Whose Duty Is It? Mother’s or Daughter’s

This is the forth article in September of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on September 26, 1909, and is an article on the importance of teaching daughters how to be housewives before they are married.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Whose Duty Is It? Mother’s or Daughters

FIVE years ago the question was asked in my hearing concerning a girl graduate: “What will she do with herself now?”

She was the only single daughter in the family. Three older sisters had married and gone to homes of their own. The mother is not strong, and the father, although not rich, makes a comfortable living for house household. They keep but one servant—a maid-of-all-work—and much of the dining room and the upstairs works falls upon the mistress of the modest establishment on washing and ironing days.

With these facts in mind, I asked: “Why need she do anything except stay at home, take her share of the labors of the household and be a comfort and joy to her parents in their declining years?”

My companion looked at me with a sort of patronizing pity. “You can’t expect a lively, independent young girl, who is college-bred and full of ambitions of her own, to settle down in that humdrum fashion. The day for that kind of thing has gone by.”

“I held my peace even from good,” says the Psalmist of a season when silence seemed to him to be “golden.”

Ignorance—Not Bliss.

In humble imitation, I refrained from speaking out what was in my mind that instant, assured as I was that what I would have said were the words of truth and soberness. But, like Paddy’s dumb parrot, I “kept up a moighty dale of thinking.” And when my mind and heart are very full, I have a habit of talking both out to my family.

To finish the story begun above: The young girl in question took an expensive course of tuition as a trained nurse in another city than in which her parents lived, and within three months after graduating married a resident of that place and set up housekeeping. I met her mother the other day in a shop. She is a great sufferer from rheumatism, and walks with pain and difficulty. But she had just returned from a visit to Clara,

“Who, poor child! is having a fearful time with housekeeping. She had no time to learn anything of it before her marriage, of course. No girl has, nowadays.”

One Among Many.

When I got home, oddly enough, I found awaiting me a letter from a friend whose niece married, last spring, a young doctor with whom she had become acquainted while taking her course in a training school for nurses. They were married the week after she received her diploma.

“I cannot help thinking it would have been wiser to postpone the wedding until Emma had an apprenticeship in her mother’s kitchen,” wrote my correspondent. “She is as ignorant as a baby of the rudiments of what a woman must know, unless she has abundant means and can employ trained servants. I foresee a grievous novitiate for the young bride. We—you and I—know what trials await her who sets up in business for herself before she has mastered the a b c of her trade.”

I read the letter to a youthful matron whose mother insisted upon putting her into training in active housewifery on Saturdays and in vacations while she was still a schoolgirl. In the year that elapsed between her graduation and her marriage the apprenticeship was steady and systematic.

“I used to gird at her rules sometimes,” commented the matron in harking back to her experience. “I bless her hourly for it now. My knowledge of practical housewifery saves hundreds of dollars yearly, to say nothing of sparing me time, nervous tissue and temper.”

“Among other duties that developed upon me during the last year of my novitiate was marketing. I set forth gayly the first day, with my memorandum in my pocket and a careless smile on my lips. It was the easiest matter in the world to walk into a shop and ask for what I had written down before leaving home. So I entered my butcher’s salesroom and ordered ‘a nice roast of corned beef.’ My mother was an old customer, and the butcher had seen me with her from the time I was a child. So he took the liberty of saying, with a kindly, amused smile: ‘Excuse me, Miss Blank, but corned beef is never roasted. Are you sure you don’t want fresh?’”

Multiplied Responsibility.

That was a minor mortification by comparison with the great fight of worries that are genuine afflictions which beset the woman who, to quote one of our speakers, sets up a business of which she is profoundly ignorant. It is not true, as some persons who should know better affirm, that “any girl with a fair outfit of common sense may learn practical housewifery, including cookery, as well after marriage as before.”

Setting aside other duties incumbent upon wifehood, the responsibility of providing what is to be cooked; of judicious selection of materials, consulting times and seasons; of preparing food that is wholesome, palatable and economical; of directing servants who ingeniously and invariably take advantage of an incompetent and inexperienced employer—I appeal to the great army of housewives with whom our familiar chats are held the year round whether or not I am right in declaring that our profession involves all this and so much more of intelligent effort as to demand long previous training before one stepped into the ranks of workers.

It is not a “trick” to be learned in a week or a month of a year. I, for one, have been laboring diligently at it for over half a century, and account myself still a learner.

Answering the question that heads our page, I say, then, without hesitation, that the mother who allows her daughter to grow up without a fair knowledge of practical housewifery is guilty of absolute cruelty to one whose need of the knowledge may be sore in days to come. I add that the girl who fails to appreciate the value of training in the profession that falls to the lot of seventy-five out of every hundred women in America is short-sighted and improvident. She is sowing for herself a crop of tare and bitter herbs.

Where there are several daughters, and the means of the family do not justify the employment of more than one or, at the most, two servants, the xxx to cook girl of a xxx xxx-tion of daily tasks makes the wheels of the machinery run smoothly.

Carry into your profession the systematic arrangement of work that prevails in your father’s factory or your brother’s office. As I say it, the memory recurs to me of one well-regulated home in the great and influential middle class of American social life in which this plan worked to a charm. The mother held the reins of government. No woman who is set at the head of her own household by her husband should ever resign the office unless hopelessly invalided. She is “called” to the place as truly as a queen to her sovereignty.

Rotation in Office.

As time made her subordinates expert, she did less manual labor, but her superintendence never relaxed in vigilance. One girl took charge of the kitchen for one month; the upstairs work devolved upon a second for the same time; a third, the dining-room, china, silver, etc. Rotation in office brought in orderly sequence each department into the hands of each girl during the quarter year. The only outside help brought into the house was a laundress and now and then a housecleaner.

It goes without saying that the house was beautifully kept from top to bottom. Intelligence and personal interest in the matter in hand insured that end. It may seem less credible to some readers that the machinery of daily toil was so cleverly concealed that, as one writer reported to me, “The house appeared to run itself. Mother and daughters were never slovenly in dress or fagged in appearance. Except that one of the girls arose quietly from table at meals to make needful changes in the courses, I should not have missed the services of a waitress. And how swiftly and noiselessly these changes were accomplished no one can imagine who has not seen a trained gentlewoman do housework. It was a fine art, through and through.”

It passes my comprehension—the cool indifference with which some daughters see their mothers toil in the treadmill where they have wrought for fifteen or thirty years while their families were growing into man’s and woman’s estate, carrying upon their shoulders accustomed burdens which their children, with pharisaic superciliousness, “will not lift with so much as one of their fingers.” “Only mother!” The life of many and many a girl is pitched to that key.

It was a refreshing contrast when, last week, I saw a pretty girl put her soft white arms around the withered neck of her mother, and press ripe red lips to the faded cheek, with—

“You know, mother is advanced to the dignity of consulting physicians now? Oh, I might say, lord high admiral. We make her sit still in state, and the tribes come up to her for judgment.”

I forgive the confusion of figures in consideration of the beautiful reverence to one who had earned the chief office. She is too feeble now for active duties, but her children arise and call her blessed for the work she has done.

Home-Making a Profession.

A serious editorial appeared in one of our leading dailies not long ago, headed, “Learning a Profession.” In it the course pursued by sensible parents with respect to preparing their sons for their lifework and their neglect of a similar duty to their daughters were strongly contrasted.

Even the “advanced” advocates of public careers for our sex cannot deny that, for the average woman, Providence has clearly indicated home as her sphere and home-making as her profession. And the school in which this is to be learned is, as unequivocally, her girlhood’s home under the loving tuition of her mother.

