Today a farm woman from Wisconsin shares the two pictures she would love to own, both of which have implied lessons for the beholder. The first picture represents the three greatest things in life–love, work, and religion. The second painting depicts a high ideal in manhood and womanhood. Both are lovely.
Pictures That Educate
If I could afford to buy but two pictures for my home, they should be the best copies that I could afford of The Angelus by Millet and SirGalahad by Watts. A really good picture must not merely record some incident or picture of some person or place; it must convey some truth whether it be of human nature or Mother Nature. And I know of no other pictures which so thoroughly meet that test as do the two I have chosen.
The Angelus. It is a beautiful picture with a beautiful lesson. A man I know, a poor farmer with little of what the world calls culture, spent several weeks in a city hospital, and on the wall at the foot of his bed was a copy of The Angelus. He said in speaking of it, “Did you ever stop to think that that picture has the three greatest things in life—love, work, and religion?” He had read the message. The Angelus dignifies the soil and the labor of the hands, it holds up the “old fashioned” ideal of love and helpfulness, and above all, it teaches the reverence due to work and their Creator.
Sir Galahad is essentially a picture for youth. Sir Galahad of the Round Table, the perfect knight, is not so far removed from our own youth of today. They need a coat of mail, a snowy charger, they need a high ideal to lead them to clean manhood or womanhood as the knight “without flaw” who sought and achieved the Holy Grail.
There are lesser reasons for choosing these pictures. Both are out-of-door pictures that will be at home in any country home. Both are miracles of color and line. Both have educational stories connected with them. The Angelus may lead up to numerous history lessons on peasant life and so forth. There are thousands of pictures that suggest history and geography but few which educate, in the highest sense of the word, as do The Angelus and Sir Galahad. –J.V.N., Wisconsin
The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, March 1923; Webb Publishing Company, St Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.
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
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 . 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.
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.
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
“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.
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
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.
In contrast to my previous post regarding a farm family who wired their home and farm buildings for electricity, today’s post isa 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.
Since many rural families didn’t get electricity until well into the 1930s, folks who had electricity on their farms in the early twenties were very modern. In January 1922, speaking on behalf of his wife as well as himself, Mr. Harper Christensen submitted an article to The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women extolling the many advantages of having electricity. They found that electric lighting was beneficial inside the house, outside in the yard, and in the barns and garage. Modern electrical appliances helped in all facets of their life–in dairying and pig raising, with housework, and providing the lighting for family fun in the evening once the work was done.
Electricity On Our Farm
“Electric lights were installed on our farm nearly a year ago. Now we often wonder how we managed to get along without them, not alone for time and labor-saving but for pleasure, convenience, and cleanliness.
Last fall, a year ago, they erected a high line from Albert Lea to Alden, Minnesota, and the farmers received the privilege of connecting. There are thirty-three farms between Albert Lea and Alden electrically equipped.
Electricity on the Dairy
Probably the greatest asset with an electrically equipped farm is on the labor-saving side. We milk with electricity, separate the milk with it, wash and iron with it, and in the near future expect to clean the house with electricity. Running the milking machine with a motor is surely much quicker and handier than a gasoline engine. Sometimes I have cranked the gas engine until I was blue in the face only to have to milk by hand, and the same applies to the cream separator with the motor attached—it runs much more smoothly and more even.
Electricity for Washing and Ironing
Washing clothes by hand is anything but pleasure but my wife says with an electric washer it is fun and says also that she never worries about washday anymore. The ironing is also easy as it takes but two minutes to heat the iron. You have to be careful and not get it too hot for it sure does get hot quickly and electricity is the hottest thing there is.
The Cost of Electricity
As a money-saving proposition, it is a benefit also because with gas and kerosene at the present prices, you could not begin to do what we are doing with electricity for the same money. We pay ten cents per kilowatt-hour for the first 500 kilowatt-hours and for what we use over that is seven cents per kilowatt-hour. We probably will use about 750 kilowatt-hours per year costing us about $67.50.
The Benefit of Electric Lighting
As for convenience and pleasure, it has no equal: there are no lamps to fill, no lanterns to clean. All you have to do is to press a button or turn a switch and you have a real light, not half a light. You save your eyes too as you do not have to strain them to see. We have a yard light situated right in the center of all the buildings with a hundred-watt lamp in it and it is light as day when it is turned on. We now can play horseshoes till eleven o’clock—all on account of the lights!
