The Two Paintings I Would Like Best To Own Series–Part 6

Hello, again History Lovers,

Today Mrs. N.B. of West Virginia shares with us the paintings in her home that she loves best. They are merely cutouts from a magazine but their beauty brings her joy.

Enjoy!

I Should Keep These

Changing Pasture ca. 1880 by Dutch Artist, Anton Mauve

After reading the announcement of our Farmer’s Wife contest for March I walked through the house to see what two pictures I would keep if I were compelled to throw out all but two. I chose Changing Pasture by Anton Mauve and Lady Rouse Broughton by George Romney.

The first is so suggestive of peace and trust—the old herder moving slowly on, with his sheep following, trusting to his guidance and care. It is a picture one can look at a hundred times a day and still enjoy it.

Lady Rouse Boughton 1787 by English Portrait Painter, George Romney

The second I love for its beautiful coloring. I can almost feel the silk of the Lady’s dress. Lady Rouse Broughton (while only a copy) is often admired even by children. Changing Pasture is also a copy. Each of these was reproduced in a magazine several years ago. –Mrs. N. B., W. Va.

~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.

The Two Pictures I Would Like Best To Own Series–Part 5

Hello, again History Lovers,

Today a farmwife from Kansas shares her two “best-loved” paintings. While in high school, she spotted the first painting through the window of a furniture store on her way to school. Thirty years later she finally acquired a print and is preparing to have it framed to hang in her home. Her second choice is as humble and as lovely.

Enjoy!

Our Best Loves

The Angelus 1857 by French Painter, Jean-Francois Millet

Well do I remember my childhood days and perhaps that is why I hunger for some of the best things in life and appreciate them more. We were poor and had plenty of privations and real art was not thought of so there were no pictures in our home. How well I remember one winter morning on my way to high school, passing a large furniture store in Kansas City and seeing a copy of The Angelus by Millet in the window. Instantly I fell in love with that picture and it fascinates me as much now as it did thirty years ago. As I gazed upon it, I could almost hear the bells ring. I could not analyze the picture then but now I know that the artist knew and loved the peasants he portrayed and admired their spirit of reverence and thanksgiving, their patient performance of wearisome labor, the beauty of character in people of lowly station, and the power and influence of custom and high ideals. I have The Gleaners by the same artist but I was not satisfied until I owned a copy of The Angelus which is waiting to be framed.

Song of the Lark 1884 by French Painter, Jules Breton

Another picture that gives me a thrill of delight is Song of the Lark by Breton. It makes prominent the simple beauty of youth and health, and labor dignified by the ennobling qualities of character and that there is something beautiful to be found wherever we are if we can only see or hear it and that ability, like happiness, comes from within us.

What great satisfaction and ennobling power in our lives are our “best loves” whether they be for pictures, song, instrumental music, poem, or prose. –Mrs. J. F. M., Kan.

~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.

Cottage Industry Series–Cooking For Cash

Hello, again History Lovers,

Today’s article is another example of the hard work and ingenuity farm women demonstrated while supplementing their family farm income. Mrs. Alta Dunn uses her cooking and baking skills to establish a catering business in a small western town. Quality products and fair pricing are of supreme importance to her. Mrs. Dunn only planned to continue her enterprise during the tough economic times of the early 1920s, I hope at some point their farm became profitable.

Enjoy!

Cooking For Cash

In common with other farm wives, I have needed money for household and personal use, and needed it badly, since the slump in crop prices. What could I do best? The answer came promptly—cook. Then, in a flash, the inspiration came. A businesswoman friend in my hometown had seemed to enjoy my occasional offerings of homemade cookery very much. Why not ask if she would not like to be supplied regularly with some of it. I did. She would, gladly.

First, I made out a list of the foods I wished to prepare for her, figured what each would cost as nearly as possible, and then tried to find out what such articles sold for at the local bakery and at the bake sales of homemade delicacies held frequently by the women of the different churches. Though I considered my product as good as the best, for I used the best materials and never offer for sale anything that is not strictly up to standard, my idea was to strike a compromise between these two in price. Bake sale prices seemed to me to be too high to be just.

