Louise and Sidney Homer:
a 21st century dual-career couple,
Linda Achey Kidwell
Department of Accounting, College of Business, University of Wyoming,
Laramie, Wyoming, USA, and
Roland E. Kidwell
Department of Management and Marketing, College of Business, University of
Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming, USA
Purpose – This paper aims to examine the lives of early twentieth century opera star Louise Homer
and her composer husband Sidney, and their attempts to manage two successful careers and a family
of six children. Almost 100 years ago, the Homers – a rare example of a two-career family – employed
several adaptive strategies that academic researchers later suggested for twenty-ﬁrst century
Design/methodology/approach – Considering the work-family literature, two modern models of
managing and coping with the stresses of dual careers were examined and the Homer family were then
considered to determine whether they employed similar strategies. Letters were used from the Homers
and their children, other original documents and secondary research in investigating the couple’s
efforts to handle the challenges of dual-careers when the concept of a woman pursuing a profession
outside the home was a novelty.
Findings – Several adaptive strategies recently “discovered” to be used by upper-income dual-career
couples with children seem just as applicable to 1911 when the Homers’ ﬁfth child was born.
The ﬁndings underscore the idea that challenges perceived as unusual and unique to one generation
have been dealt with successfully by past generations.
Originality/value – The paper provides an historical perspective on newly suggested strategies for
dual-career couples in the work-family literature. Such strategies have been used for at least a century
even though the dual-career concept only became prominent in the last four decades. This paper is one
of a few that examines dual-career couples in an historical context, and indicates how the past can
inform those who face contemporary workplace phenomena.
Keywords Dual-career couples, Role conﬂict, Opera
Paper type Research paper
Over the last 20 years, dual-career couples have received exhaustive attention by
sociologists, social commentators, economists, organizational researchers and human
resource managers (Bird and Schnurman-Crook, 2005; Barnett and Rivers, 1996;
Galinsky, 1999; Hochschild, 1989, 1997; Rubin and Riney, 1994; Sekaran, 1986; Bruce
and Reed, 1994). What Sekaran (1986, p. ix) described as a “recent societal
phenomenon” has been examined in terms of its positive effects on breaking down
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An earlier version of this paper was presented at the Academy of Management National Meeting,
Management History Division, Denver, CO, August 2002.
Journal of Management History
Vol. 12 No. 3, 2006
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited