Monday, October 18, 2010

Old-Fashioned Home Management-- Part ONE

Bread rising on a windowsill sometime in the 1930's

PART ONE: A History on Modern Homemaking

Have you ever thought about how women of the past organized their homemaking efforts? I sure have! And it's sad to me how little there is recorded on the subject. But we do have some clues we can find-- classic literature is a really big one for me. Books like the "Little House" series, some of Louisa May Alcott's books, and my favorite, "Laddie" by Jean Stratton Porter.

In fact this excerpt from "Laddie" (originally published in 1917) inspired me in teaching my daughters how to become proficient homemakers:
"Before any daughter has left our home for one of her own, she has been taught all I know of cleanliness about a house, cookery, sewing, tending the sick, bathing and dressing the new born. She has to bake bread, pie, cake, and cook any meat or vegetable we have. She has had her bolt of muslin to make as she chose for her bedding, and linen for her underclothing. The quilts she pieced and the blankets she wove have been hers. All of them have been as well provided for as we could afford. They can knit, darn, patch, tuck, hem, and embroider, set a hen and plant a garden. I go on a vacation and leave each of them to keep house for her father a month, before she enters a home of her own. They are strong, healthy girls; I hope all of them are making a good showing at being useful women, and I know they are happy, so far at least."

Wow! How many of us even know what those skills are, much less how to do them?!

Modern feminists tend to look down on the work women have done in the home for ages. Yet, look at how skilled, hard-working, and efficient the women of the past used to be! Today's homemaker relies on technology and businesses to do the work that our foremothers did all on their own. We should respect and honor them for all they knew and did-- not look down on their efforts as "menial" or "unimportant".

A 1930's Housewife

I truly believe that if we look at the women who came before us, and think about what we can learn from them, we can be more efficient in our own homemaking efforts in THIS day and age. It can be argued that we are busier than women of the past, but I contend that we're busier outside of the home, than they were. Without modern conveniences and ready-made clothes and food, they had to work hard all day just to eat! So, they really didn't have the luxuries and time we do today to spend on hobbies, socializing, shopping, running kids around, etc..

A mother sewing clothes for her family

Now, I am not putting down the way we do things today, nor am I saying that we should "pull the plug" on technology, conveniences, or avoid shopping and outside activities. I am only trying to put things in to perspective for myself and other women. While I am grateful for all the opportunities we have in the world today, I do reflect on all the knowledge and skills we, as women, have lost. The most important of which, is the value we place on serving our families in our homes every day.

She looks happy to me!

How did it all happen? I mean, besides all the inventions and changes in our economy, how did the lack of respect for traditional homemaking come about? Here's my take on how things happened in recent history:


First off, there was war. The men were needed in combat, and women were needed in factories to help in the war effort. I do NOT blame them, however. This was needed and necessary, at the time. I honor those women who left their homes and their babies to help out in a great cause. But there were still consequences as a result. Because the homemakers no longer had time to work all day in order to put food on the table, meal preparation had to become more convenient and easy. Then, after the war, the new technologies made homemaking even easier than before. (Can you say, WASHING MACHINES?!)

Doing laundry near the turn of the century

 The housewife of the 1950's had all kind of conveniences their mothers had never dreamed of! Electricity brought electric ovens, indoor washing machines, and refrigerators to the kitchen. And kitchens began to be more decorated and beautified. And the women became "more beautified", too!

"Here, children. Have some soda pop with your cookies."

With all of this ease and convenience, the standards for cleanliness grew to new levels. And television entering homes reinforced this idealized view of homemaking. Homes needed to be pristine in cleanliness. Furniture and decor became more expensive and fancy, so the appearance of housewives was expected to be neater and more refined, as well. Aprons were now less of a tool for women to keep their dresses clean, and more of a fashion statement.

I can't decide which is more polished-- her or the table!
Perhaps in response to the new high expectations women had placed upon themselves, the 1960's and 1970's became fertile ground for the so-called "feminist movement." Women of my generation (I'm a Gen-Xer in my 30's) were raised by mothers who were constantly being battered with the message that the work they were doing in their homes was "meaningless" and "stupid." I can't even imagine how difficult it was to raise daughters in such an environment! To work hard trying to give your family the best you could, and then at the end of the day, being told your efforts were worthless!

I honor my mother and my aunts for standing strong in the midst of those times of confusion! They recognized how important the work of motherhood was, and they passed that down to their daughters. I am so grateful for their good examples!!!

I could go on and on about how destructive the "feminist movement" has been to us in society today, but I'm trying to be positive, here. *wink*  Besides, I think we can see the fruit that movement has produced in our lives at this time in history, every day.

But I want to give you hope and encouragement! We, the mothers and women of today, CAN make changes for good! And when we look at the women of the not-to-distant past, we can find many of the  answers we need to improve our homes and families in the here-and-now! I can't wait to share some of these lessons in my next post-- Part Two of  "Old-Fashioned Home Management".

