Cottage Industry–Educated By A Grindstone

Pedal Powered Grindstone

Hello, again History Lovers,

Today’s post is an introduction to a new series I will call Cottage Industry. Through my research, I have come to realize that farm women from a century ago and beyond needed ways to supplement their farm income. Frequently they raised a flock of chickens and sold the eggs or they would use the cream from their milk cows to make butter–both of which they would sell either to individuals or to local markets. Other women used their particular sewing, baking, canning, or gardening skills as a way of bringing in additional income. I am inspired by the industry and creativity of these rural farm women and will share their Cottage Industry stories as they come along.

Today’s story tells of a young widow who used an available grindstone to keep her kitchen knives sharp. Beginning by happenstance, her sharpening skills grew into a thriving business that enabled her to afford to put her sons through college. While growing up, her sons had helped her with the business venture and appreciated the educational opportunity it afforded them.

I would love to know where that grindstone is today. Enjoy!

Educated By A Grindstone

“I’ll be fifty-seven tomorrow,” smiled Mrs. Plaegar, rocking on the veranda of her white and green farmhouse, “and it seems as though it were only a few years ago when the boys were small.”

She sighed again.

“Those were the years when it was hard pulling. My husband died when the children were very young. The farm was heavily mortgaged and we had to stretch the pennies until they fairly squealed. My friends told me I ought to work in my spare time and besides, what could I have done? I could not sew. My fingers had become too clumsy with farm work to handle a needle delicately and work of other kinds would demand that I leave the farm which I could not do.

“Well, things went on for a while. I continued to do the manual work to which I was accustomed. I had always liked a man’s work better than a woman’s and I had quite a knack for handling tools.

“One tool I liked especially was an old grindstone in the barnyard on which I sharpened my knives. One day a neighbor, viewing with envy my shining and keen steel knives said, ‘I wonder if you would be willing to sharpen my knives? You do such splendid work and I would gladly pay you.’

“I consented and that was the beginning of a little business. Other women brought me their knives and scissors and I charged according to the size of the utensils. I used to send the boys to gather them in for me and sometimes they would bring home three or four dozen which they had labeled with the names of the owners. The next day they would return them, bright and sharp. And how farm women need keen tools!

“As my somewhat unique business increased, I bought a polishing machine and I soon received more orders than ever. One order which pleased me especially was from a hotel. They told me their employees were most deficient at polishing steel knives and if I did good work, they would be willing to give all their work to me. With housewives, too, this task is a dreaded one and my bank account began to increase accordingly. I followed up every opportunity and, of course, business brought more business.

“My business never forced me to neglect my farm duties. I always did the work on my own premises where I could oversee the work of the farmhands.

“The boys say they owe their college education to the old grindstone and that is perhaps the reason we never parted with it. To us, it shall always be a much loved and honored member of the family.” –I.R. Hegel

"The boys say they owe their college education to the old grindstone and that is perhaps the reason we never parted with it. To us, it shall always be a much loved and honored member of the family."
~FWM

My Neighbors and I Series–Schoolhouse and Community Building

Hello, again History Lovers,

By 1922 Sara Jane Patton, Home Demonstration Agent from Center Star, Kansas had established a thriving organization among the women of that area. Their home-arts work meetings were so well attended that the club had outgrown the ability to meet in folks’ homes. Club members wanted to also add dinners and socials to the club’s schedule of activities, but where could they find space for their activities?

At the same time, the schoolhouse in the community was in need of a remodel and improvements. By combining resources, the community was able to solve both issues with one building. Club members now had a space large enough to meet their growing needs and the children had a modern, well-lighted school to go to.

It would be interesting to have a history of the use of that building. I hope it served the community well for a decade or two. Enjoy!

Center Star, Kansas Community Club Project

Through the efforts of the community club in that district, the Center Star schoolhouse in Cherokee County, Kansas, has been remodeled into a combination of school and community building where Halloween parties and Thanksgiving dinners and socials and plays can be given without having to use the church or crowd the people into the primary seats of the schoolroom.

The Center Star Club was organized by Sara Jane Patton, Cherokee County Home Demonstration Agent. The members wished to provide social enjoyment in addition to their program of work. The socials and the parties which they gave proved so popular that there was no house in the neighborhood that could accommodate the crowds.

