Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Motherly Tips Courtesy of Ma Ingalls

The past couple weeks, my husband and I have been reading aloud to our children from the book "On the Banks of Plum Creek" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The third book in the Little House series contains just some of the great principles to be learned in the series, but it has reminded my husband and I of some important lessons:

1) Live Simply. Ma never made 3 course meals, unless it was a holiday or celebration. And even then, the fare wasn't fancy. But she made sure her husband the children were fed three meals a day, right when they needed it. (How is it she always knew when Pa would walk through the door?) She also had very few dishes, gadgets, pots and pans, or decor. Yet she got along just fine with her crisp white curtains and cast iron skillets. With no extra items or paper clutter, it was easy to keep her house clean.

2) Wives Should Stand Shoulder-to-Shoulder with Their Husbands. Whether it was prairie fire, chores, or an infestation of grasshoppers, Ma always showed her readiness for the challenge at hand. Though she was always feminine and womanly, she also knew how to work, sweat and strain. She had learned that a woman does not need to cower in a corner and faint away when troubles come, but that her place was by her husband's side, facing whatever came their way.

3) Mothers Teach Daughters to Keep House. From the time they were small, Mary and Laura, and then Carrie and Grace, were all taught how to keep a neat and tidy home. After every meal, the girls cleared the dishes from the table, washed and dried them, and swept the floor. (Even when the floor was a dirt floor!) There was no whining or complaining. Rather, they found joy and pleasure in their work!

4) Children Should Be Obedient. Because of Ma's and Pa's parenting, the Ingalls girls chose to be obedient, even if their parents weren't around. Laura, the "wild" one, was also taught some hard lessons in obedience by the forces of Nature, but she did always compared what she wanted to do with whether Ma and Pa would say it was good or bad. Sometimes, in those harsh pioneer days, if a child didn't obey, they or someone else could end up very injured or even dead. The act of obedience could mean the difference between life or death!

5) Thriftiness in a Homemaker is Important. Ma knew how to remake new dresses from old clothes or fabrics. She also mended and patched every item of clothing until it was absolutely unwearable. She even patched shoes and boots, until new ones could be afforded. She lived the phrase "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

6) Don't Go into Town Often. Unlike most homemakers in this day and age, who go to the store every day, and sometimes more than once a day, Ma rarely traveled off to town to provide for her family's need. She grew a garden, and then carefully preserved and stored food for the family to last the whole winter. She knew what they had, and kept an accurate inventory. If she was not careful with their food supplies, her family could starve. (And not just think they're starving because there's no more Fruit Loops in the cupboards. ;-D)

Our foremothers had loads of knowledge that we have lost in the hustle and bustle of modern life. By studying homemaking history and the lives and skills of women of the past, I believe that we can better serve our families, homes, and communities. I'm going to do my best to simplify my life, and I invite you to do the same. Think of how we could change our families and the world, just by following some of these simple principles that Ma Ingalls exhibited!


  1. I love these tips! I agree that there is so much that we can learn from the past. Sometimes I find myself jealous of their simplicity . . . and then I am grateful that every day isn't a struggle with life and death. :)

  2. Ma Ingalls is an inspiration to me. Never a complaint or whine, just kept herself busy helping care for her family the best she could.
    I read a series of children's books by Mary Jane Auch set in a similar time period and I found myself comparing the family in that series to the Ingalls. There actually wasn't much to compare, sad to say. The family in the series was quite dysfunctionaly and I came away admiring the Ingalls all the more.

  3. Very well said! Though we don't live in a time where each day is such a life and death struggle we can take the qualities and principles our foremothers lived and apply them to our own situations. I think I will use some of this for my RS lesson on Sunday. It's Elder Hales talk from a couple of weeks ago "Becoming Provident Providers."

  4. Excellent post! I love the part about Fruit Loops(or lack of) as my children at times are convinced they are about to starve, yet I can name off 10-15 things they could eat(apples, carrot sticks, etc..) yet they aren't quite hungry enough for those.

    We could all learn a thing or two from the Ingalls.

  5. I'll teaching the same lesson Cocoa is and fine your comments to be so helpful! I love your blog. Thanks for all you share!

  6. Have you read Little House, Long Shadow? It brings an interesting perspective to the Ingalls family and their story.

    Ma Ingalls didn't have any sons, but I think its equally important to teach boys to clean up after themselves in the house.

  7. great thoughts Rachel. you are a great lady for sure!

  8. Also, they ate simple meals in season. I was just thinking today about how they ate tomatoes from the garden with fresh cream.

  9. Rachel,

    I so agree about learning from the women of the past and it is preserved so richly in literature. Women used to have a community of sisterhood together and many met to quilt and serve. I am all for promoting these lost arts.

  10. I realize I am over a year late, but I stumbled on your blog while looking for a (simple) soft pretzel recipe. I couldn't resist the "Ma Ingalls" post in your Favorite Entries. We are right now reading "Little House on the Prairie" I love the whole set! I have loved it since I was a girl and now that I am a "Ma" I am trying to raise my children to appreciate "old Fashioned" ways. Great post! :)

  11. I am just so pleased I found you... your thoughts and perspective are lovely and I feel like you are about 10 kids ahead of me but we are two peas in a pod. Super excited to poke around. This post along seals the deal on me liking your site :) Keep up the good work, my dad was one of 13 and I am so grateful for my grandma who raised them all in the church (with a husband who never never went) and even taught me early morning seminary at her kitchen table. My baby is #101 on the grandchild/great grandkid list! Amazing what one righteous woman can do isn't it?


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