By the time the child can handle mop and duster her apprenticeship should begin. When she is of marriageable age she should have her profession so well in hand that the heart of her husband may safely trust in her as a true helpmeet. The calamities of the earlier years of the novice in housewifery would fill a library.

Were I to solicit a comparison of experience on this head from the members of our Exchange I should have no room for any other matter for a year to come.

Marion Harland

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Ways and Ways of Doing Things

This is the first article in March of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on March 7, 1909, and is an article on how much easier life gets for the maid if she employs a business-like mindset to her work.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Ways and Ways of Doing Things

“SHE is quiet and methodical.”

This was but one clause in the eminently satisfactory certificate given to Serena by her former employer.

One delightful Milesian used to call it “a stiff ticket.” I have never been sure that she was far wrong.

The aforesaid employer was “declining housekeeping”—which I believe to be a purely American phrase—and going to a hotel to live. There were but herself and husband “in family,” and where was the sense of keeping up a regular household for two old people?

This, likewise, I remark, is a sentiment and expression of American coinage.

But as to Serena, who had applied for the vacant place of waitress and chambermaid in my house. She was warranted willing, honest, neat and obliging. She had lived for 14 months in these capacities with the writer of the “stiff ticket,” who would not give her up now save for the declination I have named. Yet my yes returned once and again to the five words I have quoted on this page.

“Quiet and methodical.” No other employer with whom I have ever had similar dealings had used the phrase. It impressed me the more favorably that memory instantly conjured up the vision of the last incumbent of the office for which Serena had offered herself. Martha had not been noisy, it is true, but—methodical? At the idea I smiled broadly, and raising my eyes from the certificate, I saw the flicker of a responsive, yet a respectful gleam cross the face of my companion. She could not have divined the source of my amusement, but she saw that I smiled in a friendly fashion and reflected the light. I have bethought myself sometimes that that brief sympathetic flicker was a key to Serena’s innermost self. Nothing escapes the eyes that never stare inquisitively, and action follows perception.

A Willing Soul.

I engaged her on the spot. She has been an inmate of my house now for five years, and in all that time I have not had occasion to reprove her once for negligence or for any fault of manner of speech.

When, one morning last week, she forgot to put the salt on the breakfast table, a chuckle of delight ran around the board.

“The first time we ever caught her napping!” ejaculated a grinning lad.

And another, as the maid hastened to repair the omission: “Why, Martha, in all the two years she was with us, never set the table once without forgetting something. Don’t you recollect the morning we counted 10 articles she had to put in place after we sat down to breakfast?”

The tale was literally true, and she had believed, like a willing and honest soul (for she was that!) that the table was properly laid. From the time she left her bed with the sun and sought it long after the god of day had withdrawn his face from our side of the world, the girl was in a hurry. She swept with quick swirls of the broom that would have left a stream of mare’s tails in her wake had she been the old woman that brushed cobwebs from the sky; she scrubbed hard, irregularly and painfully, overlooking a corner here and there in her anxiety “to get through with the job.” That was a frequent sating with her. Every task was a “job,” and her eyes were always fixed upon another just ahead of her. Details were as nothing in her sight. “Consequentimentally”—as Mrs. Plornish says in “Little Dorritt”—Martha had what the boys called “the best forgettery” upon record in our domestic archives. It was absolutely phenomenal. And strange to say—for the girl, as I have said, meant to do right abashed her. She rectified them without a blush or murmur of apology. They were all in the day’s work.

Why did I keep her for two years? Partly because she was neat in person, quick of apprehension, willing, industrious and honest; partly because, as I shall show presently, her “ways” were so much like those of an immense number of other women. “Method, system and businesslike” are words which have no place in their working vocabulary. When at last Martha became the wife of a mechanic and departed to another city to miskeep a house of her own, we were sorry to part with her personality.

And, up to the last, her desire to preform her duties properly was so apparent that we were lenient in judgement.

