My Improved Kitchen

Hello, again History Lovers!

In contrast to my previous post regarding a farm family who wired their home and farm buildings for electricity, today’s post is a letter from a Maryland farm woman who writes to The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women to share how beneficial the small improvements made to her kitchen were. Her husband moved the hand water pump and sink indoors so she would no longer have to pump water in the cold and carry bucketsful into the kitchen for cooking and cleaning. He also built a worktable, moved the cookstove to a better angle, and framed in the back porch all of which created better working conditions for her.

When we bought our home, the kitchen was just a plain room about 15 ½ ft. x 15 ½ ft. with the chimney in the center back of the room. The only convenience it possessed was a large case or cupboard built on one side of the chimney. Our water supply was at the back porch, about 12 steps away from where it was needed.

The first thing we did was to build a worktable from the cupboard out toward the door that opened on the back porch. Then we moved in the pump and sink from the porch, and put them at the end of the worktable. A small case was built up over the sink between the window and the door which holds articles such as toothbrushes, paste, shaving equipment, and so forth. The sink has a drainpipe to a cesspool which carries away all the wastewater without walking a step. This is one of the best things about having a sink in the kitchen.

We were able to save a few more steps by turning the range around so that the oven door opens toward the worktable. This makes my work in that corner of the room in a space about 6 x 8 ft. and I have very few steps to make to cook a meal.

A stool that can be pushed out of the way under the worktable adds also to the general convenience. A wire dish drainer (cost 20 cents) that fits the sink saves good time in dishwashing. A rack with hooks on the wall between the cupboard and the window over the sink, hold all the little cooking utensils used daily such as eggbeater, can opener, grater.

We have recently enclosed the porch and built some shelves in same and it now makes a very useful store room and laundry.

Of course, my kitchen does not compare with one equipped with running water but for the cost, it has been worth an untold amount. I do not have any water to carry. Of course, I have it to pump, but it is much easier to do in a warm kitchen than out in the cold, and it does not seem so hard when I do not have to carry it several steps and lift it up to the table.

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, February 1922, Page 745; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

The Ideal Farm Home III

In the third and final installment of the Ideal Farm Home Contest, emphasis is placed on the size and functionality of a farm kitchen. As more and more men and women moved to the cities for employment during the 1920s apartments with small kitchenettes were being built. Wise farm women knew that that style of kitchen would never do for them. Important farm improvements were also listed such as good fences and neatly painted outbuildings. These ladies definitely understood what an ideal farm home was whether they had one or not. There is also a shout-out to the top eight prize winners of the competition. Happy Reading!

~Elaine

Part III

As the living room is considered to be the heart of the home, the kitchen is the farm woman’s workshop and greater stress was laid by our friends upon having the kitchen well planned than upon any other one feature, as it is through efficiency here that the farm woman saves time and strength for the greater task of homemaking. Our readers say that the kitchenette of the city apartment is not practical for the farm home. The farm kitchen must be roomy enough to prepare food for more than the immediate family circle but not be so large that there is great lost motion in daily meals-getting. The kitchen must be sufficiently compact so that one person can do the work most of the time in these days when help is so hard to find and large enough so that more than one can work there in comfort when there’s a “gang” to feed. And they say – these sensible, wide-awake women – that their kitchens must be attractive, pleasant, cozy, comfortable, cheery. The walls must be finished in harmonious colors; the woodwork must be so finished that it will be easy to keep clean; the floors must be easy to clean and comfortable to stand on (good linoleum is in favor). The working space must be planned to fit the particular need and sink, tables, shelves, stoves of a height to fit the woman who works. The work units must be grouped to save steps. There must be windows over sink and work table so that the workers can see the beauty of sky and grove, garden and orchard, distant hills, while her hands are employed.

Yes! They know what they need, farm women do, and, as the years go by, their fine, sturdy idealism and practical common sense are bringing better conditions about, not only in farm homes but in farm communities.