Check back soon!


  1. I am so glad that you are stating these very important words for the world to read!! Our homes must be a haven from the world and mothers need to find joy and fulfillment in even the simplest of tasks, though clean toilets don't have to be included! Love yer guts! Will you help spread the word on my blog and post a link....if you feel it is worth reading!

  2. My mother didn't stand strong in the feminist movement. I was raised on Hamburger Helper and Soda. Seriously. I have learn all homemaking skills on my own. It has been extremely hard. I hope that I will change things for my own children. I can tell you that they know how to take care of a baby and to change and wash their CLOTH Diaper. :)

  3. Thank you, Sarah and ReNee! :-)

    And Miss ReNee, I absolutely love your blog! Everyone should go there and check out your yummy recipes!

    Liv, I hear ya. My mom did stay home, etc., but I know she had a hard time being excited about homemaking. I really had to learn most of what I know after I left to be married, BUT at least my mom was home. Way to go with your kiddos! :-)

  4. Thanks, Rachel, for taking the time out of your busy life to encourage us all to be happier and find fulfillment in the divine role we have been given as mothers and homemakers (whether we work outside of the home or not, we cannot pass the buck to others).

  5. I love this post! My mom stayed home with us and did a great job of teaching us to be homemakers, but I was so bombarded by the world's message that I be a "productive member of society" that I chose to keep working when Mike and I got married. It took 5 years for me to see that I could be fulfilling a higher role by having children and raising them - and now I regret I didn't start sooner :( I hope I can teach my babies.

  6. (And I forgot to ask, where did you get that great "Mothers Who Know" button?!)

  7. Hey, Jessi! Thanks!

    Isn't that "Mothers Who Know" button great? I got it from The Misfit Cygnet's blog. Here's the web address:

    It's on the left as you scroll down. :-)

  8. Great post, and gorgeous pictures. Would you consider sharing a recipe that feeds 8 or more on this linky? Thanks!

  9. I think you've just hit the nail on the head for me as to why I don't have time to be involved in a homeschool group that meets several times a week. I am responsible for growing our food, preserving our food, and making our clothes. I don't really HAVE the time to just go to the park. Others think it's because we are a one-car family (they think I'm limited by only having one car) but I have things to do AT HOME, and I am happiest when I am GETTING those things done, which means being at home!

    The first thing I thought of, when you mentioned washing machines, was a quote by President Kimball, "Today's women . . . have ease, comfort, leisure, conveniences, and time, such as no other women in history have had. What has she done with her new-found liberties and opportunties and time? Has she perfected her own life? Is she more dutiful and faithful to her reduced home duties than was her great-grandmother with her multiplicity of ardous ones? . . . Does she have more children now that she has more time? Does she train her children better than her ancestors did? Does she herself have more faith and piety than the woemn of old? And does she better instill into her children the faith which will make gods of them?"

  10. Wow! Great post!!

    I was raised by a Gen Xer ;) a single mother, she raised me to be a strong woman who didn't need a man :( .

    Now as a 23yr old mommy to three and wife to my lovely husband, I LOVE being a homemaker. Serving my family, making my babies clothes, having babies. I don't feel that those things tie me down, I believe that serving God , My Husband, and My Family is the greatest calling there is.

    My mom lives with us and sees how rewarding the life we are making is, is always saying how I am a much different mother than she was. She loves a home cooked meal every night, clean laundry, and a clean home.

  11. Very interesting post. I think we're still bombarded with the message that our work is meaningless and stupid and that we "deserve better" (whatever THAT is!)

    Great job putting our lives in perspective.

  12. This is really an excellent post!! I love that you posted about how the feminist movement evolved because I totally agree with you! LOVE IT! Great job! :D--S

  13. I just found this site. I LOVE it!!! I completely agree with you about the feminist movement. It's so sad how times have changed and homemakers are criticized. I am a stay at home mom to 3 children and I sometimes feel insecure or ashamed to tell people I don't work I stay at home with the children. A lot of people look down on that these days. I also want to homeschool and a lot of people look down on that, too. It also seems like people in general have lost a lot of disrespect for themselves; I guess what I mean is that when we look back men and women used to be dressed so nice and were proud of who they were. People still dress nice today but it seems that 50 or 60 years ago being a "lady or a gentlemen" was the modern standard for it's time. (I'm having trouble explaining myself through the keyboard.)Things have just really changed in every way and it makes me a little sad to think that in some ways things haven't changed for the good. Sometimes I feel so lost in today's world because I am too "Old Fashioned." If my family and I could board a time machine and go back to the days when housewives were the norm then we would easily fit right in. I'm all over the place with this and I could ramble on all day. I just hope I made some sense. Thanks for your website.


Old Fashioned Motherhood will not approve any comments that are rude, negative, or disrespectful. Thanks for being civil! :-)

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