Before there was Martha Stewart there was Christine Frederick, innovator, scientific homemaker and kitchen connoisseur. From 1912 through the 1940s, Frederick transformed domestic efficiency at her Applecroft Home Experiment Station in Greenlawn, New York, where she took modernizing homemaking to a new level.
Married to J. George Frederick, an advertising executive with J. Walter Thompson, Christine Frederick was fascinated with her husband’s talk about “Taylorism” a type of scientific management system created to efficiently run labor in factories. Stopwatches and charts served as a means to study motion and the efficiency in which work could get done. Frederick, trying to break away from her mother’s Victorian-era notions on how to run and organize a household, decided to apply these same scientific principles to domestic housework and cooking. She often stated that she “was weighed down with drudgifying labor,” especially after the birth of her two children.
When the Frederick family moved from the Bronx to an old apple orchard in Greenlawn in 1912, Mrs. Frederick established what she called the Applecroft Home Experiment Station. It was here where she ultimately lofted her career as a columnist, author, consumer advocate, leader in advertising, public speaker and expert in home management. A series of four articles in Ladies Home Journal led her to write her own column and three books, her first being The New Housekeeping Efficiency Studies in Home Management, published in 1913. In both her column and her books, she served as a home consultant to the middle-class American housewife on how the household could be run more efficiently.
In her book, Frederick wrote in her preface that despite the fact that “she liked housework and was especially fond of cooking,” she never seemed to “get anywhere” and had very little free time. She set out to change that, and to help other women in the process.
She started out by showing, through the use of diagrams, the most efficient way of arranging kitchen equipment. She rid herself of the old Victorian pantry and, instead, set up storage near food preparation areas. She believed that shelving should only be one item deep to avoid needless reaching and searching of items. As far as household devices and tools, they were grouped into four categories. They should be fuel savers, step savers, labor savers and time savers. For instance, Frederick recommended using a dish drainer that would allow dishes to dry themselves; a stationary eggbeater to prevent wasted motion; and a long-handled dustpan to prevent stooping. Through her use of timers and stopwatches she concluded that it takes seven minutes to chop a pound of meat using a wooden board and knife. A meat chopper could chop three pounds of meat in one minute, thus saving time and energy. She labeled the lazy Susan “The Silent Waitress.” Frederick even went as far as to match the proper countertop height to the height of the homemaker.
Christine Frederick continues to stand at the forefront of modern day kitchen efficiency and household innovation.
(Information courtesy of the Greenlawn-Centerport Historical Association)