The schoolhouse in town had to be remodeled, as the health officer, Dr. J.C. Montgomery, had decreed that the bad lighting was causing headaches and strained eyes. Since this had to be done why not include a community room in the schoolhouse?

Plans were drawn up by Walter Ward, the extension architect at the State Agricultural College. In the new plan, the old school was made the auditorium. The old entry was converted into an elevated stage and the small porches were enclosed and made into dressing rooms. The stage of the old schoolroom, which was on the north, was moved around to the east side of the building and now serves as the main entrance. Rolling partitions separate the auditorium from the new schoolroom. Seven windows provide adequate lighting. A model kitchen, 8’ by 11’, equipped with a range, cupboards, and worktables, opens into both the auditorium and schoolroom. Hot lunches are served to the children throughout the winter months. A hot-air furnace gives heat. The auditorium seats about 125. There are rolling partitions between the two rooms. The cost of the building including some of the new equipment for the schoolroom was about $3,700.

The Center Star Community building was dedicated on November 28 [1922]. Dean Hattie Moore Mitchell of Kansas State Manual Training Normal gave the dedicatory address.

A union Sunday School meets in the building regularly and recently, when a millinery specialist from the college gave a course of instruction to the women of the community, these meetings were held in the community room.

Mrs. S.H. Jarvis is president of the club.

~FWM

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, March 1923, Page 367; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

Two Pictures I Would Like Best To Own Series–Part 3

Hello, again History Lovers,

A farm woman from Illinois responds to the request put out by The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women in March of 1923 for letters regarding the Two Pictures I Would Like Best To Own. Her first choice depicts the Bible story of young Jesus teaching in the temple in Jerusalem. For her second picture, Mrs. W.G.F. chose a painting that was featured previously in this series–Dance of the Nymphs by Jean-Baptist Camille Corot.

What would you hang above your mantle?

Silent Influence on Children

Christ in the Temple 1881, Heinrich Hofmann–German Painter

“The subject of appropriate pictures for our home has been of importance to me for some time and the selection of the two named here are the result of much thought and study. Christ in the Temple by Heinrich Hofmann, like most of the pictures by that famous painter, is an illustration of a familiar passage in the Bible.

One notes the simple robe and the exceptionally beautiful hands of the child but attention centers on the face, a face that is noble, true, just, kind, and firm, a face that inspires, that emanates purity, that gives strength, and confidence. His large eyes are filled with wonder at what he is learning and with the knowledge that he is imparting. Around him are grouped the learned men, one face expressing grace, attentive interest; another showing eagerness to protest; another is full of marvel at the young boy’s learning; and fourth has a stern look, while the last bears an expression of curiosity and perhaps contempt. My hope is that such a picture on our wall will have a tremendous, silent influence in molding the lives of our children—and not theirs alone for it is a picture with a wonderful spirit we all can catch.

The Dance of the Nymphs 1850, Camille Corot–French Painter, Romanticism Style

Dance of the Nymphs by Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot is the second picture I chose. What cheer and how full of joyous spirit of a beautiful morning in the spring is the Dance of the Nymphs.

One can almost hear the birds sing and the leaves rustle, can almost see the sparkling dewdrops, the trees so exquisitely beautiful in their foliage, and the flowers blooming by the wayside. The nymphs, gayly dancing, seem to be ushering the beautiful dawn. To me, The Dance of the Nymphs is a gloriously beautiful morning in the country—nothing more, nothing less. It is a picture that is a “good friend to live with.” It is cheerful, wholesome, and human.” –Mrs. W.G.F., Illinois

~FWM

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, March 1923, Page 359; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

How I Teach My Children To Enjoy Work

Hello, again History Lovers,

In March of 1923, The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women published a letter from Mrs. Haring who enthusiastically shares her tips on how to teach children to work and to enjoy doing it. She starts when the children are young and always adds an “element of fun” to the tasks assigned. Her home sounds like a happy one in contrast with the home of her friend.

Enjoy!

Jessie Willcox Smith, American Illustrator, 1863–1935

Combining Work With Play

“Dishwashing is usually one of the first tasks delegated to the young daughter of the family and this common duty often is done by her with reluctance and under protest. In our family we have helped to solve this difficulty, however, for Jane, my little eight-year-old daughter and I, combine our work with play.