I took this list to my friend and we went over it together, item by item, I explained to her just what the quantity and quality of each would be, and that it was my intention to fix a price that she could afford to pay and which would also allow me a fair wage for the time and labor involved. I knew that if the arrangement were to be satisfactory to both and to continue, we must have a thoroughly businesslike understanding from the first. She agreed with me on this. When I bought goods from her store, I bought a certain quantity or weight at a fixed price. I felt that I should be equally exact in selling to her. Despite my need for money, I had no mind to wreck an old and valuable friendship through the unbusinesslike methods which women all too often employ when dealing with each other informally, that is, not over the counter.

When our arrangement was first made, my customer had a standing order for two loaves of bread, a cake or cookies and a dressed chicken to be delivered every Saturday. However, it later proved more satisfactory to both of us to have this an elastic order, modified from week to week, as she can call me by phone at any time. Thus, if she goes out of town for the weekend or I have an unusual press of work, as in haying or threshing time, by mutual consent no order is to be delivered.

Friday, I devote myself to baking. The bread for my customer is a part of my weekly baking for family use, so it makes but little extra work. For a large double loaf weighing two and one-fourth pounds—and dough for bread to sell is always weighed before baking on small spring scales so that there is no guesswork about weight—I received twenty-five cents. This is at the rate charged by the local bakery. Though my bread is superior to bakery goods both in nutriment and palatability, I considered it best to meet their price, as people of moderate income do not usually care to pay fancy prices for such staples.

For a two-layer cake, frosted, I charge $1.25; the same cake baked in a loaf and frosted brings $1. The rule for these cakes if white or marble cake is desired, is: 1 cup sugar, ½ cup butter, 1 cup sweet milk, 2 cups flour, flavoring, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 4 egg whites stiffly beaten. If baked in layers, I scant the flour a trifle. For marble cake, I take one-third of the batter for the white part; and add coloring to another third, and chocolate or mixed spices to the remainder. If chocolate or gold cake is desired, I use the same rule, substituting 2 whole eggs or 4 yolks for the beaten whites. This makes a delicious, tender cake if carefully mixed and baked.

I use a cream and powdered sugar frosting either white, pink, maple, or chocolate. Any fruit juice may be substituted for cream, beating until frosting is the right consistency to spread.

Large angel food cakes, fruit cakes, plum puddings, and fancy cakes for special occasions are priced according to materials used and labor of making. Birthday cakes, much ornamented, sometimes bring as high as $3, but there is no more profit in them than in the above simple cakes, as they cost so much more both in time and ingredients.

These prices are given merely as a suggestion. They may not be high enough for some localities—or too high for others. I live in the West where long freight hauls from distributing centers make pastry flour, baking powder, extracts, and various other materials considerably higher than in the Middle West.

Since I have been catering for this businesswoman, orders from others have come and the list of goodies has expanded to include salad dressings, boiled ham, salads, cheese, and other delicatessen dishes. I have never yet had a complaint of any kind about my products and I could dispose of more of this cookery if I had time to prepare it without neglecting my other home duties.

If work of this kind is to be profitable it must be carefully managed. In my own case, most of the extra cookery is worked in along with that for home use. My own family is small and that of my chief customer also. This makes it possible for me to divide a large rule for chili con carne, spaghetti and cheese or with tomatoes or in various combinations, baked beans or other “made dishes,” and so provide sufficiently for a meal for both households.

These dishes which form the basis for a one-dish meal are cooked in brown earthenware casseroles and also delivered in these. My first customer has an electric range, so it is a simple matter to reheat food of this sort, as it is ready to slip into the oven when delivered. The made dishes are as a rule prepared on Saturday morning. This provides a substantial noon meal for my own family and insures having my customer’s dish fresh for her evening dinner. Chickens are dressed Friday and kept on ice.

It is surprising how many cakes and cookies and doughnuts may be made by one pair of deft hands in one day by early rising and good management of time and fire. To save time in delivery we “route” the list so as to avoid doubling back if possible. My husband drives the car and either my son or I run inside with the orders. Later I go back to collect. As our town is very small and orders are delivered to places of business, this is more expeditious than collecting as we go along. Where delivery is made to residences, this plan would of course not be practicable.

