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Documentation and domestic technology: Household sewing technologies and feminine authority

, New Mexico State University, United States

Doctor of Philosophy, New Mexico State University . Awarded


Documentation and Domestic Technology investigates documentation history associated with the sewing machine and the sewing pattern and asks if the documentation accompanying these new technologies recognizes or challenges women's authority with household sewing. Chapter One discusses contemporary definitions of technical writing and argues that these are based upon sexist views of work, workplace, and technology. Feminist research in science and technology demonstrates how sexist views of these terms exclude the accomplishments of women from histories of science and technology, and it is asserted that this has occurred with the history of technical communication thus far. Chapter Two describes how sewing machine manuals, pattern instructions, and magazine articles and advertisements were selected for study and describes how the five-step historical research method advocated by Connor was implemented. Chapter Three considers authority, audience-centered writing techniques, and sexism in early sewing machine manuals, and Chapter Four records instances of feminine authorship and authority in instructions for paper sewing patterns.

Chapter Five considers the findings from the previous chapters and notes that three types of information had to be conveyed to the users of these two 19th-century home sewing technologies. These types of information were machine-based knowledge, usage-based knowledge, and outcome-based knowledge. Manufacturers left usage-based information to women, circulated orally by female teachers, relatives, or friends; in spite of women's contributions to "women's work" technologies, masculine authority survives and is propagated via text. The chapter concludes by reconsidering definitions of technical writing and argues that definition should be expanded to include three final observations: (1) That technical writing exists in the intersection between private and public spheres; (2) That technical writing has close relationships with technology, construed as knowledge, action, and tools; and (3) That technical writing often seeks to make tacit knowledge explicit. The chapter concludes by identifying two areas for future research: (1) identifying women's contributions to technical communication by investigating historical records association with the early women's club movement in America and (2) revising technical communication pedagogy to discuss pragmatic application of non-sexist and gender-neutral writing strategies.


Durack, K.T. Documentation and domestic technology: Household sewing technologies and feminine authority. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, New Mexico State University. Retrieved August 5, 2021 from .

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