Eleanor Smith’s Music Primer furnishes us with a variety of simple childlike songs. We select songs that Jane will probably sing at school and then proceed to learn them together. With the book propped up on a shelf over the kitchen sink, Jane and I can easily refer to it while the silver is finding its way into the rinsing pan or while the glassware is being polished. The rhythm of the music unconsciously produces an activity that Jane enjoys as well as I and which helps to convert an otherwise tedious task into a joyful half hour.

When we have memorized the words and music, we have a game. Jane and I are both to sing the song. If one of us makes a mistake, a forfeit must be paid to the other. What joy Jane experiences when Mother fails to strike the right note or forgets a word and has to pay her a penny.

Bed making, too, has its charms. Sometimes we imagine the coverings to be Indian blankets of wonderous colorings; at other times we are building a nest for a tree swallow and lining his home of grass with downy feathers. This performance leads to all sorts of questions and enables me to arouse Jane’s interest in the work which she will have at school at the same time as we are accomplishing a necessary task.

Jane has had her own room for over a year. The whole responsibility of the care of it is left to her and each morning finds her conscientiously putting it in order before she leaves for school. We worked out together the furnishings for her room and their arrangement. Her interest is kept keen in it by the constant addition of new and simple things and her ideas are always respected in regard to any changes which she may wish to make. She is unconsciously learning color schemes and household arrangements at this early age and her sense of responsibility, order, and neatness is being cultivated through her sense of ownership.

Dusting was an arduous task and many times had to be done over because Jane so disliked doing it. Choice victrola records are now being kept for this particular piece of work and are played at no other time. Since they are ones which Jane loves, she forgets the fact that she is having to work and hums the tune to the music of the record, while the dust disappears from tables, chair rounds, and window ledges.

Jessie Willcox Smith, American Illustrator, 1863–1935

Cake making, table setting, and the preparation of meals have been accomplished by her through the thought of pride in doing work that “grownups” can do.

My little son, an active youngster of five, is also learning how to work joyously. When Mother needs wood, she calls on the wood fairy who alone knows the secret places in the woodshed where the best pieces are kept. He has already learned the names of the trees from which the wood comes and knows that the kinds which will make the hottest fires will furnish heat to bake a tiny pie, animal cookies, or a gingerbread man. These may be made with little trouble when larger pies, cakes, and cookies are being baked and reward the fairy in a way that interests him to bring more wood.

Jessie Willcox Smith, American Illustrator, 1863–1935

He brings vegetables and fruits from the cellar and garden with an interest and enthusiasm that indicated to me that he is already realizing his responsibility in the development of our family life.

Jessie Willcox Smith, American Illustrator, 1863–1935

A playroom equipped with a table, cupboard, blackboard, desk, and small chairs always suggests work. Through this channel is an opportunity for teaching many lessons in arrangement and order and also in providing entertainment for them for an hour or so at a time. The finding of some old toy gives a new interest bringing with it happiness which seems only to come through activity.

The country store is but a few rods from our house and occasionally there is a need for some article to be procured quickly. The children are, of course, the natural ones to do the errand. As with all children a fat ice cream cone, a lollipop or a stick of gum is their first thought and a request is made to use some of their money for the purchase of one of these articles. Of course, they may if they like but they must consider that once in a while we have a shopping trip or go to see some interesting moving picture and if no money is saved, these wonderful trips cannot be. They finally decide to spend one penny each and as they have been taught not to linger along the way and to bring their purchases home to enjoy them, the errand is soon joyfully finished.

My children are enthusiastic egg hunters. Not many are missed because one egg from each dozen belongs to them—not one-twelfth of the egg income—oh no! Those particular eggs are put in a separate basket and counted about six times each night. Jane puts her fourth-grade arithmetic into practice and knows the exact amount of egg money coming to them each week.

A few days ago, a friend remarked at the happy way in which the children were doing a piece of work. She said, “I don’t see how you do it! I can’t get Martha to do a single thing without grumbling. She is actually lazy.”

Well, if I thought my children were lazy, I should not admit it. I should simply get to work to correct the fault and be sure it was my fault too. I do not believe that a happy, normal child is ever lazy. Perhaps the work has been made so unattractive, that interest has been lost. Anyway, I am sure that loving tact and a sympathetic understanding of the child is sufficient to win out, whatever the problem along this line may be.

