Over the course of the mid-twentieth century Doña Petrona C. de Gandulfo established herself as Argentina’s leading domestic expert. Her popularity reached new heights when she began broadcasting her cooking lessons on television with her assistant, Juanita Bordoy. In this article, Rebekah Pite explores the model of domestic work portrayed by these two women in comparison to that of other Argentine homemakers and their paid help during the 1950s and 1960s. She does so by drawing from a broad source base that includes oral histories, television programming, cookbooks, magazines, and government and legal documents. She finds that Doña Petrona and Juanita Bordoy’s public interactions were both captivating and open to critique because they enabled others to observe a typically private domestic relationship during a period in which many women’s relationships to domesticity and to paid work were in flux. Pite argues that to understand the tensions surrounding these changes, we must shift our framework and our terminology. While scholars of Latin America have tended to cast domestic work relationships as paternalistic, the bonds of power and affection between Doña Petrona and Juanita Bordoy—and countless other domestic pairs—were (and continue to be) more maternalistic in nature. Her research suggests that middle-class or elite women, as opposed to their male partners, have often taken the lead in negotiating the affective terms of these relationships as well as the work to be done.

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