Though this is merely a sideline with me which I do not expect to continue after “times get better,” such a modest venture as is here outlined might very readily be developed into a profitable little catering business. –Alta B. Dunn

~FWM

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, March 1922, Page 786; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

Club Work–Alum Creek Is No Longer Lonely

Hello, again History Lovers,

When the church burned to the ground, the social life of rural farm women in West Virginia came to an abrupt end until an enterprising woman of the Alum Creek community began a farm woman’s club. It wasn’t long before one club branched out into three clubs. After four years with no sign of the church being rebuilt, the farm woman’s club took the initiative to begin fundraising for a new place of worship. Through their hard work and dedication, the building project was finally brought to fruition.

Enjoy!

The Women Got Together, Ate Together And Then They Built A Church

When the Baptist church at Alum Creek, West Virginia burned, the social life of the women in this locality—and a remote one it is—appeared to be swept away by the flames. The women had always depended upon seeing each other at meetings, ice cream festivals, and singing school, all held in the church house. A year slipped away, during which time the women had become lonely and lonelier in their little homes in the hills and there was no sign of the church being rebuilt.

At the end of the year, Mrs. Emma Gillispie, one of the well-known women of Alum Creek, began to consider seriously a suggestion for a farm women’s club. She took into her confidence a close friend and after debating the subject for two months, they started a campaign.

This self-appointed committee invited all the womenfolk within a radius of four to six miles to spend an entire day at the home of Mrs. Gillispie. Such a thing had never been heard of before on Alum Creek except for quilting bees and apple peelings and then the husbands were always included for mealtime on such occasions. Nearly all accepted the invitation.

During the noon dinner, the subject of recipes came up for discussion, prompted by two entirely new dishes which Mrs. Gillispie had prepared–with some fear and trembling. It takes courage sometimes, to introduce new recipes after all the women in a certain locality have cooked the way their great grandmothers did all their lives.  But the fifteen guests were interested in the new dishes and every one of them sought all the minute details as to their preparation. If anything, the hill-folk of West Virginia are hospitable. The stranger and friend alike are always welcome at the board, be there little or much upon it. But the women never before had thought of extending their hospitality just this way. All of them at this particular party, however, enjoyed the day so thoroughly that when it was time to return to their homes, they each extended an invitation to all of the others for an all-day’s visit again soon and date and place for the next get-together were settled then and there.

A few days before the next party, Mrs. Gillispie asked the prospective hostess for the privilege of preparing the cakes. Her request was granted with the result that in these two beautifully baked prizes, there were two more sought for and found recipes. This plan continued from month to month until one day Mrs. Gillispie mentioned in a casual way something about government-approved recipes and standard methods of cooking. This aroused much interest and demand for standard recipes.

The club, although it was not yet called a club, was growing slowly, with one or two members a month. Also, the fame of the good times and excellent cookery were beginning to permeate other remote sections, for by this time there had developed a keen though healthy rivalry in cookery. Another competition was going on brought about by the suggestion of Mrs. Gillispie’s teammate, in the promotion of quilt patterns. Following the noon dinners now at the monthly meetings, the women would engage in piecing their quilts and as always happens when women sew together, patterns, and ideas were exchanged.

It was just about this stage of affairs that a woman’s magazine made its appearance at the home of one of the members. It was a sample copy and none of the club women could recall ever having seen one before. This magazine discussed constructively such things as plain dressmaking, gardening, and other matters of interest to women and provided food for much valuable discussion at one of the meetings.

Nearby communities, two of them, caught the club contagion and in little more than a year following that first memorable get-together, two other organizations were started. By the close of the second year, the three clubs were competing and within another six months, they all three came together for a picnic and simple exhibit.

No longer were the women of Alum Creek and her neighboring sisters lonely. No longer did they have to wait for their special club days to get together if they wished—however, the club day was always observed. Occasionally, the entire families were brought together for picnic affairs and upon such occasions, the men were ofttimes appalled at what the women had learned (from magazine reading).

Naturally, there came times of slump in interest but the organization was kept intact. And it was at one of these family events on Alum Creek four years later that the women said: “Why can’t we have a church?” The men looked stumped and also failed to answer the question. Each wife then began to “hammer home” the question to her husband in private. The club agreed to hold a fair and sell food and quilts to start the building fund. They realized $50 from that sale. They kept on working. The new Alum Creek church is just completed and the women now have both spiritual and social. After all, women usually get what they want. –Nora B. Ragsdale

~FWM

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, April 1923, Page 407; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

The Two Pictures I Would Like Best To Own Series–Part 4

Hello, again History Lovers,

In another submission to The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, Ms. M.A. of New York has chosen The Two Pictures that she Would Like Best To Own. One is religious in nature and the other is of people in nature both of which seem to follow a trend set by her fellow submitters. The first painting is an obscure piece of work by French painter Henri Lerolle and the other is the glorious and world-renown Sistine Madonna by Raphael including the two cherubs at the bottom of the painting who have taken on a life of their own throughout the centuries.