Also, we have the garage lighted up with a cord about 20 feet long attached to the switch so the light can be placed anywhere on the automobiles. The light in the hog house has probably saved us the most money—when the sows are farrowing, we have the lights on and we believe have thereby saved quite a few little pigs from being killed.
Above all, if anyone is figuring on installing electric lights, he should have the wiring done by experts so as to avert possible accidents.”
The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, January 1922, Page 677; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.
One hundred years ago, Mrs. Ida Bailey Allen, a prolific cookbook author, and home economics educator published a cookbook titled the Woman’s World Calendar Cook Book 1922. Each month featured menu suggestions, recipes, and an article on a topic of importance to an early twentieth-century homemaker. December’s article is titled The Range and Its Operation. By reading the article I realized there was a lot I didn’t know about the development of cookstoves. My perception was that homemakers cooked on behemoth wood-burning stoves (see image above) up until electric stoves magically appeared in kitchens across America sometime in the early twentieth century. As it turns out there were many improvements thattook place along the way.
In the 1700s cooking took place in an open hearth. Late in that century the fire was taken from the hearth and placed ina cast-iron box with a flat cooking surface giving birth to the woodburning cookstove. During the 1800s these stoves became more and more user-friendly, less bulky, and highly decorative. By the 1900s experimentation with different types of fuel (coal, manufactured oil/gas, and kerosene) led to the development of cookstoves that could not only burn a different type of fuel (Kerosene) but some models could burn several different fuels (wood, coal, oil/gas) with little adjustment to the stove.
Below are advertisements from the 1920s illustrating cutting-edge ranges of the day. I have also included excerpts from Ida’s book most of which focus on economizing on the use of cooking fuels.
The Coal Range
To get the best results from a coal range it is necessary to understand thoroughly its drafts and mechanism. A little practice will soon show you how to adjust these so as to economize on fuel.
In no part of one’s housekeeping is proper planning of greater value than in connection with the range, whether it be gas or coal. On ironing day, when a hot fire is needed to heat the irons, plan an oven meal of the kind which needs little actual attention—Baked Potatoes, Poor Man’s Rice Pudding, or some Casserole dish. Then, on your regular baking day, plan for further baked dishes which can be held over for a subsequent day’s meals, because the same heat which will bake your pie will also bake potatoes, or will cook the cereal.
As far as the care of the coal range is concerned, there are only two things which must be given serious consideration:
Keep a clear fire by shaking down the greater part of the burned-out ashes which collect in the lower part of the grate, that the air may circulate freely, making the coals glow and give off their stored-up power.
Keep the flues clean and clear of soot and dust, for if these are not kept clean you cannot have proper heat in the oven.
This type of fuel was particularly interesting to me. Sometimes called gas and sometimes called oil it refers to a manufactured fuel made from coal, petroleum, waste fats, oils, or gasoline.
A little thought and care will result in materially reducing the cost of cooking by gas/oil. For instance, a steam cooker that operates over one burner makes it possible to cook two or three things at one time, and even without a steam cooker, one can still do this by the use of double and triple saucepans, all of which are placed over one burner.
The newest style of gas/oil range has a solid top like that of a coal range (as opposed to individual burners), the heat from each burner radiating so that a large surface of the stovetop around it is heated, and this materially reduces the gas/oil bill because two or three things can be cooking by this radiated heat.
There are three sizes of burners on almost all gas/oil ranges:
The regular-sized burner
The giant burner
The simmerer is actually used less than any other burner, whereas it should be the hardest worked, for its heat is quite enough to carry on cooking operations after the boiling point has been reached. The giant burner should be employed only when very large cooking utensils are being used.
Be sure that the mixer is properly regulated so that enough air is burned with the gas to give a blue flame and not a red one. The latter wastes gas/oil, soils the pans and gives off less heat than the blue flame.
The Kerosene Stove
As ranges moved away from being the cookstove as well as the main heat source in a home, the kerosene stove was touted as an appliance that would help keep the kitchen and the cook cool. However, kerosene stoves never became wildly popular as they were perceived by consumers as a real fire hazard.
A kerosene stove is invaluable, especially for summer use, where gas or electricity are not available. It is sometimes stated that oil is a dangerous form of fuel to use. All fire is dangerous unless intelligently handled, and there is no more reason for banishing an oil stove than any other stove.
