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!