Enjoy!

For My Home and Friends

On the Banks of the River by Henri Lerolle, French Artist, circa 1900

If I had the money, I know two pictures I should order before the sun sets. I simply must have them some time!

One, painted by Henri Lerolle, is called On the Banks of the River, which gives a glimpse of scenery, charming and restful in every detail. The expanse of the river is calm and quiet, reflecting on its bosom the hills and trees and Heaven above. The trees are tall, straight, and nearly leafless, pointing like church spires to higher things. It is late in the day. In the distance, a woman is seen bringing the cows from the pasture, and in the foreground, giving your heart a real tug, are two young women returning from a nutting trip. One bareheaded has a bag of nuts slung over her shoulder. Her face is sweet and winning. By her side walks the other woman with a baby in her arms, her beautiful face expressing deep tender mother love. There is a warm human appeal in these rustic and graceful figures.

Sistine Madonna by Raphael 1513 Italian High Renaissance Artist

The other picture is one that people who are supposed to know, call the greatest picture in the world—the Sistine Madonna by Raphael. The original is in the Royal Gallery of Dresden where it has a room by itself.

There is sadness as well as joy and sweetness in the lovely face of the Mother as if she foresees the suffering as well as the triumph of Christ. The Holy Child’s face has the essence of all the loveliness, sweetness, and beauty of childhood and yet it has an omniscient look that makes one think of eternal and spiritual things.

Kneeling, in awe and amazement are Pope and Saint, and cherubs’ faces exquisitely lovely, seem to be worshiping the Child.

I want these pictures for my pleasure but most I want my children to know and love them, and to know the lives of the painters, especially the gifted, adorned, and immortal Raphael. I want my friends to love them and I want some who never before have seen the beauty of them to learn in my home the joy they give. –M.A., N.Y.

~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.

Are Your Children Healthy? Diphtheria

Hello, again History Lovers,

Today’s article discusses the seriousness of Diphtheria in children in the early 1920s. Written by Dr. Walter Ramsey M.D., a leading doctor of his time, he expresses the urgency in which the diphtheria antitoxin must be administered to a child who is suspected of having contracted the disease. With a forty percent mortality rate without the antitoxin, Diphtheria was a dreaded childhood illness. Dr. Ramsey’s article is prefaced by a clipping from a Charlotte, North Carolina newspaper from 1922 illustrating the tragedy of diphtheria. The title of the article links to the clipping.

Sincerely,

Board of Health 1923 Diphtheria Warning Poster

Charlotte News, Births to Deaths and Everything Else, March 19, 1922

After an illness of three days with diphtheria, Sarah Hope, 6-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J.A. Cooper of Lawyers Road, died at the home of her parents Saturday afternoon. The body will be accompanied to Rockingham Sunday and interment will take place there. She is survived by her parents, two brothers, and one sister.

What You Should Know About Warding Off Diphtheria 1923

Dr. Walter R. Ramsey, M.D.

Twenty-five years ago, diphtheria was the most dangerous and the most dreaded of all the diseases which attacked children. There was scarcely a family to be found anywhere which had not lost some of its members from diphtheria.

In going through the files of the City and County Hospital of St. Paul, Minnesota for a period of ten years between 1887 and 1897, the death rate was between thirty-five and forty percent. That is, of every hundred cases which entered the hospital with diphtheria, forty of them died. These figures correspond to those of the large hospitals throughout this country and Europe.

In 1897, Behring and Roux, two European scientists, published their wonderful discovery of diphtheria antitoxin.

During the following ten years by giving antitoxin to diphtheria cases, the death rate had fallen to six per hundred. This rate has been maintained with slight variations up to the present time. In the rural districts of the United States, diphtheria still exacts a large toll in deaths, all of which are preventable.

Dr. Edwin H. Place of the Boston City Hospital has just brought out the fact very clearly that it is not the size of the dose of the antitoxin but the earliness with which it is given that counts.