Serena talks little in our hearing at any time. When about her work she never speaks except to answer questions. She does not “take life hard.” On the contrary, she is uniformly cheerful, and the children love to be with her. The secret of her success as a housemaid may be condense into one sentence: She knows what she means to do, and she thinks of nothing else while she has the task in hand. For the time she is a well-regulated machine, warranted to keep in order and to turn out certain results. Each hour has its appointed duty, and she drives steadily on until the next hour brings the next duty. The observant eyes have a cool brain behind them.

To sum up the case, she runs her housework as a man runs his business. I should not dare assert it were this a fancy sketch.

The world is likely to be turned upside down by the frenzied efforts of “pioneers” in the mission of raising women citizens to the level of men. Without trenching upon the field of controversy, may I say a few direct, plain words to my fellow housemothers with regard to what we have actually in hand and not what may or may not be?

Business Methods in the Home.

To begin with an unpalatable truth: As housekeepers we are, as a rule, unbusinesslike. When men say this we retort that a house cannot be run like a store or shop or office. Sometimes the husbands believe us. Oftener they are silenced, not convinced. The boldest and most compassionate of them dare not attempt to point out the flaws in his souse’s system of daily toil. I would better say “her lack of system.” When I have hinted at the possibility of performing the multifarious tasks incumbent upon wife, mother and caterer, according to rule and measure, I am assured that it is impracticable. I would not attempt to say how many thousand times that hateful adage.
“Man’s work is from sun to sun,
But woman’s work is never done,”
has been flung at me in the course of arguments upon the vexed subject.

There is no stranger feature in the whole question than that factory girls and clerk after they are married never think of applying to domestic labors the habits of punctuality and precision they learned in their former spheres. Yet the woman who brings energy, will and ingenuity to bear in the resolve to regulate her household by fixed laws, assigning to each hour its task and finishing each before the next is brought forward, finds to her amazement that she secure for herself what the rhyme I quote intimates can never be hers, to wit, leisure.

To illustrate, by a return to the true story of my maids, Martha never had “a moment to herself,” as she put it. Serena secures an hour in each afternoon for a bath and dressing for the evening, and has five evening per week on an average in her quiet room for her own sewing and reading.

I know—no one better!—how many and vexatious and inevitable are the interruptions which are hindrances in the “just one day” of the housemother’s life. Our husbands, sons and brothers have the same in number, if not exactly in kind. These are “circumstances” which we are to expect and to conquer. In planning what is to be done today allow for these. As your husband would say, “leave a margin,” or perhaps he will phrase it, “Set it down to profit and loss.” But hold fast to your schedule—when you have made it.

Did you ever talk to the manager of a successful hotel? Or ask to be conducted through the kitchen of the same establishment? You will learn much that will set you thinking, if you will do these things. I did. There is no reason why your house may not be “run” with the like regard for order and punctuality on a miniature scale. I have the pleasure of visiting homes where the experiment has been made, and successfully. Would it not be wise for each “progressive woman” to introduce “business methods” into her own home before essaying to lend a hand in making national, State and township laws? It may be capital practice for what lies before the sex in the future of the country. It should be easier to manage Bridget, Dinah and Thekla than to manipulate their masculine counterparts in primary meetings and at the polls. Lift the reproach of “unbusinesslike ways” from women. Put it out of the power of satirists to ask:

“If thou hast run with footmen and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? And if in the land of peace wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then what wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?”

Marion Harland

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Cuts of Meat and How to Buy Them

This is the second article in June of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on June 9, 1907, and is an educating article on the cuts of meat.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the Boston Sunday Post.

Cuts of Meat and How to Buy Them

FULLY as much wit goes to the purchase of meat as to its cookery. This if true of all cuts, but especially of the cheaper pieces. Any one with the money to pay for them can go to a butcher and order rib roasts, porterhouse steaks, French chops and the best cutlets, and be tolerably sure of good meat. It is when economy is an important factor in housekeeping that a knowledge of the value of the cheaper cuts, of the methods of buying and cooking them, is most desirable.