  • PLENTY of lights and lights where they are needed – in the kitchen over sink and stove and worktable; in the living room at the places where people want to read; in the closets and at the heads of the beds.
  • A dumb waiter from the kitchen to the basement; a dumb waiter to be enclosed in screen and lowered with its load of food to save many trips up and down the basement steps. Stairs that are wide and with low “risers”; also, wide stairways.
  • Running water – hard and soft; hot and cold.
  • Houses mouse and rat proof.
  • Good chimneys, for fire protection.
  • Plenty of reading matter.
  • Good pictures; music.
  • Plenty of closets, rods for hangers, shelves for hats and shoes.
  • Window seats, with drawers, chests or cupboards beneath for toys, magazines, sewing materials.
  • Good fences in good condition for “good fences make good neighbors.”
  • Buildings well painted and the painting kept up, for both economy and appearance.
  • Electricity, from power line or individual farm plant.
  • Built-in ironing board, in good light.
  • Power for washing machine, separator, vacuum cleaner, iron and so forth.
  • Clothes chute.
  • Lift to attic for taking up seed corn, trunks and so forth.
  • Place indoors to dry clothes in bad weather.
  • Closet for brooms, dust mops and so forth, some want such a cleaning closet on each floor.
  • Cross ventilation in bedrooms.
  • Porch upstairs for airing bedding.
  • Good outbuildings, kept in good repair.
  • Good water supply inside and out.
  • Rocker in kitchen with something to read nearby.
  • A location chosen with reference to good school, church, roads, community and marketing facilities.
  • Workbench or workroom for the men folks.
  • Full length mirrors in bedroom or sewing room.
  • Shower in washroom where men can take a quick shower when they come from fields.
  • Storage space for canned fruits and vegetables and also for root vegetables, apples and so forth.
  • Wood box and icebox that can be filled from outside.
  • Central heating plant.
  • Fireplace.
  • Radio both for business and pleasure.
  • Cupboard between kitchen and dining room, with door or slide that can be used at mealtimes and with long drawer that slides both ways.
  • The house wired for electricity even when service cannot be installed immediately.
  • Medicine cabinet in bathroom; if bathroom is on second floor, a second cabinet in washroom or kitchen for emergency and first-aid supplies.
  • Work table on castors in the middle of the kitchen.
  • Fire extinguishers.
  • Bathtub built in because easier to clean around it.
  • Playroom for children – several mentioned gymnasium in basement.
  • Smooth woodwork – no crevices nor grooves to be cleaned.
  • House that can grow with family.
  • House located and planned with reference to prevailing wind – either for protection from them or to take advantage of them in summer.
  • House planned for hospitality, not only to individuals but to community.
  • Orchard for home use if not for sale of fruit.
  • Garage under same roof as house.
  • Storage room for supplies bought in large quantities and for farm products.
  • Kitchen built so that windows give good view of farm lot and farm buildings and at least one window looking toward road. FWM

PRIZES AWARDED

The cash prizes were awarded to the following women:

  1. Mrs. Foster Tyler, Licking County, Ohio                                        $50.00
  2. Mrs. J.H. Studley, Kankakee County, Illinois                                $25.00
  3. Mrs. Vera M Elliott, Medina County, Ohio                                     $10.00
  4. Mrs. George H. Sommers, Rice County, Minnesota                    $10.00
  5. Mrs. S.V. Barnes, Nobles County, Minnesota                                $10.00
  6. Mrs. George Leahy, Roberts County, South Dakota                      $5.00
  7. Mrs. Earl Frost, Wayne County, New York                                     $5.00
  8. Mrs. Clifford P. Lawrence, McLean County, Illinois                      $5.00

The Ideal Farm Home Contest–1926

March 1926 THE FARMER’S WIFE — A MAGAZINE FOR FARM WOMEN launched a competition for its subscribers — Describe Your Dream House and Win a Prize. The rules were simple. 1. Describe your Ideal Farm Home in a letter. 2. Keep your letter within 1,000 words. 3. The letter must reach the publishing office before May 1st. Submissions must also include a list of the ten points which you consider most important to include in planning any farm — ten items that simply should not be left out. The top prize would be fifty dollars cash! Hundreds of women responded. The “data” was analyzed and the results were published in the October issue. The number one amenity the farm women desired for an “ideal” farm home was electricity.