Sometimes when there is a murmur over a task which they are asked to do, I simply look at them in wonder and they shamefacedly go quickly about it. Sometimes Son asks, “Mother, are you mad to me?” and I say, “No, Son, I am only surprised.” I am not a superior elder with a threatening attitude but a pal who is ever interested in their work and their play.

Each child has his daily work to do and enjoys it as a privilege because there is always something of interest connected with it. There are many ways of solving this problem; I have outlined the way that has seemed best in my experience. Perhaps because children are naturally observing, the best example we can set them is through our own right living. If we complain over difficult pieces of work, we must expect the same expression from our children over the things which seem difficult to them. It might, then, be the reasonable thing for us to learn to enjoy all sorts of work which we need to do before we can intelligently teach the same to our children.

Through the realization of what service is, these little folks are learning to combine their work with play and are happy while they are learning lessons which are fundamental principles on which the larger lessons of life are built.

I realize, too that I am doing more for my children than it appears when I instill the principle of enjoyment in work. All success in life depends upon whether the light of joy—zest—enthusiasm—permeates the mind of the worker. The old saying about “all work and no play” covers a deep truth. The more one’s work is play, the happier one will be.”–Laura T. Haring

~FWM

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, March 1923, Page 379′; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

Clubs and Organizations–Dog Tax Supports Libraries

Hello, again History Lovers,

The Bradford M. Field Memorial Library in Leverett, Massachusetts was established in 1916 by his daughter Elizabeth Judson Field to honor his legacy. Mr. Field had been postmaster and a prominent farmer in the area. The building served as the town’s library until 2003 when a new library was built. The original building still stands and is now The Leverett Family Museum maintained by the Leverett Historical Society. It is open to the public and features local artifacts, photographs, and documents. Other than the article below, I could find no other information regarding the financial support for the library derived from the “dog tax”. To read more about the Leverett Family Museum follow the link.

Enjoy!

Turning Barks into Books

“Massachusetts is perhaps the only state in the Union that has a public library in every township or “town” as this political division is still called in New England. A portion of the dog tax (annual dog license fee) goes to the support of these libraries. One of the most charming of these libraries is at Leverett, erected in memory of a revered citizen, Bradford Field.

The library is housed in a beautiful little building of the colonial type of architecture. Opposite the main entrance is a fireplace with colonial settles (high-backed wooden benches) on either side. Above the shelves of books that line the walls are high windows with antique panes. Upstairs is a large room used for meetings, for a reading room, for storytelling to groups of children, and so forth. This upstairs room has a cabinet on one side in which are placed pieces of old china and other historic relics which have been donated to the library.

The library is open two afternoons and evenings of every week. It serves the whole “town” and as many as seventy books have been given out in one afternoon in this rural community. It would seem as though it might pay every state to levy a dog tax and turn “barks” into “books.”

~FWM

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, March 1923, Page 367; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

Two Pictures I Would Like Best To Own Series–Part 2

Hello, again History Lovers,

In 1923 The Farmer’s Wife—A Magazine For Farm Women invited farm women to write in regarding what pictures they admire and why. Hundreds of women responded to the prompt describing some of the most famous works of art in the world. Ten of the best letters were published. Over the course of the next several months, my Sunday posts will be some of these letters along with images of the artwork they describe so that we too might be enriched.  

What would you hang above your mantle?

Beauty and Joy

The Madonna of the Chair 1515, Raphael–Italian High Renaissance

Instead of buying each other Christmas gifts this year, my husband and I used the money to buy what we have long wanted for our home—Raphael’s Madonna of the Chair. I think the most important picture in a home should be a Madonna. As the mother is the center of the home, one of the great ideals of motherhood should hold first place.

How can anyone look at Raphael’s Madonna and not feel the majesty, love, and tenderness it portrays? It helps me to be a better mother. It is the emblem of peace and happiness that are found only in a true home. Our picture is in sepia with a perfectly plain black oak frame. It is truly “a thing of beauty and a joy forever.”

Dance Under the Trees at the Edge of the Lake 1870, Camille Corot–French Landscape

Another picture which I want for our home is a landscape, Dance Under the Trees at the Edge of the Lake by Corot.

I should like this picture to be a reproduction of the dainty colors in which the original was painted and with a narrow gold frame. As a lover of beauty in nature, this picture impressed itself upon me the very first time I saw it. The word that comes to my mind when I think of it is “joyful.” Youth and joyousness fairly radiate from the wonderful landscape. Even if the youthful figures were not dancing around the tree, one would still feel this happiness, I think.