Beef is, of course, the great standby. There is a tradition that one can eat unvaried beef for a longer time without weariness than is possible with any other meat. Its nutritive values are high, and these, fortunately, are not confined to the prime cuts. Rightly purchased and prepared, it is feasible to economize in getting beef and not suffer in the process.

WAYS OF ECONOMIZING

Do not let me be misunderstood. If you wish good roast beef—roast pure and simple—you will have to buy a rib roast. If you desire a plain broiled steak, you must get either the porterhouse, the sirloin, the so-called “Delmonico” or “short” steak, or the hip bone steak. But by the purchase of cheaper cuts you may give your family beef a la mode, beef a la jardiniere, baked steak, smothered steak, beefsteak and onions and a variety of other savory dishes in the enjoyment of which they will forget to pine for the “choice cuts.”

Yet even these one may have by exercising skill in buying, A large family who have a place in which to meat may buy a big piece of beef—the whole cut of the ribs—at a price far smaller than they would give for any one of the favorite cuts. This piece would weigh from sixteen to twenty pounds, and can be cut in a variety of ways. A good steak may first he taken from the top. Then the tenderloin may be removed to make a line roast of fillet. Bart of the rest may be tied in a round and the part near the top of the ribs will make an excellent roast. Lower down, where the meat is less tender, the beef may be cooked a la mode or a la jardintiere or as a pot roast or made into a savory stew. It is a great mistake to think that stews are not nutritious. That this prejudice against them prevails so generally is due to the fact that they are usually poorly cooked.

THE PROPER WAY TO STEW

Fast boiling of meat in too much water, with no seasoning beyond salt and pepper, or, perhaps, an onion, produces a dish that deserves all that can be said against stews. But when the meat is cut in rather small pieces of medium size, put over the fire in cold water and cooked long and slowly, then seasoned judiciously by some one who knows the possibilities of herbs, sparingly employed, of celery salt, mushroom and walnut catsup, Worcestershire sauce, kitchen bouquet and the like, the result gives one a new idea of what may be meant by a stew.

The nutritive qualities are only lost when the liquor in which the meat is cooked is drained from it and converted into soup or used for some other purpose. Much of the good of the meat goes into the stock, and this should be eaten with the meat.

USING ODDS AND ENDS

To return to our piece of beef. From the bones and trimming of so large a section as this there may be made good soup stock. If there is more than is desired for stews, part of it may be minced for Hamburg steaks, to be either broiled, fried or baked, in small cakes or in one large steak. Bart of the beef may be pickled if there seems to be risk about keeping it.

When buying beef in smaller quantities it is well to bear in mind that while a cut from the round will not make a satisfactory plain roast it is excellent as a pot roast, or, as I have said, for beef cooked in any of the other ways I have mentioned. A steak from the top of the round, if pounded and rubbed with oil and vinegar half an hour before cooking, may be broiled and will please those who do not insist upon the tenderloin. The “short” steaks are almost as good as the porterhouse if properly cooked, although they, too, lack the tenderloin.

In purchasing lamb or mutton it is possible to achieve good results with small money by the exercise of judgment in buying. Long ago I rendered my tribute of gratitude to the household writer who first taught me the value of a forequarter of lamb or of young mutton. In the prevalent rise of prices, this, too, has soared from the 12 and 13 cents a pound it used to cost to 4 or 5 cents more on the pound. Even so, it is an economy to buy it.

From a forequarter of lamb or young mutton—which means a yearling lamb—weighing from seven to ten pounds you may secure a roast, a dish of chops, a stew and a soup. Have your butcher “lift” the shoulder out, taking away a good deal of the meat from the ribs as he does so. In a ten-pound forequarter you will have a shoulder roast of from four and a half to five pounds. Your butcher will wish to break the bone—but don’t let him do it! Have the piece roasted just as it is, and you will find it delicious. For a change you may sometimes have the bone extracted altogether and fill the orifice with a good stuffing.

