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Disempowering Users--The Emergence of Su... > A Case Study: The Emergence of "Ther... - Pg. 35

Chapter | 2 From Smart Grid to Smart Energy Use 35 most, such as in remote applications [6, pp. 128­143]. Needless to say electric utility companies, such as General Electric, were prime movers in the optimiza- tion of the electric compression machines that were to play such a significant role in domestic load building through the twentieth century and beyond. Even the widespread assumption that the uptake of electrified energy ser- vices was, in some sense or other, "natural" because they were inherently super- ior in terms of the comfort, convenience, and time saving they delivered does not always stand up to scrutiny. As the title of Edith Cowan's classic More Work for Mother [6] declares sometimes the situation was the inverse. Vacuum cleaners, for example, whose uptake was only second to that of electric irons until around 1950 [4, p. 7], were expected typically to be used, by mothers, about once a week, whereas the far more infrequent rug beating they replaced was generally regarded as men's work up until this time. This was not the story told, however, by both appliance manufacturers, most of whom were also utilities, and various other societal interests with which they were closely aligned, such as the home economics movement. For them a very particular model of electrification took pride of place, focused by contemporary ideals such as that of progress, but the numbers tell a different story. Women spent as much time on housework late in the twentieth century as they did at the beginning [5,6], although what they did changed considerably.