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hearthstory An introduction to our series on how to reinvent Home for Human Flourishing in the 21st Century Kathryn Lukas-Damer & Erin Szuma

have you ever wondered why In the developed West, where we are wealthier, more educated and have more freedom than at any other time in our history... why are humans not flourishing at unparalleled levels?

these are the best of times Maternal mortality: Maternal deaths per 100K births are down from 850 to 32 in less than 100 years.

Life expectancy: Americans are living to 78 years on average, 25 years more than they lived 100 years ago.

Poverty rate: 11.6% of Americans live in poverty compared with 53-68% in the 1920s.

Occupational safety: Workrelated deaths per 100K Americans are down from 28.3 to 1.42 in the last 100 years.

Technology access: 86% of American households have Internet service. 85% of adults have smartphones.

Education level: High school graduation rate is up to 85% from 20% in the 1920s.

Today, American women hold more college degrees than men. 39% of women ages 25+ hold bachelors degrees, up from 8% in 1970. This is one of many metrics that demonstrate the parity women have achieved in half a century.

37% 36% Americans report serious loneliness (including 51% of mothers and 61% of people aged 18-25)



adolescents aged 12-17 who feel persistent hopelessness or sadness

Americans don't know their neighbors. Just 18% know & spend time with neighbors.

the decrease in marriage rate over the past 50 years.

32% Nearly a third of children living in single parent households live below the poverty line.

1 in 4 eighth graders are proficient in math.

78% Americans don't feel their children will be better off.

1 in 3

1 in 5 American children are obese

Teen girls seriously consider attempting suicide (up 60% in the last decade)



Men are friendless, up 5X since 1990.

27% Americans over 65 years old live alone.

Americans under 30 say having children is important

9.4% American children are clinically diagnosed with anxiety.

1 in 4 American children grow up without a father

47% mothers feel parenting is stressful all or most of the time

we wondered why

We are Kathryn, a practical Gen Jones-er and seasoned entrepreneur, and Erin, a curious Millennial and communications professional, who connected through an online conversation while exploring this very question from two different perspectives.


In my four-decade journey in the food industry as a chef, restaurant owner, food company founder, cookbook author and TEDx-er, I’ve always been drawn to traditional foods and women’s roles in our culinary history. In my earliest days as a chef and traveler, I remember venturing to off-thebeaten-path locales, eager to learn the age-old recipes and techniques passed down through generations. More often than not, it was the grandmothers, mothers, and daughters who were the custodians of these culinary treasures. Their kitchens, humming with activity, were schools of invaluable knowledge. And it wasn't just about the recipes. Each dish came with a story, a history interwoven with tales of family, love, hardship, and celebration. In 2016 while doing research for another project, I started to notice a disturbing trend: as cultures modernized and women moved from these traditionally domestic spheres into the market economy, the knowledge wisdom, expertise they had once been revered for, seemed to lose its' social status. Both the soft skills and the practical knowledge that nourish and propel humanity and ensure our species survival have in the last 100 years largely been relegated to the lowest rungs of our societal hierarchies in the developed West. How did this happen? Finding an answer to this question became an obsession. As I ventured deeper into our historical record, a compelling story began to unfold that not only shed light on our present predicament, but also hinted at paths towards possible solutions. And then I met Erin, a young woman on the verge of motherhood who was thinking about many of the same topics but through a different lens. Her insights have not only enhanced my own understanding of the issues women her generation face but continue to shape our collaborative efforts at our nonprofit, Hearth Matters.


