Survivalist, Prepper or Housewife?

Lately my husband and I have been having an ongoing conversation about the so-called “survival” and “prepper” movement. We both are more than a little dismayed with the entire phenomena.

Aladdin Lamp During A Snowstorm

Many people don’t understand  the concepts, skills or life choices often associated with “prepping” or survivalism by any other name.
And that fact alone caused me to change the way I used advertising, meta tags and links for the old GRANNY MILLER website. Survivalism and Prepping, and the ignorance and fear mongering that often accompanies it has become a big business.
I  frankly find the terms “survivalism” or “prepping” to be positively inane.


From my point of view, much of the “prepper” and “survivalist” mentality seems born of an apocalyptic Hollywood and TV Land fantasy founded upon fear, ignorance and on unabashed consumerism. The fact of the matter is, many of the skills and life choices often associated with modern survivalist living or prepping, were at one time the everyday skills and choices of simple living and traditional, old fashion common sense.

Small Summer Vegetable Garden

So you can imagine my chagrin when 10 or 12 years ago a dear friend described my life as that of “being a survivalist”.
I knew what she meant and what she was trying to convey. I took her description as a backhanded compliment.
My friend was trying to find the words to communicate and illustrate a lifestyle that is self-sustaining, non-consumer oriented and not completely dependent upon “the grid”.

Her comment gave me food for thought.
I found it curious that a way of life that would have been considered quite normal and middle class in western Pennsylvania in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s & 1970s, was by the year 2000, considered to be extraordinary, radical and a tad kooky.
I also found it interesting that in less than 2 generations the average American household had become for the most part, an isolated and non-productive, debt driven economic model.
The concept of a traditional and contained productive household economy had become alien. The American “housewife” was rare and becoming an anathema in modern America.
She was going the way of the dodo bird.

Fresh Baked Sweet Bread

The most basic of human needs revolve around food, clothing and shelter.

And those needs are only met by an understanding of who we are as people and of our particular environment;  combined with a good and sensible stewardship of our individual circumstances. The exact ideas and concepts that preppers and  survivalists have as of late begun to realize – and that’s a really good thing.

The lack of traditional housewifery and the lost concept of self-contained household economies which are interconnected with other traditional households, seems in part to have been the breeding ground for the modern survivalist and prepper moment.
America became a helpless and dependent society the day American housewives quit working for themselves and their households, and became wage slaves for someone else.

Laundry Drying By A Cook Stove

The average American housewife for most of the 20th century didn’t work for wages. Food, clothing and shelter were her specialties. She knew how to cook, sew family clothing, kill and dress a chicken and get by without electricity or indoor plumbing if she had to. She had a full pantry, backyard garden, raised her own children and had plenty of time for her outside interests and community. She also didn’t have a car payment, a TV, credit card debt and managed to marry and stay married.
The average American housewife from 1920 – 1970 would today be considered a survivalist. For many of you reading this, your great-grandma was a hard-core prepper.

A Basement Pantry

Today most American households are non-producing households.

The concept of a contained domestic economy has been long forgotten along with the skills to sustain that household economy. The average American household is now a consumer based closed system economy.

Just about everything – from food – to entertainment – to underwear – is produced outside the confines of the home. And most adults work to make money so that they can pay someone else to make or provide their most basic material and non-material life needs.
Many American households actually produce very little for themselves except for debt, depression, divorce and bratty kids.

The notion of a self-contained, interior based household fueled by self-labor, traditional sex roles and frugality was the exception years ago when my friend described how I lived my life. Hopefully for America I think there may be the beginnings of a social change and so-called preppers and survivalists could be the first hints of a reawakening. For me my life has been that of a traditional housewife/farmwife and I have no need to call it other than that.

The basics of what I have done with my life and the way that I have consciously chosen to live my life could have been achieved while living in town or in the suburbs or the Upper West side of Manhattan.

While I could not raise cows or sheep on a 100’X60’ town lot, I most certainly could provide for my household by sewing, gardening, raising rabbits (in my basement or garage if I had too), canning and having an off grid source or back-up for water, heat, lighting and toilet needs. It takes no great skill to refuse all consumer debt, to use only cash and to live beneath your means. It only takes a dream, lots of hard work and plenty of self-control and discipline.

So the next time you see a picture of my pantry, or read how I spin yarn or plant onions – remember I’m doing what every traditional household economy has always done and it is not exceptional. Fact is a household that doesn’t provide for its own needs is the historical exception.

I work for myself and provide for my own household. I literally make a living by the sweat of my brow and by my own labor. You can do it too.
I’m not a survivalist or a prepper.
I’m a traditional housewife.

Katherine Grossman

Katherine Grossman was born and raised in the greater Washington, D.C area. For the last 30 years Mrs. Grossman has lived a life of deliberate self-reliance in rural western Pennsylvania. She loves to garden, knit mittens; makes a killer meatloaf and has been known to deliver triplet lambs with her eyes closed. 

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