If given in the first twenty-four hours the mortality is almost nothing but if delayed until the second or third day the death rate jumps up to seven or even ten percent.

There is a widespread idea among people in general, that the giving of antitoxin is frequently followed by serious results such as paralysis. Observing the use of antitoxin in large municipal hospitals over a period of twenty-five years, I have never seen a single death that could be attributed to the antitoxin but I have seen the mortality reduced in the same institutions from forty per hundred to less than six. The temporary paralysis which rather frequently follows or complicates diphtheria is not due to the antitoxin but to the toxin or poison of the disease which did its damage before the antitoxin was given.

These complications are very much less frequent than they formerly were and if the antitoxin were given in the first twenty-four hours there would be practically no complications. The worst thing I have seen following the antitoxin was a severe case of hives and this is rather common but not dangerous.

It is nothing short of criminal, in the light of our present knowledge, for a parent or guardian to refuse or neglect to have a child suffering from diphtheria given antitoxin and given early.

Antitoxin should be available, free of cost, in every hamlet in this nation.

If all cases of membranous sore throat or even (supposedly) “plain” sore throat, were at once assumed by the mother to be diphtheria and a physician called, there would be very few deaths from diphtheria. Antitoxin should be given even in mild cases.

Diphtheria patients should be kept in the recumbent (lying down) position for several weeks, as the most frequent cause of death is heart paralysis. This danger does not end when the membrane has disappeared from the throat but is even greater during the second and third weeks. Sitting up in bed suddenly is not infrequently followed by sudden death when the heart is weak even when the child is to all outward appearances well.

In cases of membranous croup (laryngeal diphtheria) the membrane forms in the larynx which is the upper end of the windpipe blocking the passage of air.

Every case of croup that does not respond to the ordinary home remedies such as a cold compress to the front of the throat, a dose of ipecac, or the steam kettle, should be assumed to be diphtheria, the physician called at once and the child given antitoxin.

If the obstruction to breathing increases, the child should be removed to a hospital, as it may be necessary to introduce a tube into his larynx in order to save his life.

In all epidemics of diphtheria or other contagious diseases, the source of the milk supply should be carefully investigated, as milk is a common carrier of infection.

In the case of any epidemics, all milk should be pasteurized or brought to the boiling point for three minutes.

~FWM

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, February 1923 Page 300; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

Progressive House Cleaning vs. New England Style Spring Cleaning

Hello, again History Lovers,

Every once in a while an article comes along that fairly jumps off the page with enthusiasm and character. So it is with this article submitted by Martha Elizabeth (sadly no last name nor where she was from was given) to The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women in 1922. With great flair, she turns what she calls the New England style of Spring Cleaning on its head by recommending that housewives work away at housecleaning projects throughout the year as opposed to a marathon rework-the-whole-house project in the spring just when its time to start planting the garden. Her advice is very logical. Martha Elizabeth says that the purpose of her article was to help other women “so we might feel more lovingly about our [housework].”

Enjoy!

Progressive House Cleaning

That Is To Say, Progession Through Fifty-Two Weeks

Women who have been reading The Farmer’s Wife for, well, let us say seven years, will perhaps turn up their noses at “another article on house cleaning—as if we do not know how to clean house!”

Of course, we know how to clean house, we women who have had houses for years, but every season along comes a crop of newlyweds and among these girls who were either at school during housecleaning time in their mothers’ home or who, not having direct responsibility, did what they were asked or told or expected to do, “theirs not to question why, theirs but to do or die,”—and let it go at that. Now cobwebs have invaded as they always invade and the young things are waking up to realize that here is a job indeed and they’d better be up and at it. But first, they will dive into the pages of the ever-reliable Farmer’s Wife to see if it has any help for them.

It has. But the help can only be very general for what is to be done in an old-fashioned, three-story-and-basement house built along in the 1860s does not need to and cannot be done in the two-room shack of the pioneer or the rambling ranch house or the compact little bungalow built in 1921. Still, dirt is dirt—a perfectly all right thing in its place which is not anywhere within reach of a broom or brush, or vacuum cleaner.

I have called this little spiel Progressive House Cleaning because I used to follow this system and it worked so well that I gave up forever and a day the old-fashioned general upheavals [of Spring Cleaning] that drove the menfolk to despair and put the women in bed for a week o’ Sundays. Please do not think me untruthful or a snob when I say that I used to clean house all year and when spring came, except for renewal of walls or floors, there was really nothing to do but take off storm doors and windows and “let a little sunshine in.”