I tried out more than a handful of careers before my maternal instinct showed up and revealed a path to purpose in work that I had never once considered. What if I wasn’t meant to be a marketer or an HR manager or a gym franchisee, or anything related to the various jobs I’d held throughout my 20s? For the first time in my life, I imagined that I could be totally fulfilled as a mother and wife, by building a family rather than a business. This primal instinct and the thoughts that came with it were wildly unsettling. After all, I was college-educated and high-achieving, an independent young woman who grew up knowing she could do and be virtually anything she put her mind to. I was supposed to live up to my potential and walk through doors that had been opened for me by generations of trailblazing women who came before. There was only one option that was off the table: full-time homemaker. While developing my plan to transition from wannabe girlboss to a home-based job that fit me in ‘Mom mode,’ I began to notice the way our culture portrays mothers and homemakers as oppressed or lazy and to recognize that I had internalized these narratives from a very early age. I wondered how many women are like me, trying to “make it” in the market economy when they’d much prefer to make home while caring for their children. I also observed a knowledge gap and asked myself why, given all of my education, I knew so little about my own fertility or how to start a family. Then, I met Kathryn and she told me a story about how the hearth lost its social and economic significance, and where the feminism I was raised with may have fallen short of meaningfully advancing all women’s interests. I was drawn to her pragmatic ideas about how we might upgrade the lives of mothers and homemakers, their families and their communities in the 21st Century. Hearth Matters and this chapbook series represent our hope for the future and for the generations of young women who come after us.

the primer In the 60’s and 70’s, as women poured into the labor market, there wasn’t much of a plan for who was going to mind hearth and home. Modern appliances played a pivotal role in this transition, shrinking the typical woman's household tasks from 60 hours per week at the turn of the 20th century to around 20 by the 1970’s. Liberated from much of their domestic labor, many women jumped at the chance to bolster their family’s finances with a second income or to become financially independent. The era symbolized progress, as women envisioned blending rewarding careers with family life. Fast forward to today, and the realities of modern life tell a different story. Contemporary women and mothers work 40 hours a week in the market economy—many in jobs they don’t love—only to return home to another 22.5 hours of domestic labor caring for their families. Ironically, the time gains made in the 1970’s thanks to modern conveniences have all but disappeared. Likewise, monetary gains have slipped as families allocate a significant portion of their earnings to childcare. In order to keep our homes running smoothly, we must outsource much of the domestic labor we once took care of ourselves, like cooking, cleaning and childcare, to the market economy, which often means settling for lesser quality goods and services at a premium cost. Despite our best intentions and Herculean efforts, the fact is this new arrangement is simply not working. We’re exhausted, our kids are struggling with alarming rates of obesity, illness and depression, and our men aren’t faring much better. The hope and optimism of the seventies has faded into despair for many women. Having it all turns out to be a myth.

the vision While exploring traditional food systems and the decline in the status of women's roles within the domestic sphere as cultures modernized, Kathryn began to wonder if there was a possible link between some of our societal ills and too much market economy encroachment into our homes. And then an idea occurred to her: what if we could merge the practical knowledge and wisdom of the traditional ‘cottage economy’ cultures she cherished with the innovations of the information age and the sharing economy? A vision started to crystallize: a domestic economic framework that not only reduced women's workload and economic vulnerability but also elevated the status and significance of the caregiving activities in our homes, aligning them with their importance to our survival as a species and ensuring a brighter future for our children. What follows is a brief telling of her findings and the unfolding of a vision that inspired our forthcoming book due to be released in the spring of 2024. .


a brief history

lexicon: hearth The concept of "hearth" as the home's heart is a powerful symbol. In ancient times, the hearth was the place where people cooked their meals, warmed themselves during cold weather, and gathered for storytelling and companionship. In his book Catching Fire, Harvard Anthropologist and Primatologist Richard Wrangram points out that our brains have doubled in size since we started using fire to make our food more digestible. He argues that this development made us the modern humans we are today. In the modern context, even though many homes may not physically have a hearth or fireplace, the term still evokes images of family, care, warmth and nourishment and hospitality. We use the term ‘hearth’ to represent the domestic sphere.

lexicon: human flourishing The concept of human flourishing was central to classical Greek philosophy, particularly within the works of Aristotle. He referred to it as "eudaimonia," which is often translated to ‘happiness,’ ‘prosperity,’ or ‘flourishing.’ To flourish as a human, according to Aristotle, is to live a virtuous life, seek wisdom, cultivate good relationships, and actively contribute to the well-being of the community. It's about realizing one's full potential and living in a way that is true to one's nature and purpose.

