Letter: De Beauvoir: no ordinary housewife

Sir: Simone de Beauvoir, quoted by Peter Popham in his article (30 April) about housewives, is an unlikely role model for many women. She had no children, no husband and no real household to run. She grew up in a bourgeois milieu with at least one servant to do the domestic drudgery. When the family circumstances changed and they no longer had their maid she complained about her allotted daily task of emptying the rubbish bins. During the Second World War, it is quite clear from her autobiography, the austerity that pushed her into making pots of soup was quite a novelty to her. She rented rooms and lived alone for much of her life.

Her lofty appraisal of women's roles is unrealistic. "Woman is not called upon to build a better world." Really? If women forsook their household drudgery we would soon have high levels of disease and squalor. Let us stop disparaging housework and recognise its contribution to a healthy and orderly society. The more men become involved in running households the sooner the wages for housework campaign will become a reality.

Moira Pemberton

Waterlooville, Hampshire