This that I have just said, would shock a New England housewife of even as late as 1900 but I wonder if New England and old England and all the rest of English-speaking humanity have not progressed in the matter of house cleaning as well as in other matters.

Really, the woman who KEEPS her house sweet and clean does not need upheavals. She does certain things at certain times and each comes along in its own place and order as certainly as do horseradish and marbles in the spring and oysters in the R-months.

I found this good list of things that one faces in a general-upheaval house cleaning: floors, rugs, hangings, furniture, beds, bathroom, kitchen sink, icebox, pantry, cellar, attic, porches, windows, stairs, fireplace, furnace. This leaves out the walls and closets—I wonder why.

In my Progressive House Cleaning, I kept furniture in good condition by always repairing immediately when accidents happened and by the steady use of a good cleansing polish; beds were never permitted to be in anything but a sweet, speckless condition; for example, when a mattress needs renovation, it needs it, and housecleaning time is not a good time for such extra specific jobs as this; porches need painting when they need it—I never chose garden planting time to have that done; the attic, when I owned that inconvenient convenience, I never permitted it to get into a musty-fusty condition for it was fun on rainy days to “get into” boxes and bags and set things to rights as I discovered wrongs; windows I took care of as they needed it which was with more or less regularity all the year round; I always had the window screens mended and given new coats of paint when they were taken out, not just before they had to be put in, so my work with storm windows became spring work.

You see what I mean. It is easier to keep the house in good condition than to let it slump and then have to have a volcano to pry things loose in the spring. I believe most of us follow this first good way.

If I had a house to clean from top to bottom, having had to let it go because my little family had kept my hands full or because someone had been sick or for some other reason, I should begin my campaign on paper. I would make a plan and schedule because this would help me to marshal all my forces, be systematic, do things in a logical order, not double on my own tracks, and manage so as to keep part of the house always perfectly comfortable for the family at mealtimes and rest times. It is a fact that some women delight in having an orgy of disorder at housecleaning time. It seems to be a good time to indulge in something which the well-ordered days did not permit to come to the surface, so they reduce the house to one glorious mess and then enjoy the misery of restoring it to its usual good condition. No wonder the menfolk take to the woods!

To return to the suggested plan and schedule. I should first make a simple little list of the rooms and then, without stirring out of my chair, visualize each room and write down just what I thought needed doing to that particular room. When the whole list was made out, I should study it and would discover that there were certainly similar things that had to be done for several or all of the rooms: painting or papering or rug-cleaning or curtain-washing or shade-mending. Discovering this would help me to plan just when was the best way to have these little—or big—separate jobs taken care of.

Then I should, still sitting with my paper and pencil, make a list of what I should need to work with. “Would you put down so common a thing as soap?” I most certainly should for I might thereby discover or remember that the last order of soap was just about out and it was high time to place another order. Here is a good list of cleaning agents:

Soap, kerosene, washing soda, borax, lye, ammonia, whiting, rottenstone, bath brick, steel wool.

Then we shall need brooms, brushes, carpet-sweeper, vacuum cleaner, and rags and cloths of many sorts and kinds. It is AWFUL to be on a stepladder cleaning a window only to discover that the cloth is too wet and there is not another dry piece unless someone finds the rag bag and digs one up. One evening spent assembling all the rags needed for the whole campaign would be time well spent.

One part of housecleaning time is EATING. One reason why so many women practically collapse during some of the long, difficult jobs that housekeeping may involve, is because they think it part of their devotion and perhaps somewhat religious not to “bother about eating.” If they treated their prize chicks like that–! Part of the real fun of housecleaning should be to see how easily and jollily one can pull it through. Lay in picnic eats. Huge crocks of cookies and doughnuts; a big pan of gingerbread; several dozen rolls that can be heated in the steamer or oven; an especially fine ham; an extraordinarily good meatloaf; some of the very best of the canned goods and preserves: these things to have at housecleaning time and they can be ready beforehand.