from cave to farm Though our understanding of how our ancient ancestors made “home” is largely speculative, we do know that from around 500,000 B.C. to approximately 8,000 B.C., humans were nomadic hunter-gatherers living in small and perhaps egalitarian groups. During this era, the mastery of fire lit our first campfires and served as a significant technological catalyst for human evolution. Just as fire revolutionized our early existence, another pivotal technology would forever reshape our conception of home: the plough. Emerging in different places around the world between 8,000-4000 B.C, this seemingly simple invention propelled humans into the Agricultural Revolution, and into fixed dwellings centered around a new type of campfire–the hearth. Our new homes became epicenters of economic activity where families engaged in farming, crafting, and trading.

from farm to factory Echoing the profound effects of fire and the plough, the 17th and 18th centuries brought new technologies to our homes. Steam and electricity sparked the Industrial Revolution and with it a new market economy. Work, which had been rooted in our homes and embedded in cottage economies, now moved to factories. The once blurred space between home and work and the division of labor between the sexes, was now distinctly split into two separate spheres–the private domestic sphere managed by women and the public sphere led mostly by men.

from factory to boardroom In the early days of the Industrial Revolution, first wave feminists united to fight the deplorable working conditions in factories and eventually for the right to vote. Not long after, first wave feminists splintered into various groups. In her book, Feminism Against Progress, author Mary Harrington describes two of those groups as ‘Team Care’ and ‘Team Freedom.’ Team Care championed the domestic sphere as a sanctuary away from the often alienating and harsh realities of the public sphere, while Team Freedom saw an opportunity to break free from traditional roles and pursue equality with men in the public sphere, in the new market economy. Influenced by several new technologies including home appliances, the automobile and, perhaps most importantly, the birth control pill, second wave feminists escaped the confines of their suburban homes at unprecedented rates in the pursuit of selfdiscovery, equality and financial autonomy. Western women have made incredible gains in the public sphere over the last 60 years achieving levels of education, equality and financial independence that our great grandmothers could only dream of. But there has been a price: we’ve had to leave the domestic sphere largely unattended in order to accomplish all of this.

feminism and the hearth Although there are records of women challenging misogyny as far back as the medieval period, the modern feminist movement didn’t start to take shape until the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, there are so many forms of feminism it can make your head spin. For starters, there are 4 waves of feminism and within that larger framework, there are liberal feminists, radical feminists, Marxist feminists, cultural feminists, gender critical feminists and reactionary feminists, and on. You might be surprised as we were to learn that a majority of women in the U.S. do not identify as feminists, even though the overwhelming majority of us believe in things like equal pay and rights. We were perplexed until we came across research that revealed why so many women are hesitant to embrace feminism despite agreeing with its core principles. Many believe that feminism is stewarded by and for a small, elite class of women in academia (who often rely on a servant class of women to run their households) who are alarmingly out of touch with ordinary women’s lives. Feminism has a long history of hostility towards marriage, motherhood and traditional family life because these institutions are seen as oppressive or limiting to self-realization and fulfilling lives. The majority of women, however, want to live in harmony with men, have children and form family units. Feminists maintains that women could 'have it all' if only taxpayer and/or employer funded programs could provide maternity/paternity leave and address the costs of childcare. And yet, 50 years after their movement little progress has been made in the US in terms of helping families. Feminists tells our young women they can be anything they want when they grow up – except full time householders and stay at home moms. See: #Girlboss movement and portrayals of pregnancy as enslavement.

Despite the strides women have made in the public sphere, many of us navigate both spheres. The majority of us will become mothers and oversee households at some point in our lives. Modern forms of feminism emphasize and promote women's achievements in the public sphere, but there's a notable silence about our roles in the domestic sphere. While we recognize and appreciate the hard work and sacrifices of the feminists who came before us, we believe it's time for a more genuinely inclusive form of feminism — one that speaks for the broader and often silent majority of women. A feminism that keeps the hearth flame of humanity lit.

who tends the hearth flame now? Amidst this sweeping tide of change, and in our collective pursuit of progress, have we inadvertently dimmed the flame that nourishes the human family?

the tended hearth SHELTER The sanctuary of home and hearth provides protection from the outside world. Home is a place of comfort and privacy, and respite from the demands of the outside world. Within the secure embrace of home, individuals learn about themselves, define their values and cultivate the confidence required to face life's obstacles head-on.