You will now have from seven to ten nice chops, according to the size of the forequarter, which you can broil or fry, and for which you would pay from 20 to 28 cents a pound if you bought them by themselves, instead of with the rest of the large piece. From the neck and trimmings of the chops you can make a stew or a soup or both. The breast may either be cut up into stew meat or else rolled into a little roast and baked. Served with tomato sauce it is an appetizing dish.

If you have a small family, you may secure variety in buying a leg of mutton by having it cut in two, boiling the half nearer the shank, serving it with caper sauce and roasting the loin end. Or you may cut a couple of chops from the loin end of the leg and roast the near the shank. Also, it is worth while to bear in mind that the shoulder chops, which usually cost about half as much as the rib chops, may be trimmed into a very fair imitation of French chops and the trimmings used for soup or stew. Or the whole chop may be broiled or else cooked in casserole. The meat is quite as good as that from the ribs.

Veal, too, may be bought with judgment. The fillet is the most expensive cut, but it is no better than the loin or the shoulder. When the latter has had the bone removed (to be used for soup), the hole left filled with a good stuffing, and the meat slowly and thoroughly roasted and served with a rich brown gravy, it is as savory a dish as can be offered, and will bring joy to those whose gastronomic consciences permit them to eat veal.

The breast, too, is tender, and while the fact that it is rather a thin cut, except in a pretty large calf, does not make it a satisfactory roast without a little care, it may be boned, spread with a good stuffing, rolled and roasted. The breast is one of the cheapest cuts of veal, and to many one of the best. Either the neck or the leg pieces of veal may be used for stewing, and will make a good potpie with dumpling, or an excellent curry or a savory stew.

Marion Harland

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The Art of Canning Vegetables

This is the first article in June of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on June 2, 1907, and is the second of two talk on the art of canning fruits and vegetables.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the Boston Sunday Post.

The Art of Canning Vegetables

USE glass jars always. Apart from the danger that the acid of the vegetables will make a poisonous combination with the metal can, the amateur who undertakes to solder the top to make it air-tight is likely to do the work unskillfully. Moreover, should the fruit ferment, the housewife cannot detect the beginning of the mischief, and check it by cooking the contents of the can a second time.

You cannot be too careful in preparing jars, tops and rubbers to do their part in the delicate process. It is never safe to use last year’s rubber bands for this season’s canning. They are cheap, but were they three times as expensive, the loss of two cans of fruit would be more than the price you would pay for the assurance that makes success doubly sure.

Sterilize jars, tops and bands by laying the first two in boiling water and not taking them out until you wish to fill the jars and clamp down the covers. Dip the rings into the boiling water just before they are fitted into place. Neglect of preliminary sterilizing ruins many a fine batch of “canned goods.”

To Can Tomatoes.

Select ripe tomatoes. The hard, whitish-green portions interfere with the good looks and the general integrity of the rest of the tomatoes. Pour boiling water over the tomatoes; cover the pan in which they are, to keep in the heat, and leave thus for five or, six minutes. Then strip off the skins and cut out defective or unripe parts.

When all are ready, set over a quick fire. Long and slow boiling injures color and flavor. Cover the kettle, that the boil may begin sooner than if the air were freely admitted. Boil for one minute, lift the kettle from the fire and rub the tomatoes through sterilized colander into a scalded bowl. This done, return to the kettle, and cook fast for ten minutes after the boil begins again.

The cans should be put now into fresh boiling water, and the pan containing them set on a table or chair near enough to the range to enable you to transfer the contents of the kettle directly to the cans, and while the pot is still bubbling. Dip out each ladleful from the kettle, and pour into the can which has been emptied that instant by an assistant. The jar must be filled to overflowing, the rubber being already in place. The cover is clapped on without the delay of a second and screwed down tightly. Now wash and wipe the jar, and set where the light will not strike it. When perfectly cold, wrapping paper and set away in a cool place.

