Picture it. It's 1973. You are a housewife (not a homemaker, since that term has not yet come into vogue) busy caring for an active two-year old. In the middle of the week, your husband's boss says to your husband, "We really need to cultivate members of Such-and-Such group. Why don't you have your wife host a get-to-know-you tea for their wives and our wives?" Or perhaps your husband's boss says to your husband, "The negotiations for that big deal seem to be going really well -- but it would be probably smooth the way a bit if we all got to know each other a little better. I think you should have your wife put together a dinner party this weekend for the men involved and their wives." Your husband calls you to relay this command and next thing you know you are planning, shopping, scrubbing, polishing, decorating, cooking, and stressing out. Naturally, none of this work is compensated in any way. At the end of the dinner party, your husband's boss turns to you with a condescending smile and says, "This was really quite a spread that you put on. It's nice that you have something to keep you busy."
This kind of thing happens to you all the time throughout the '70s until wider acceptance of feminism made verboten this expectation of having one's employees' wives at your beck and call for massive unpaid projects. Your daughter naturally becomes The Happy Feminist early on because, even as a little girl, she is sick and tired of seeing you regularly treated with an enormous lack of respect.
Anti-feminists try to divide-and-conquer by pitting housewives against feminists. But feminists didn't invent the widespread lack of respect for housewives that admittedly sometimes colors the words of feminists too (like Linda Hirshman -- who, by the way, has been loudly criticized in feminist cirles for her derogatory language). A lack of respect is inevitable when a class of people has no money, no power, and no public voice. Being taken for granted is inevitable when you are simply doing something you have little choice in.
I cannot claim to have studied this phenomenon in a sociologically rigorous manner -- but my personal experience and observation is that the status of homemakers has increased with the rise of feminism. Even the relatively new term, "homemaker," evinces a recognition that women who cook and clean and sew and decorate and budget and care for children are more than just wives who stay at home. Today, homemakers are more powerful than ever before. They are more organized, more outspoken in the public sphere, and more likely to have educations and careers that make them less dependent on their husbands than in the past. They are less likely to be disregarded or excluded from the conversation or treated condescendingly if politics or other Important Subjects arise. They are less likely to be taken for granted since they have other options.
Those who claim to prize the efforts of women in the home will often inadvertently reveal how little they think of how women at home spend their time. Consider this profile Constitution Party leader Howard Phillips wrote about his wife, Peggy Phillips, when she was awarded the Homemaker of the Year award by Phyllis Schlafley. The profile speaks at length about the activities and accomplishments of Mrs. Phillips's father, her husband (Howard Phillips himself), and each of her children -- but says nothing at all of what Mrs. Phillips DID in the home, other than giving birth. There is an oblique reference to the youngest son's homeschooling, but it is not even clear that Mrs. Phillips conducted the homeschooling, although presumably she did. The fact is that her labors and her efforts are taken for granted and invisible even when she is purportedly being honored for them!
Of course, homemaker and feminist are not mutually exclusive terms. There are plenty of stay-at-home-mothers who ARE feminists. I can't speak for them but I suspect they realize that the furtherance of women's equality in all spheres of life will help to make homemaking a truly voluntary choice and will thereby also raise the status of all women.
UPDATED: I bet I can write a a better tribute to a homemaker than most anti-feminists!