On July twenty fourth, 1959, then-Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev got into an issue about women, kitchen home equipment, and the American manner of existence. It wasn’t planned. But it turned into recorded on movie and broadcast in each countries. It was also the first excessive-level meeting between American and Soviet leaders for the reason that 1955 Geneva Summit. In 1958, the 2 nations had agreed to a main cultural trade project: the USA would organize a World’s Fair-style exhibition in New York City, and the USA could do the identical in Moscow. So Nixon traveled to the USA, tasked with giving Khrushchev an excursion of the American National Exhibition in Moscow’s Sokolniki Park. Over 450 American organizations had created pavilions to show off their goods. Science and era presentations have been presented inner a 30,000-square-foot geodesic dome.
The leaders had several conversations over the direction of the excursion, however the most iconic of those occurred even as they had been status with a crowd in front of a version American kitchen. It had all the present day conveniences you’d assume to discover inside the kind of recent, postwar home that would promote for $14,000 (about $120,000 today): elegant cabinets, a dishwasher, a variety, and a refrigerator. Khrushchev became cantankerous, waving his hand dismissively at the same time as maintaining (thru a translator) that the innovations inside the American model kitchen have been gadgets of little consequence. He then asked if there was a device that “puts meals into the mouth and pushes it down.” Their trade didn’t contact on the troubles that certainly involved residents of the day—namely, the threat of nuclear warfare—but it did touch a nerve wherein gender turned into concerned, and it happened when Nixon drew Khrushchev’s interest to the dishwasher:
Still fresh from the edge of the release of Sputnik I on October four, 1957, the US had responded through launching the Explorer I on January 31, 1958, and organizing NASA on October 1 of that 12 months. The nascent, tit-for-tat Space Race had Americans feeling fearful. It wasn’t just a competition for clinical “firsts.” The area race and the development of nuclear weapons had potentially devastating implications for both international locations, and indeed for the entire world. So to a point, Nixon and Khrushchev’s debate wasn’t genuinely approximately dishwashers. Nor turned into it approximately shade tv—a place in which, Nixon deftly referred to, the USA changed into in advance of the united states, as evidenced by means of the truth that their communication was broadcast in shade lower back home. It became approximately progress.
And whose development turned into it? Was it, in fact, a “usual mindset” that Americans and Soviets alike wanted to make life simpler for girls? Corporations were racing to supply the forms of merchandise and gadgets that might lighten the domestic workload for girls. Technological development opened up at an ever-quickening tempo from the Industrial Revolution thru the postwar boom, however, the idea that house responsibilities have to be ladies’ work remained vigorously in the area in postwar America. In the 1950s and early Sixties, groups unveiled glowing, green dream kitchens to get customers excited for what become to come. “The future” held robots, automation, style, and simplicity, but it didn’t promise any modifications in home gender roles—pretty the opposite.
The show that precipitated Khrushchev’s feminist critique of American society changed into supposed to represent the kitchen of a home that could fee $14,000, an less costly sum for an average American worker within the Nineteen Fifties, consistent with Nixon. If Soviet site visitors to the honest have been moderately inspired by the middlebrow devices inside the version kitchen, they had been wowed by means of the aptly named “Miracle Kitchen,” a joint challenge among Whirlpool and RCA first designed in 1956.
The Miracle Kitchen traveled throughout the United States in the course of 1957, then went on show in Moscow in 1959. It was added to Soviet visitors on the American National Exhibition via a younger woman named Anne Anderson, who become born in Illinois to Ukrainian dad and mom, and spoke fluent Russian. Photographer Robert Lerner took pics of Anderson demonstrating gadgets and posing with appliances inside the Miracle Kitchen for LOOK mag, which ran a function on it in July 1959. Anderson appeared as even though she herself had been styled to coordinate with the kitchen’s brightly colored Formica panels: she wore a faded blue shirtwaist get dressed, brilliant crimson lipstick, and a pink nail cropping; strands of pearls and 2 black excessive heels completed the impact. She turned into sporting the midcentury uniform of a woman who keeps the house on her own, however also commands a small navy of machines to lighten her workload.
The kitchen had been designed to intimidate Soviet traffic and to engender in them a feeling of being have-nots, whilst their authorities maintained a facet inside the early years of the Space Race. But the Miracle Kitchen became a sort of appliance fantasia, greater aspirational than sensible, even for rich Americans of the technology. It featured a compact vacuuming robot, described by way of Matt Novak on the blog Paleofuture in 2015 as a “proto-Roomba.” The freestanding range should (theoretically) bake a cake in 3 minutes, the usage of the microwave era. The dishwasher might slide on a song over to the dining desk after food for easy loading. Anne Anderson confirmed the kitchen’s push-button “planning middle,” from which she should summon the dishwasher or the mini-vacuum cleaner. If all of this sounds too desirable to be genuine, it normally became: according to Novak’s interview with one of the kitchens’ designers, Joe Maxwell, who had labored with the Detroit-based layout firm Sundberg-Ferrer, a two-way reflect established within the kitchen display allowed a person backstage to move the vacuum purifier and the dishwasher back and forth through radio manipulate. Perhaps a few Soviet site visitors believed this display represented an ordinary middle-magnificence kitchen in the United States, however, the closest we came during this period to a kitchen “miracle” turned into in Hollywood.