A three-burner oil stove with a portable oven will do the necessary cooking for a small family. Give it the same care that you would give to oil lamps. See that the oil tank is properly filled, that the wicks are trimmed, that they are long enough to reach properly into the oil, and be careful that the saucepans placed on the oil stove are not over-filled so that there is no danger of boiling over.
Baking can be done just as thoroughly with oil as with any other fuel. In baking, use the upper shelf of the oven as much as possible, especially in the baking of pies with a bottom crust, because if baked too close to the flame the under crust may become overdone before the top and filling are cooked.
In baking with any form of fuel—electricity, gas, coal, or oil—remember that more food is spoiled by too much heat than by too little.
Accustom yourself to the use of an oven thermometer. It is inexpensive, and it does give a feeling of assurance.
A very slow oven, 250 to 300 degrees F.
A moderate oven, 325 to 350 degrees F.
A hot oven, 350 to 375 degrees F.
A very hot oven, 375 to 450 degrees F.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the useof natural gas and electricity was in its infancy in urban areas. In very rural areas it would be decades before either was available.
In today’s post, a Minnesota farm womanshares her determination to improve her character even if it takes a lifetime.
I Shall Not Judge
Judging other people is one thing I do that is unjust. “Judge not and you shall not be judged,” is a Bible truth I was taught as a child. I do not fully understand it but I know it is based on wisdom.
Thinking about this habit of deciding as to the right and wrong of other people’s actions, I see that unless I can know all about everything concerning them, their motives, weaknesses, and strengths, I cannot possibly judge them honestly and fairly. Therefore I am going to hold my mind off their affairs. It may take me all my life to learn but such is My Great Purpose For 1923. –R. C., Minnesota
The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Wome, January 1923, Page 290; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.
The third story in The Farmer’s Wife series How We Keep Christmas demonstrates how much friends and neighbors meant to rural folks. Mrs. Melby of North Dakota shares how three families gathered together each year on Christmas Eve to celebrate the holiday. The festivities included a program put on by the children, a humble gift exchange, bags of candy, nuts, and apples, and a jingling sleigh ride home.
Neighbors Are Family
WE ARE Three neighbors, the Wall family (a large family of grown-up sons and daughters and younger children) the Elvrum family, and the Albertson family (whose children are all younger than eighteen). Our farm homes are about a quarter of a mile apart. We celebrate Christmas together by turns. One year we are all invited to the Elvrum’s, next year to Wall’s, then to Albertsons’.
Every year we have a program which is the children’s delight. For weeks before we have been learning to recite the “piece” that mother found for us. For several Sunday afternoons, we met to practice singing our songs. We know the good old Yule-time songs word for word. Every little tot has her song or verse to say and it is the proudest time of her young life to say it well.
When the longed-for Christmas Eve comes, we have supper early and dress in our very best “brand new dress for Christmas.” We are bundled off into the sleigh. The sleigh bells are not forgotten, we must have their music as we glide over the new-fallen snow, the bells keeping time with our happy hearts.
Arrived at our friends, in happy confusion we lay off our wraps and rush to the Christmas tree! More beautiful than ever! More wonderful each year!
Then we have our program, the little folks a bit more nervous than they had expected to be and glad when it’s over. In our programs, we always have more about the Babe in the Manger and less about Santa and the reindeer.
Then come the toys, the dolls and the presents, a new hair ribbon, a pretty apron and many things we’ve longed for. It all seems so good. Then we get our bags of candy and nuts and all the apples we can eat and some to take home. The fathers and mothers too get gifts of value, presents unlooked for and, happy in the generosity of each other, we go home in the evening having a kindlier, neighborly feeling for all fellowmen. –Mrs. Bertha Melby, North Dakota
The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, December 1922, Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.
Although rural women were very self-reliant in the 1920s there were some products that could not be produced on the farm such as sweeteners for baking. At that time bread, cakes, pies, and other desserts were considered just as important as meats, vegetables, fruits, and dairy products in acquiring the necessary daily calories for laborious farm work. This made sugar, corn syrup, molasses, and/or honey staples. Dried fruits and nuts may have been purchased either to add variety to the family’s pantry or for upcoming holiday baking. Coffee was another essential staple that could not be produced on the farm. Other advertised items would have been purchased to supplement the family’s food storage only if finances allowed.
The ads below came from rural Minnesota grocery stores in 1921. As we get closer to Thanksgiving, I will post more weekly grocery ads so we can compare prices between then and now. Happy Grocery Shopping!