Within a few years the study of housekeeping or domestic science has kept pace with other progressive movements. While there is still much that can be done, housework is no longer the deadly monotonous thing or the drudgery it used to be.

Colleges and public and private schools are giving courses of instruction in everything that tends to improve the home; household magazines are full of the newer methods in household economy; there are experiment stations at several colleges, in connection with the Agricultural Department at Washington, - a most admirable one for practical demonstrations conducted by Mr. Charles Barnard in Darien, Connecticut. The results of all these are available for persons desiring specific information, and can be obtained through the mail.

Bread-mixers, cake-mixers, meat-grinders, double roasting-pans, casseroles, self-wringing mops, dustless dusters, the steam cooker, the Aladdin oven, the fireless cooker, the vacuum cleaner, gas and electric cooking and heating apparatus: all these are practical and well-tested helps to make housekeeping interesting and easy.

Washing-machines, run by electricity, or water power, or by hand (the latter according to the principle of the old pounder of our grandmothers), do far better work, and with less wear and tear to the clothes than the usual washboard rubbing. The electric washing-machine is too expensive now to be generally used, but others are within the reach of a moderate pocketbook.

The various vacuum cleaners do away with all sweeping, shaking of rugs, beating of mattresses, pillows, etc. There are so many on the market that one can buy one at almost any price.

Motors, either electric or hydraulic, for mangles, sewing-machines, ice-cream freezers, and other forms of domestic apparatus, are available and are increasing in use.

Gas stoves have made the heavy coal-hod and the disagreeable dust from ashes things of the past in most urban and many suburban houses. A gas stove with a fireless cooker to help it is an ideal combination; the cooker lessens not only the labor but the gas expense; in summer the absence of heat is a great consideration.

Casserole cooking is very common in France and not unfamiliar in this country. The casserole is an earthen dish with a cover, which by its long slow method of cooking tends to make the toughest meat tender and delicious in flavor. The remarkable device of paper-bag cooking makes use of the same principle.

The fireless cooker is older than most of us realize. Some form of it has long been used in many parts of the world. In Norway, and in other parts of Europe it is called a "hay-box cooker"; sometimes a "Norwegian nest." When the American Indians heated stones and cooked food on the stones covered up with seaweed or wet leaves, the principle of heat retention was the same as in the fireless cooker. Clam-bakes and the old-fashioned brick oven were forms of fireless cookers; the clam-bake was taught by the Indians to the Pilgrim Fathers, and has been an institution on the New England coast ever since.

When the fireless cooker was first put on the market it was used only to continue boiling or stewing operations begun over the fire. But improvements have been made, and now it will do almost anything a stove will do. The improved cooker is made with a metal lining; intensely heated disks or blocks of iron or soapstone retain the heat for a long time, and make it possible to bake bread, roast meat, or in fact do anything a stove will do in the cooking line.

A simple cooker, which will answer many purposes, can readily be made at home with little expense or difficulty. Take a butter firkin, or a box that will shut securely. Line the receptacle with several thicknesses of paper or asbestos; put excelsior, ground cork that grapes are packed in, hay, or even newspapers, for about four or five inches in the bottom. Place on this in the middle a six-quart pail (or whatever size seems best) with an air-tight cover, and pack the material used for stuffing as tightly as possible about the pail, up to the level of the top, but not above it. Make a cushion to fit in snugly on the top of the pail; if your pail is covered tight and your box shuts snugly, your cooker will work, no matter how primitive it may be. This cooker may be improved by neatly tacking a lining over the hay; the space in the centre kept in shape by a cylinder of pasteboard inside the lining to inclose the pail. A cooker packed with insulating material after the manner of the hay box should be thoroughly ventilated after being used, or treated with some rapidly evaporating deodorizer like formaline.

The improved cooker is a box or cylindrical vessel so constructed as to be almost absolutely non-conducting when closed; the vessels previously heated, or the heated radiators, are placed inside without the insulating material or the cushion cover. This form is likely to be beyond the scope of simple homemade construction.

One must use the fireless cooker to realize what a saving of heat and labor it means.

There are several cookbooks dealing with the subject, but patient experimenting is the best way to learn to use the cooker.

There are several things to remember in fireless cookery. If a dish is left too long in the cooker, without reheating, the food may sour. Some foods require a longer time on the fire before being put in the cooker than others; onions, beets, and string beans, for instance, need to be boiled half an hour before being placed in the cooker.

There is almost no evaporation; therefore, care must be taken not to use too much water, and vegetables and meats need to be covered. The cooker must not be opened until the food is to be served, unless it is necessary to reheat. It is better, after a few hours, to reheat meat that seemed unusually tough, and vegetables like beets, that take a long time to cook. The slow cooking makes vegetables and meats tender, the flavor is retained in all foods, and the house is free from the odor of cooking. One can, in a fireless cooker of three compartments, put a vegetable in two of the places and ice-cream packed in salt and ice in the third. The principle is the same, the cooker retaining the cold as well as the heat.

When electricity is cheap enough to use liberally, an electric stove, to start the kettles boiling and to heat the metal disks for the improved cooker, should make housekeeping still easier. An electric fireless cooker represents the latest advance. It makes possible a very economical use of electric heat, and it has the great advantage of starting operations in the cooker itself instead of on the stove.