In this study, the author builds on 20 years of feminist scholarship to show how domestic ritual - the practice and traditions of housekeeping - has helped to shape the substances and tone of some of the best fiction by American women. Examining works by Harriet Beecher Stowe, Sarah Orne Jewett, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Willa Cather and Eudora Welty, this book argues that one cannot fully appreciate this writing unless one understands the domestic codes in which it is inscribed. The book opens with the American realist period, when women such as Stowe and Jewett began to experiment with plots generated by the rhythms of domestic ritual. Chapter Two is an extended reading of Jewett's ""The Country of the Pointed Firs"", showing how the silent, traditional language of housekeeping becomes the medium for an autobiographical writer and her sibylline mentor. The following chapters each look at individual writers and the writing styles they employed.