DIY, How-to, Reference

Resource: Article on the History of Women and DIY

“We’ve broken through glass ceilings—we just never learned how to fix them!

I read this article today and found it fascinating. Thought I would share in case do as well. (For those who don’t know, women’s history is a big interest of mine.) There are also several inclusive (gender, sexuality, etc.) books mentioned that readers may want to check out:

I never thought about how manuals were written for men and so they might be intimidating for women. Luckily, there are lots of more relatable blogs out there that give us information nowadays.

How To: On the Unlikely Political and Cultural Power of the DIY Manual


  • The first instruction manual is believed to come from 17th century Germany. “Although instruction manuals had existed for centuries, what rendered Mechanick Exercises revolutionary was its democratization of knowledge—it was written for the average literate schmuck.”
  • “During the late Renaissance era, technical knowledge was concentrated within guilds and other professional societies, leaving a lacuna in the general public. Mechanick Exercises flipped this paradigm, empowering the public with specific, technical knowledge.”
  • By 1900s America, “the majority of instruction manual authors were male, and they were “producing knowledge” for an average male reader.”
  • During WWII female independence, technical knowledge, and physical strength became a new type of female patriotism. Because men were away at war, “Homemaking magazines like Good Housekeeping and American Home encouraged female readers to become ‘Mrs. Fixit.'” 
  • But that paradigm flipped after the war was over. “Rather than wield a welding torch, women were encouraged to wallpaper and reupholster furniture. More intensive tasks, such as fixing a faucet or building a sled, were deemed signs of virulent manhood, prerequisites for the Handyman Dad.”
  • That changed again in the 1990s when “home improvement companies like Home Depot and Lowes quickly adapted their marketing strategies to reach this demographic, offering free “do-it-herself” workshops and branding toolkits for women.”
  • Then women began writing repair and DIY books for other women. And people who were not heteronormative sought out their own information in less mainstream publications.

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