Mrs. W. C. Lathrop’s letter thanking Thomas Edison for electricity, 1921.

In the early 1920s, electrical devices increasingly penetrated the American home, with a particular impact on the women who managed the household. In this 1921 letter to Thomas Edison, Mrs. W. C. Lathrop, the wife of a prosperous Kansas surgeon, thanked Edison for changing her life, helping to make her “a wife not tired and dissatisfied but a woman waiting who has worked faithfully believing that work is beneficial and who is now rested and ready to serve the tired man and discuss affairs of the day.” To be sure, Lathrop’s use of electricity far exceeded that of the typical Kansas housewife in 1921. Not until after the Rural Electrification Act in the 1930s and other efforts to expand access would many rural residents benefit from electrical devices.

How did the new devices reinforce Lathrop’s feminine domesticity?

How did electricity help relieve some of her drudgery and increase access to broader cultural opportunities?


Lathrop, Mrs. W.C. Mrs. W.C. Lathrop to Tomas Edison, Norton, KS, March 6, 1921.

Library Item Date: 


Teaching Unit: 

Electricity Consumption: Culture, Gender and Power