A History of Black Women as Housewives

black women taking a selfie on phone with black boy on a tan couch
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For decades, the stereotype of the “perfect housewife” has been a white, middle-class woman with a domestic mentality. However, this narrow view filled with implications of who can be a successful housewife ignores the experiences and contributions of Black women as housewives, a group who has also played a significant role in managing their households and raising families.

History of Black Housewives

Black women have a rich history of working both inside and outside of the home. After slavery was abolished, being a housewife was not a considerable option. They worked a “double shift,” as they spent their day working for white families and returned home to do the same. Historically, Black men did not partake in domestic work (cooking, cleaning, and child rearing) as these skills were considered “women’s work.”. 

Throughout the early 20th century, many Black women continued to work as domestic servants for white households, where they performed typical chores and provided care for the children. Despite facing significant challenges, including low pay and discriminatory practices, many Black women had little choice but to help provide for their families. Thus, very few were given the privilege to solely serve within their homes. In the mid-20th century, many black women entered the workforce as the result of increased opportunities due to the economy and civil rights.


Black Wives Embrace Their Independence

In the 1980s, Alice Walker, an author and activist, created the term ‘womanist’ in her published work, Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose.

Womanism is a term used to refer to feminists of color, more specifically Black feminists. Womanism centers the experiences, contributions and efforts of Black feminists to better the world around them for all of humanity, not just themselves. Womanists speak to the injustices faced by Black women, men, children and families and frequently fight against these injustices by leading, participating in or supporting various social justice movements.”

Womanism, which began as a theory, sparked a movement within the feminist movement to highlight the subset oppression of black women. This formation began due to Black women being invisible in both the feminist and civil rights movements. This movement ignited the Black community as more Black women began their educational journeys and branched out into various industries in the workforce. Initially, Black wives and women were once limited to being domestic service workers. 

Once the feminist and womanist movement began, it shifted the workforce, their households, and ultimately the climate and culture in America as their visibility in the world grew. Along with their newfound independence and zeal, came new struggles as their presence began to challenge members of society by breaking glass ceilings. Black wives were working just as many hours as their husbands, forcing them to pick up more responsibilities in the home; equalling their value. As years passed, Black wives would encourage their daughters to dream new dreams and work towards their professional goals before opting into the family life. 


Stereotypes of Black Housewives

The depiction of Black housewives in the media has raised many eyebrows… for good and bad reasons. While some people like to focus on these negative aspects, they have ultimately changed what it means, and looks, like to be a housewife.

With franchises like Real Housewives, each woman is someone who does more than cook, clean, and bake cookies all day. These women live luxurious lifestyles, can afford to hire help, and break into various industries such as entertainment, beauty, education, and more. This version of the housewife shows women living in their power and being productive with their awarded free time. All the while adding financial value within their homes and increasing their social status. 

While these women are growing their social popularity, the everyday Black housewife seeks to make a similar impact. Many Black housewives are not solely spending their time taking care of their home and children. In addition to chores and child rearing, these women find themselves with a side hustle.

The choice to stay at home

I have been a stay-at-home-mom for almost four years, and during this time, I became a parenting coach, sold hundreds of children’s books, built websites for entrepreneurs, provided social media services, and taken on diverse writing projects. Every skill I learned during my time of being a part of the workforce, I use at my leisure to earn passive income. While my income is not expected, it is necessary for my mental health to still have a purpose outside of my husband and children. It is up to my discretion how much work I am willing to do, as my home, husband, and children are my main priority. They are why I am no longer a part of the traditional workforce, and it is a freedom in my eyes to do all the things I love while raising my children.

The Challenges of Black Housewives 

One of the most significant challenges faced by Black women as housewives is the lack of representation of us in this position. In other communities, it is supported, expected even, for women to be homemakers. Black housewives have almost always been an anomaly as they have always been expected to work. I believe we face this transgression because so many Black women fought so hard to break into every gate kept industry.


The lack of cultural representation of Black women as housewives often leave us feeling overlooked and lead to our marginalization in discussions about homemaking and household management. This lack of representation can lead to feelings of invisibility and isolation for Black women who choose this path. Many are not only proud of their work as housewives and are committed to their families, but they are capable. It is equally important that both sets of women—the Black working wife and the Black housewife—be accurately and wholly represented in all aspects of our culture.

Black Women as Housewives: In Conclusion

Black women have continuously played a significant role as housewives, despite facing significant challenges and stereotypes. By breaking down these barriers and embracing the diversity within this community, we can recognize and celebrate the contributions of these women to their families and society. Whether working inside or outside of the home, Black women continue to demonstrate strength, resilience, and resourcefulness, making them true examples of the power of women. 

Cheers to them!

Peaches Dean is a parenting coach and writer/author. She uses her decade of experience in working with children and families to fuel her passion for writing. Her goal is to empower women in their life’s journey, especially as it pertains to parenting.

To learn more about Peaches, follow her on these social media platforms:
Instagram: @PeachesDean_
Facebook: Peaches Dean

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