The original article summarizing the information gathered from the letters is quite lengthy so I have divided it into three sections. Each section will be published as a separate post. I hope that these farm women got to enjoy most, if not all, of these luxuries at some point in their life. Happy Reading!

Elaine

PART ONE

Last March The Farmer’s Wife offered substantial cash prizes for letters from farm women describing their Ideal Farm Home. We also asked each contestant to list ten important points in the arrangement of a farm home.

This proved to be a subject on which many hundreds of our readers had clear-cut ideas and the letters received were at the same time very difficult and very delightful to grade and judge: difficult because, being sincere expressions on a subject concerning which our readers are well informed they were all uncommonly excellent; delightful, because they once more confirmed our established opinion of farm women as the finest and best and most know-how women in the world. Their judgement is good. ~The Editors

FWM 002

“A REMARKABLY large number of those who entered The Farmer’s Wife Ideal Home Contest, expressed their feeling that the building of the farm home does not begin with the actual house but includes the entire farmstead as the beauty, convenience and success of a farmhouse depends on its location and surroundings. Many spoke of the importance of the wood lot, from both the economic and the aesthetic viewpoints; shrubs to tie the house to the ground; flowers; shade trees for shelter and beauty. Many who live in the northern parts of the United States mentioned the need of a windbreak for shelter. Some whose “dream houses” are still in the future have already started by planting trees and shrubs on the chosen site. The one outstanding thought in the contest letters is the fact that farm women consider the farm home as a place for children and feel that any feature not suited to happiness, health, and development of children has no place in a farm home. Many mentioned the fact that windows should be low so that wee folks can see out; that there must be a place for children to play and a place for toys and childish treasures; that each child should have some nook or corner that is really his, even though it be only a drawer or a shelf or a bit of closet; a number spoke of gymnasium equipment in the basement; and many of the workbench for the boys as well as of the workshop for Father.

But the physical development of the child does not receive all the attention in the letters our farm women readers wrote on this fascinating subject, for over and over again came the demand for a place for plenty of books and magazines and almost everyone desired some provision for music and musical instruments – piano, phonograph, radio; some even are planning whole home orchestras.

THE contest letters show that farm women have done a lot of real thinking about the ideal house and home.

As to the type of house described in the contest letters: The plain square house still leads any other type in popularity because it is the most economical type to build. Other types are rapidly gaining favor. The bungalow and the story-and-a-half house both received many votes from farm women who feel that they save much time and strength which has in the past been spent in climbing stairs. Many mentioned the fact that the house which is low seems to fit better into the farm landscape, than one which stands higher and on a smaller foundation. Many spoke of the Dutch Colonial as being especially attractive in a farm setting and still giving a floor plan which meets the needs of family life on the farm.

The frame house is a leader but there is a distinct tendency toward brick and stucco as they are more resistant to fire and also because of the lower cost of upkeep even though the first is somewhat higher. Fireproof roofs are mentioned again and again.

It is the consensus of opinion that the farm home should have at least one bedroom downstairs for the reasons that the farm mother must be nurse as well as housekeeper and that there are often either old people or small children in the farm family and the downstairs bedroom saves much time and strength.

The location of the laundry is a question on which there is much disagreement. Of the women who expressed themselves, 56% feel that the laundry in the basement is most practical; 23% would have it on the same floor as the kitchen; 3% want it in a building separate from the house. Those who favor the basement feel that it takes the “mess” away from the living floor; those who wish it on the first floor locate it near the kitchen so they can attend to the many other things a farm mother has to do while working and avoid carrying clothes up and downstairs. A place undercover for the drying of clothes in winter is considered essential.

The laundry room, these practical folk point out, whether in the basement or on the first floor, can also be used in canning and butchering seasons and the laundry stove should be of a type adapted to these needs. There should be in the room a table with a very heavy top to be used for laundry purposes and the oven for baking use on hot summer days. They suggest that baking can be done here while the fire is going for laundry work.

TO BE CONTINUED