Finding vintage treasures can be fun. Discovering the Pyrex pattern that was originally a mistake or the candy that nobody really liked but is a sentimental favorite makes us feel happily nostalgic. Retro toys are like that, too. While some retro toys have come back into style, others are harder to find. And even if you can't find certain toys, they're still around as pop culture references. If you've ever been called a Suzy Homemaker, you may understand what the term means, but do you know where it comes from?
What is a Suzy Homemaker?
The term Suzy Homemaker refers to a person, almost always a woman, who acts like the ideal 1950s or 60s housewife. They like the domestic arts and they're someone who always has a clean house and fresh homemade cookies. Think Donna Reed and June Cleaver, or Martha Stewart as a modern version.
Origins of a name
In 1966, toy company Topper Toys created the Suzy Homemaker line of toy appliances. Little girls who wanted to be just like their mother could own a whole line of miniature appliances including a washing machine and dryer, iron and ironing board, vacuum cleaner, and mini oven. All the toys worked; the company sold them with the idea that kids could practice their homemaking skills.
The company also released an ice cream maker, blender, high-speed mixer, a dishwasher sink, and a Suzy Homemaker Super Grill. All of the original toys were a bright aqua green and white, but in 1971 Topper Toys added more colors, including sunshine yellow, apple green and pow pink.
While the Suzy Homemaker refrigerator was only a toy, the Suzy Homemaker Super Safety Oven was a functional toy household appliance that stood 17-inches tall. It was Topper's version of the Easy-Bake Oven, but it also had a stovetop that warmed food and the oven was able to make larger cakes.
Throughout the late 60s, the Suzy Homemaker appliances were the second most popular line of toys behind Barbie, and the Suzy Homemaker doll was a huge hit during the holiday season the year it was introduced.
The end of the housewife ideal
Two of the other toys in the line were a hairdryer and a vanity complete with accessories, which promoted the idea that a housewife always needed to look good while keeping a perfect, spotless house. With the advent of the women's equality movement, women pushed back against the idea that they should stay at home in a pretty apron.
For a while Topper Toys leaned into that branding, proudly proclaiming "Suzy Homemaker is a square!" in a 1968 ad. But by the early 80s, the idea of being a housekeeping square wasn't as popular. In 1981, Newsweek published an article about the Future Homemakers of America titled "So long, Suzy Homemaker" and the term became a derogatory nickname for someone who likes to cook and clean.
You can still buy Suzy Homemaker toys today, though they are produced as nostalgia items and marketed to "girls of all ages."