FOOD Our hearths are the hub of culinary activity in the home. The act of preparing food for others is an expression of love and care and helps to foster social bonds. The hearth is a classroom, where knowledge is passed down through generations, preserving cultural traditions and promoting self-sufficiency.

FAMILY Home and hearth are where family bonds are created and strengthened, where values and traditions are imparted and shared across generations. Home is the first place where we learn about trust, empathy, cooperation, responsibility, and countless other social and emotional skills that are essential for our future.

WORK Throughout human history, our survival and prosperity hinged on our ingenuity and labor, and the collective efforts of families and communities. Our homes were sites of production connected to cottage economies, and centers of education, where skills and knowledge were imparted from one generation to the next.

un-tended SHELTER Today, our homes are more comfortable than ever before, yet their sanctity as havens from the public sphere is at risk. The same technology that streamlines our lives also clandestinely tracks, records, and shares our actions with companies eager to convert our habits into sales. Devices meant to deepen connections are also vehicles for market-driven algorithms to infiltrate our private lives, vying for our attention in a bid to monetize our interactions. Moreover, this technology offers a potentially damaging gateway to our children, challenging the very essence of our homes as shelters.

FOOD The pressure and fatigue associated with juggling work outside of the home with family life have resulted in a growing dependency on quickly prepared processed foods contributing to numerous health issues. Cherished family traditions and bonding over homemade meals have significantly diminished. Culinary traditions passed down through generations have mostly faded away and most young people are barely proficient in the kitchen today.

FAMILY Family unity is fraying, the vibrant tapestry of traditions and intergenerational wisdom, quietly thinning. With children often cared for outside the home, the invaluable role of family and community in their upbringing is undervalued, potentially at great societal cost. When home, family members often retreat into private digital realms that create isolation and subvert the deeply nurturing connections that define the essence of familial bonds.

WORK Once a hub of entrepreneurship within a bustling cottage economy, the home now stands largely idle in economic terms, its residents labor now owned by the external market economy born of the Industrial Revolution. This shift also saw women journey from the domestic sphere to the public sphere. No longer able to care for children while working in their homes, the cost and stress of childcare outside of the home has become a new burden for many families.

hearthbroken women

WITH CHILDREN Women trying to raise children while working in the public sphere are exhausted, depressed and experiencing high levels of anxiety. In addition to their weekly work in the public sphere, women work another 22.5 hours at home and often bear the emotional burden of managing a home in ways we cannot quantify. Many mothers and homemakers who work full time in the domestic sphere report feeling lonely and disconnected. Low status is often given to women in these roles and they are seen as either oppressed, misguided or unmotivated by many. WITHOUT CHILDREN Many young women who have watched their own mothers and/or peers struggle have realized that ‘having it all’ is a myth. Citing a poor outlook for the future, a growing number of Americans are choosing to forego having families altogether. Educated women working in the market struggle to find suitable male partners who share their values and income potential. Despite their stated desire to have children, half of all women who reach age 30 will go on to experience “unplanned” childlessness. To keep their homes running, women have increasingly outsourced their homes to the market.

the outsourced hearth The quality, care and wisdom of ‘homemade’ has been replaced with the profit-focused ‘market-made.’ In 2022, Americans spent billions on outsourced products and services that stand in for our hearths: $362B on fast food $61B on childcare $37B on home entertainment $12B on residential cleaning services $9B on prepared meal delivery services And, companies spent $4.6B on advertising to children in 2021.