Women should learn the secret of the rest-lunch. When we are under a prolonged strain of work, we should eat little and often. A tin container filled with some tasty sandwiches which can be easily fished out and eaten while one perches on the upturned mattress for a five-minute rest is a magic-worker. It is foolishness to think one can go and go and tug and tug and not pay the piper. When I have to do a long stint of hard work, I eat a little every two hours and gain great help thereby. I call it stoking the inner fire.

This is not a practical article, you see. It is just a neighborly chat. Your home demonstration agent is on the wire—call her up and have her tell you how to make that old bureau new, how to convert great-grandmother’s four-poster into a garden seat, how to finish the kitchen floor so it will be at once sanitary, easy to clean and lovely to look at, how to change the color scheme of the gloomy room, how to upholster with the lovely cretonnes (heavy cotton upholstery fabric) of the day. All I have tried to do is to give you a little hunch or two which will take the Ouch! out of housecleaning. The psychologists account for everything these days by calling this, that, and the other, “a state of mind.” If this be so, and there may be something in it, then let you and me rejoice that Mother Nature out-of-doors is having her spring cleaning: the springs are carrying winter’s accumulations out to the ocean: the big winds are blowing the flu and doldrums and the dumps away to the poles; the rains are cleansing the trees and bushes and grass as lovingly as ever a mother washed her babe; old things are passing young things are being born…Oh, come! Let’s tie a towel around our heads or put on our prettiest dust cap and go to it!

A neighbor read this before I sent it to The Farmer’s Wife and remarked that I certainly had not burdened my readers with information. I never meant to! I just wanted to talk the Big Job over with Us and Company so we might feel more lovingly about it. And we do, don’t we? –Martha Elizabeth

~FWM

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, April 1922, Page 828; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

The Twelve Greatest Things In Life Series–Play

Twelve Greatest Things In Life

Hello, again History Lovers,

We have come to the fourth article in the Twelve Greatest Things In Life Series. This month’s topic is Play and it speaks powerfully of mental health.

While enduring two years of varying levels of Covid lockdown I have certainly noticed the effect that isolation has had on the elderly. No longer being able to be as physically and emotionally involved in activities, hobbies, friends, family, and life has caused folks depression, anxiety, and diminished cognitive abilities. It could be argued that the Covid lockdown took away their opportunity to Play with a serious cost to mental health. As life moves back toward “normal” I hope that Play will serve to improve the mental health of everyone but especially the elderly.

Sincerely,

Play

As ancient as Work and Struggle am I. It has been given to me to keep men from growing stale or going insane. They call me Play.

All animate life feels the thrill of gaiety that I inspire. The young things of all creatures I tickle till they leap and frolic.

Little children are filled with the instincts of action which I give them. If men and women were only wise enough to play more and let their little ones play, most children would be good. If I can have my way, I make the bodies of children clean and healthy while they run in their games.

Long-faced people who are dead but not yet buried look with pain upon the recreations of young people. It is because they have grown unnatural and warped.

Without me, Play, people grow old at forty and are octogenarians at fifty.

As for me, I shall never be content till I am a part of all the existence of men and women. They all need me.

The principle of inner growth is in my hands. When people cease to play, they begin to shrivel and die. The great discovery of working folk is that they ought to mingle Play with their toil. I will keep them young, and keep them growing.

Often, I have been perverted when weak men have tried to make me the whole of their lives. Such people, I destroy, for they curse the earth. The Creator at first made all pleasures innocent, all passions pure. Because some foolish ones are destroyed by pleasure is proof of my power, but I wish only to bless and never hurt anyone. My mission is daily to re-create man for his noblest task.

Whenever I am crowded from a palace or humble home, the physician enters. It is a law of Nature that they who despise me must pay the Doctor. If you would digest your food, laugh, and be jolly. Dyspepsia reaps his harvest from play-less bodies.

As the master loosens the tension of the violin strings, so I relax the tautness of human nerves and give them rest through change.

If I could persuade men and women to come out of doors with me, they could close half of their hospitals and prisons in a generation. I am the balance wheel, the “governor” of the human soul. Religious people are not made better through a lack of diversion. Rather are they made to grow unnatural. I could again paint upon their cheeks the roses of health and give real life to their soul. Prayer is not more necessary to life than I. Really he prays best who plays best.

I call men to give the right amount of time to pleasures, relaxation, sports. While they frolic, I will make them “healthy, wealthy, and wise,” and send them back to the great tasks of life with a zest for those who have been reborn.

~FWM

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.