These two pictures I want for my living room. One the emblem of peace and happiness, the other of joy—pictures which have long pleased the world and made it better. –Mrs. J.A.R., Minnesota

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, March 1923, Page 359; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

Saving and Spending Minutes–Efficient Housekeeping 1923

Finding time is as good or better than finding a dollar. It is the busy people who generally acquire both.

Hello, again History Lovers,

In today’s world, Mrs. Elizabeth Wright might have posted her cleaning and organizing hacks on TikTok. However, in order to share household tips in her day, she wrote to The Farmer’s Wife—A Magazine For Farm Women where her letter was published in the March 1923 issue–just as homemakers were beginning to think about spring cleaning. The personal reward for her hard work was to have more time to do the things she loved outdoors.

Enjoy!

“When I first began doing my own work, I realized that I must be saving minutes if I would have any time left from my manifold household duties for things outside. May I tell you of some of the time savers I then attached to myself?

One of them was learning to dust with two dust rags instead of one. It was a little awkward at first but I soon found that I could manipulate a dust rag in each hand. I would make my left and right slide from opposite directions along bookshelves, door casings, table legs, arms and backs of chairs, and presto! My dusting was done in half the time. After two years of practice, I am almost expert enough to dust the picture molding with one hand and polish the floor with the other! This specialty in the line of timesavers caused much amusement among my friends, some doubting Thomas’s requiring a demonstration, after which they adopted the method for their own daily schedule.

I found this same two-handed principle worked in many things. In polishing silver, I use flannel mittens instead of rags and rub them with each hand. It also works magic in washing windows, scouring, and any other occupation in which one’s left hand has been accustomed to soldiering.

The next time saver I got hold of was avoiding the accumulation of mail, papers, and so forth. By forming a habit of looking over and disposing immediately of all not to be kept for reference or passing on, I eliminated the trouble of a second inspection, which would have been necessary if the things had been laid away and forgotten. Especially do I clean up empty envelopes, circulars, and other printed drift that the mail brings but no one needs.

Then I started the habit of keeping in the living room a work-basket, so as to have some pick-up sewing always handy. Putting in a few stitches now and then, when chatting with friends, will develop many embryo garments into finished ones. If the machine work is completed on undergarments, the hand-finishing goes quickly, done in this way. Then I always keep a magazine handy to read during moments snatched, here and there, while waiting for someone or something.

When setting or clearing a table I always use a large tray to carry the dishes. [A wheeled tray of course is ideal.] When the dishes are washed, I replace on the tray those that are to be used at the next meal; this saves putting them back and forth into the China closet. I scrape and stack the dishes before washing them, separating the glass and silver and by rinsing all of them in hot water the burden of drying is minimized. Polishing the glass and silver will be about all that is necessary. I fasten a small piece of rubber tubing to the bottom of each faucet and this lessens accidental chipping of dishes that might strike them.

White oilcloth on all my shelves and tables saves much labor. It is easily wiped and always looks fresh. When doing work that necessitates making any trash or stains, I protect my work table or the floor with old newspapers and gather up the debris in them. I keep all scraps of soap in a small tin can with a top well perforated. Boiling water poured over or run through this gives a nice suds and soap wastage is lessened.

It is a great convenience to have in the kitchen a bag for clean wrapping paper and string; also, a bill file, a pad of paper and pencil, a box containing some pins and needles, coarse thread for basting, a small pile of muslin and a pair of scissors. I keep fat drippings in a glass jar, also mayonnaise and cracker crumbs. I always have on a shelf in the kitchen a row of big and little jars and dishes for such uses.

I find it also of the greatest convenience to have a number of bags handy of different thicknesses of material. A canvas bag for crushing ice. Flannel for broom bags; small paper bags for parsley, mint, lettuce, or celery, into which they can be put when washed and then kept crisp on the ice. Also bags for straining things, for cottage cheese, and so forth. I keep a supply of these bags on hand made from scraps or sugar sacks as there is no limit to their usefulness. There is a large bag hanging in my pantry for soiled table and kitchen linen.

On a shelf in my linen closet there is also a row of clean (boiled) bottles and jars, culled from the periodical cleaning out of the medicine closet, and wonderfully convenient they are, when an empty jar or bottle is needed in a hurry.