Sources: www.ibisworld.com & www.statista.com

in our relentless pursuit of progress ...have we forgotten the pivotal role that home and hearth play in our lives, and in a healthy society? In order to navigate our way home, we must first examine how we arrived here. We’ve identified

four crucial shifts that we think might have caused us to lose our way.

the hearth lost its knowledge The knowledge and the skills of home and hearth, traditionally passed down from one generation to the next through hands-on learning and shared experiences, have lost their value and status in our culture or have been replaced by the market. The effect of this shift is now becoming apparent in younger generations, many of whom struggle to successfully manage their daily lives when they leave their parents homes.

The hearth was once the school of essential life skills. Although the Industrial Revolution brought about immense progress, it emphasized specialization, leading us to overlook the well-rounded skills that were once nurtured at home and within the community. – Kathryn Lukas Damer

The shift from home-based cottage businesses to public workplaces during the Industrial Era stripped the household of its income-generating capacity. This transition also recast the perception of work, privileging waged industrial jobs while inadvertently marginalizing the ‘unpaid’ labor in the once economically thriving domestic sphere.

the hearth lost its job In such homes (pre-Industrial Era), women might tend a smallholding, make food or craft products for sale, make the household’s clothes and perform countless other tasks – along with the care of children – that were every bit as vital to the household as earning money. – Mary Harrington, Author of Feminism Against Progress

the hearth lost its cultural value

When women left the hearth in order to find equality, freedom and financial autonomy in the public sphere, one of the unintended consequences was the marginalization of the domestic sphere. Newly accustomed to a paycheck from the market economy, the unpaid-but-essential household and care labor, which was still largely performed by women, lost its value in our status hierarchies and our collective subconscious. ... When we apply market economy metrics to value the labor performed in the domestic sphere we lose sight of its mission critical significance to our survival.

The devaluation of women's work in the home has consequences that reach far beyond individual households; it shapes everything from the global economy to social policy making. –Katrine Marçal, Author of 'Who Cooked Adam Smith's Dinner?'

we have lost our hope The real problem with humanity is that we have paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and god-like technology. –E.O. Wilson

We must let hope, not pessimism be our selffulfilling prophecy for the future. It is the only path forward.

In a bid to monetize our attention, new era technologies deploy algorithms that reward outrage. When the primitive part of our brains fall for these market driven strategies, we lose hope in the future, and faith in humanity at time when we need each more than ever.

Hope is a moral obligation. –Immanuel Kant

how do we find our way home? The chaos we’re experiencing is typical of massive societal change that emerges with new technologies and forms of communication. A new era is upon us, one that presents an opportunity – and a responsibility – to chart a new course home. Old structures and ways of thinking held over from the industrial era will not endure or serve us in the information age.

Now is the time for an upgrade.

…Family structure and gender roles don’t exist in or emerge from a vacuum. Instead, they come from a complex interplay or ostensibly unrelated factors, most of which are sparked or at least accelerated by technological change...” –Debora L. Spar Author of Work Marry Love: How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny

welcome to the information age Opportunities abound: Democratized access to information Innovation opportunities in all sectors Major advances in physical and mental health knowledge Global connectivity helps us understand and learn from other cultures Open source work culture promotes collaboration and accelerates innovation Positive shifts in societal norms

But the challenges are real: Job displacement and economic upheaval Information overload and viral spread of misinformation Pressure to conform online limits open and honest public discourse Siloed echo chambers creates “us vs. them” mentality Fear of online backlash may limit risk taking, novel ideas and innovation Privacy and security concerns

what will you do? DO NOTHING Unchecked technological advancement spurred by market interests drives our future. We delegate key decisions to AI systems that are incapable of understanding quintessential human experiences of embodiment, connection and spirituality. Civilization declines.


TAKE ACTION Collectively, we seek and develop new, robust narratives that help us build the character and strength needed to navigate this transition to a new era. We consciously choose not to become subjugated by our own creations. We innovate new systems that prioritize people and planet above market forces and technological progress. Civilization flourishes.

The future is not something we enter. The future is something we create. –Leonard Sweet

we choose action


OUR VISION We envision a world where mothers and householders are empowered with the respect, knowledge and resources necessary to create nurturing homes, and every child receives the essential care they need to thrive.

