Nation's House
336 pages, 6 x 9
16 photos, 1 map
Release Date:01 Mar 2012
Release Date:19 Feb 2011
Release Date:01 Mar 2011

Keeping the Nation's House

Domestic Management and the Making of Modern China

UBC Press

Keeping the Nation’s House unsettles the assumption that home economics training lies far from the seats of power  by revealing how elite Chinese women helped to build modern China one family at a time. Trained between the 1920s and the early 1950s, home economists did not believe that a clear line separated the private (nei) from the public (wai). They believed that the home economics courses taught in centres of higher learning would transform the most fundamental of political spaces – the home – by teaching women to nurture ideal families and manage projects of social reform for a strong, modern China. Although their discipline came undone after 1949, it created a legacy of gendered professionalism and reinforced the idea that leaders should shape domestic rituals of the people.

By focusing on the vision and aspirations of the women who shaped a discipline, this book offers a gendered perspective on the past and reveals how women intellectuals dealt with the transition from the Nationalist to the Communist era.

This revisionist account of modern China will be of interest to students and scholars of contemporary China, gender history, and the history of education.

Schneider’s book makes an outstanding contribution to our understanding of the Nationalist period, particularly the educational reform and social development of the era. She has mined a huge amount of material rarely used before, such as popular women’s magazines and journals; unearthed archival documents in Nanjing, Beijing, Chongqing, and elsewhere; and put it all to excellent use. She skillfully pursues the stories of some of these women into the post-1949 period, showing how they contributed to the 'new China.' Ruth Hayhoe, editor of Education, Culture and Identity in 20th Century China
Schneider’s book is a rigorous and compelling new interpretation of the Nationalist era in Chinese history. Although studies of the era have traditionally centred on militarism and high politics, Schneider shows how the construction of home life was crucial to the formation of a new sense of national identity. Her analysis of home economics is highly suggestive, showing how new discourses of social science and modernity intersected with the most intimate and private spaces in Chinese family life. Rana Mitter, author of A Bitter Revolution: China's Struggle with the Modern World
Helen M. Schneider is an associate professor at Virginia Tech and a research associate at the University of Oxford.


1   The Ideology of the Happy Family, 1915-48 

2   Gendered Responsibilities: Debates over Female Education in the Republican Period 

3   Domestic Discipline: The Development of Home Economics Curricula 

4   A Discipline of Their Own: Home Economists in Institutions of Higher Learning 

5   Experimenting with the Family: Family Education Experimental Zones in the 1940s 

6   Cleaning House: The Last Decade of a Gendered Discipline 

7   The Post-1949 Politics of Home Economics: Stories of Professional Evolution 



Glossary of Chinese Terms, Institutions, and Names 





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