I found out that in making beds one can save a lot of steps and time by finishing entirely the spreading of covers on one side of the bed, before going to the other side.

In the bathroom closet, I keep an extra broom, dustpan, and small ironing board. This has saved me many steps back and forth when they might be at different ends of the house when needed. If one has not a closet to hold them, keep them behind a curtain hung on a rod a foot or two from the wall, where a shelf can also be placed to hold bathroom conveniences and include in these a small jar to hold bits of soap, that can be made into liquid soap for shampooing or laundry work and bottles of disinfectant and cleaning powders.

There are so many more conveniences that I have discovered and ways of utilizing, what I call the discard, that I cannot tell it all at one time”. –Elizabeth M. Wright

~FWM

Two Pictures I Would Like Best to Own Series–1923

Hello, again History Lovers!

In 1923 The Farmer’s Wife—A Magazine For Farm Women invited farm women to write in regarding what pictures they admire and why. Hundreds of women responded describing some of the most famous works of art in the world. Ten of the best letters were published. Over the course of the next several months, my Sunday posts will be some of these letters along with images of the artwork they describe so that we too might be enriched. 

What would you hang above your mantle?

 

Their Beautiful Influence

Arrangement in Grey and Black No 1 (aka Whistler’s Mother) 1871 James McNeill Whistler, American Painter

“Whistler’s wonder Portrait of Artist’s Mother hangs over my living room mantel and is my daily companion. To me, she typifies the highest ideals of womanhood and the sacred privilege of being a mother. Her character is exalted but she remains to me a very human, very lovable, very understanding woman.

When my body is weary from the many tasks which a farmer’s wife always finds to do; when my babies are more than usual fretful and noisy; when my spirit suffers from the overwhelming disappointments of life, then I look at this “Mother” for help and she never fails me. I see the old hands tired and worn with the round of domestic duties which she cheerfully performed, the arms that folded baby heads to her breast, and the sweet old wrinkled face which looked out upon the world with a smile of contentment and a song of joy. As I look at her, I gain new courage to attack the problems of my little world and new faith in the One who gave me these tender baby bodies to care for. I am ashamed of my selfish, discontented attitude and I am comforted for she seems to say to me: “Have courage, child. I have been over the path before you. Yours is the greatest privilege in the world—to be a homemaker and a mother. Remember that each homely duty, no matter how trivial, may be glorified if done with a heart full of love. And it is all a part of the Master’s great plan for your life.”

Dance of the Nymphs 1850, Camille Corot, French Painter

“Corot’s great Dance of the Nymphs is another favorite. I love to imagine them dancing playfully in and out among the trees. They call my spirit away from work and open up new vistas of a fairy country and fairy folk where there is rest for the weary body and recreation for the weary mind. The slender trees, the lovely foliage, the soft grass all beckon me, saying: “We will show you a land of beauty and sunshine, where hopes are realized and dreams come true.” So, I close my eyes and seem to be lifted bodily and carried across mountain and plain and sea to distant lands filled with wonderful sights!

I am prone to forget the spiritual values of life, so engrossed am I with the work-a-day world. Why let the activities of a busy day shut out the higher, better things? These two pictures have exerted a beautiful influence over my life and for that reason, I love them dearly and would not give them up.” –Mrs. J.J.Q., South Carolina

~FWM

The above article was published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, March 1923, Page 359; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

Are Your Children Healthy? Scarlet Fever

Hello, again History Lovers!

In 1923 The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women began a series regarding the healthcare of rural babies and children written by Dr. Walter R. Ramsey a leading pediatrician of his time. The Editors encouraged mothers to read the articles, cut them out and paste them in a scrapbook, and to tell their neighbors about the information. Keep in mind this was well before the availability of penicillin when childhood illnesses could be debilitating or fatal. Our two-year stint with Covid-19 has been an immersive experience in the anxiousness and vulnerability that mothers of yesteryear had to have felt during outbreaks of serious childhood illnesses.

Today I’m feeling particularly grateful for the availability of antibiotics while raising my children.

Scarlet Fever–Scarlatina

Regard Every Case, However Mild, As Most Serious

“Scarlet Fever is perhaps the most treacherous of all the diseased which affect children. You never know just what it is going to do next. I may be so severe from the onset as to end fatally within a few days, or it may be so mild that it is almost impossible to say that it is scarlet fever at all. Even in the mild cases of so-called Scarlatina, serious complications may arise.