OUR MISSION We are on a mission to improve the social and economic status of mothers and householders by reuniting home and work.

OUR INITIATIVES REVIVE HOME & HEARTH CHAMPION THE DOMESTIC SPHERE We embrace the philosophy of early feminists who viewed home as a sanctuary that required loving and skilled leadership, and saw the roles of householders as essential to human well-being. Our goal is to reintroduce and amplify this perspective in our cultural consciousness through our podcast, social media, speaking engagements, strategic partnerships, and a forthcoming book. We also actively engage with tech leaders to ensure their technologies are aligned with human flourishing.

REUNITE WORK & HOME WITH A DOMESTECONOMY Our Neighbor-to-Neighbor Network model reimagines and upgrades our ancestors’ cottage economy by uniting producers and consumers in a homebased "sharing" economy model. This model prioritizes human flourishing and makes financial sense. Multiple NTN Networks form a Domesteconomy that coexists with the Market Economy.

REIGNITE THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT OF HOME Our business training program for home-based ‘cottage’ businesses provides a viable route for those trying to escape the ‘two-income trap,’ and significantly reduces the economic vulnerability of full and part-time householders and mothers.

TEACH HUMAN FLOURISHING The skills and knowledge required to manage a household, find a mate, start a family and successfully navigate the complexities of our new era are now largely absent in our academic institutions. Taking inspiration from both the practical skills taught in early Home Economics and the ‘whole person’ educational philosophy of the 19th century Scandinavian ‘Bildung’ movement, our 21st century version will aggregate online classes from best-inclass thinkers from around the world and blend them with our own courses to create a ‘Hearthology‘ curricula that teaches human flourishing.


Phase II - 2024

Establish the Hearth Matters Nonprofit Publish and engage readers with a series of articles and chapbooks that tell the story of the Hearth on Substack Build a home podcast studio and record 3 podcasts Start developing strategic partnerships with potential allies




Develop a home-based ‘Cottage’ Business Training Program: Identify 1-2 educational consultants to oversee the development of our curriculum Research and identify potential coteachers like New Economics for Women (NEW) Collaborate with online education platforms (like Udemy) to produce and host our curriculum

TEACH HUMAN FLOURISHING (LAUNCHING 2025) Develop an online Home Economics-style course that teaches and valorizes the practical life skills and emotional maturity required for young people to become well rounded, self-reliant, happy people Develop a more comprehensive version for those interested in pursuing householding as a vocation and/or cottage business skills

Develop and publish written, spoken and visual content, and build a website Recruit additional staff members Create and manage an online community forum Tell our story at conferences and events Create a robust donor campaign and seek grant opportunities

RECONNECT COMMUNITIES WITH A HYPERLOCAL $90K SHARING ECONOMY Prototype the Neighbor-to-Neighbor Network and the Domesteconomy Model Contract legal and accounting expertise to ensure our prototype is within the letter of the law Establish principles, guidelines and standards, and a governing body Identify, train and support 2-5 householders across a variety of demographics

Your support helps us build a world where every woman is empowered to create a healthy and loving home and every child thrives.

how you can take action together we are strong

out more: Read/listen/watch the thinkers who inform and 1. Find inspire us in our resource library HERE. And be sure to read our full chapbook series HERE and share our nonprofit: Help us spread the word and 2. Support ignite a movement by subscribing to our Substack or making a donation. See our Case for Support for more information about our fundraising effort. tuned: More chapbooks are on the way and new episodes 3. Stay of our Hearth Matters podcast debut weekly. Stay in the know by following us on social media.


Join our movement: Does our vision spark you? Do you have skills or resources that could help us accelerate positive change for the future? Now is the time to build your voice into our mission and platform. Thanks so much for your time! We’re interested in connecting with researchers, householders, media and anyone interested in our work. With love, Kathryn & Erin Online: thehearthmatters.com Email: hearthmatters@gmail.com On Social:





householder feminism driving meaningful change in the domestic sphere READ NOW

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