It is, therefore, imperative that all cases of scarlet fever of whatever degree of severity be regarded as serious.

The time from exposure until the child comes down with the disease, varies from two days to a week. The onset is usually sudden with vomiting, sore throat, and rapidly rising fever. The throat is inflamed and frequently covered with a grayish-white membrane, not unlike that found in diphtheria.

The two diseases may be present at the same time, and it is only by a culture from the throat and a microscopic examination that the proper diagnosis can be made.

After twenty-four or forty-eight hours the tongue usually presents the strawberry appearance. The rash begins usually on the neck and chest and rapidly spreads over the body; is not blotchy like measles but rather of a mustard plaster character and in typical cases is scarlet in color.

The glands in the neck frequently become swollen and very tender and later may form an abscess and have to be opened by the physician.

Abscess of the middle ear is common and requires skilled attention, as frequently the drum must be opened to evacuate the pus. By early opening through the canal, mastoid involvement i.e., infection of bone cells behind the ear, may be prevented.

Another frequent and serious complication is inflammation of the kidneys. This often occurs in mild cases, even after they are thought to be well and are permitted to run about and have the usual things to eat. In these cases, it will be noticed that the face is puffy, especially under the eyes, and the ankles and feet are swollen, so that the ridges of the stockings and shoes can be readily seen in the skin. The urine is scant in quantity and often highly colored.

Another serious complication of scarlet fever is heart involvement. It may produce serious symptoms from the beginning or be found later in life. Many of the boys rejected from the army in the late war, were suffering from some heart affection, many instances of which have their origin in scarlet fever during childhood.

Inflammation of the joints is also common in scarlet fever and may result in serious and permanent disability.

From what I have already said it will be apparent that scarlet fever is a disease that should be under the supervision of a skilled physician from the very onset.

All cases of scarlet fever should be kept in bed for a much longer period than is usually thought necessary.

The disease is usually contracted from some other person who has it. The infection comes from the discharges from the throat or nose and not from the scalings, as is generally supposed.

A very common carrier is the milk that may readily be infected from someone, such as a milker who has the disease in a mild form, but who does not know it. One of the worst local epidemics I have ever seen of scarlet fever and malignant sore throat resulted from the infection of the milk supply by the milker.

If all milk for children were properly pasteurized or boiled for two minutes, many of them would miss such diseases as scarlet fever, diphtheria, typhoid, and tuberculosis from which many of them now suffer.”

~FWM

Clubs and Organizations–A Woman’s Rest Room 1923

Hello, again History Lovers!

Public restrooms for women were virtually nonexistent in the 1920s. Even office buildings had only men’s rooms making it thereby “impossible” to hire women. Recognizing a need, organizations in some cities would create a much-needed women’s oasis for travelers, shoppers, and businesswomen. Sadly though in most towns women had to get along without any public facilities at all. To add to the injustice, it was illegal for women to use a men’s room.

Farm Bureau Rest Room

“More than 11,391 farm women and children took advantage of the restroom in the Farm Bureau office, Davies County, Kentucky, in one year.

The large, airy room is located at the rear of the Farm Bureau office. It has been comfortably furnished by the Woman’s Club, the Farm Bureau, and by individual donations. It is provided with a rug, dainty scrim curtains, easy chairs, couch, library table, phonograph, baby beds, and lavatory. The library table holds all the late magazines and a few books by good authors.

Molly Wells, an old southern “Mammy,” croons lullabies to the curly-haired babies left in her charge. She says, “I jes’ naturally love babies and I find it no trouble at all to care fo’ ‘em [sic].” Molly often has eight or ten children from tiny babies to those of school age to look after while the mothers go shopping or attend a meeting or gathering in town.

Besides caring for the children and keeping the room in apple-pie order, Molly posts on the Farm Bureau bulletin board all the “for-sale” and want advertisements which are in the morning paper so those farm women who have brought from the farm fresh eggs, butter, cream, poultry and so forth, for sale, may look up desirable buyers while they rest. They can check their parcels and packages at the restroom. Many of the patrons drive forty to fifty miles for a day’s shopping and appreciate the restroom accordingly.

The room also is patronized by business girls of Owensboro, who come in at noon to eat their lunch, rest or read.

~FWM

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, March 1923, Page 364; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.