Light is a serious disadvantage to canned fruits and vegetables. The forgoing directions apply to all kinds of canning, so far as the sterilization of the jars and rubbers, the actual boiling point at which the kettle must stand while the contents are transferred to the jars, the rapidity with which this is done, the scaling, cooling and the wrapping of the filled jars are concerned.

To Can Tomatoes Whole.

Scald and strip as directed in last recipe. As you peel the tomatoes, lay them in a colander to drain off superfluous juice. Have ready a kettle of really boiling water. When the tomatoes are all skinned, put them into the boiling water and leave them eight minutes, or until the boil begins again. Take out a few at a time—just enough to fill one jar; fill this up with boiling water from the kettle, seal, set aside and go on with the second jar. Proceed thus until all the tomatoes are used up.

Select the finest and firmest tomatoes for this purpose. Break them as little as possible, dipping them out with a wooden spoon.

To Can Tomatoes for Stuffing.

Peel and stew tomatoes of ordinary size, and strain through double cheese-cloth without pressing. Set the liquor aside to be used as I shall presently indicate.

Choose large, smooth tomatoes of uniform size. Do not take off the skins, but with as small,, keen-bladed knife extract the cores neatly. Arrange them in large baking pans; cover them entirely with cold water; cover the pans and leave them in the oven until the water begins to boil. Meanwhile, bring the reserved juice of the stewed tomatoes to a fast boil, and have the saucepan containing it close at hand and still boiling. Put the whole tomatoes with care into large-mouthed quart jars, fill these to overflowing with the hot juice and seal at once.

Tomatoes thus prepared may be stuffed and baked in the winter, and can hardly be distinguished from fresh.

One housewife assures me that she has used them as salad, filling them with celery or with shrimps and disposing upon lettuce leaves, then covering with mayonnaise dressing, and that they are almost equal to raw fruit. I do not vouch for the truth of her story. Tastes differ as to degrees of excellence. I do know that my stuffed tomatoes—warmed to the heart—are good.

To Can Asparagus.

Put the stalks to within two inches of the tips. There rest of the stem is wood. It will not be eaten, and takes up room in the jar that might be occupied to more advantage. Lay the asparagus, thus abbreviated, evenly and close together in a boiler and cover with cold water slightly salted. Put the cover on the boiler and set over the fire. Bring to a slow boil, and keep it up ten minutes, never letting the bubble become violent. Remove the asparagus gently with a wooden ladle; put into the jars, the tops in orderly array, uppermost; fill with boiling salt water and seal.

To Can Spinach.

Pick over the spinach when you have washed it and strip the leaves from the main stems without bruising them. Cover with cold water and leave this to freshen and crisp them. In an hour’s time transfer the leaves, dripping wet, to a granite or porcelain pot, adding no water except that which drips from the spinach. Set this pot or jar in a larger vessel of cold water. Cover the inner vessel closely to keep in the steam and set both over the fire. When the water in the outer pot begins to boil, open the inner and stir the contents gently with your wooden ladle to make sure that they are heated to the center. Cover again and let the boil go on for half an hour more. There should be enough liquid from the succulent leaves to cover the spinach when packed into the jars. Seal immediately.

To Can Beets.

Small beets are the best for canning. Wash as for present use, and leave an inch of stalk at top to prevent bleeding. Boil in slightly salted water; peel as for the table. Have ready in a neighboring saucepan enough cider vinegar to cover the beets. You must use your own judgment as to quantity. To each quart of vinegar add two tablespoonfuls of sugar, a teaspoonful of strained onion juice and a teaspoonful each of pepper and salt. Bring the vinegar to the boil. Pack the beets while hot into heated cans can cover with the vinegar from the boiling saucepan.

To Can String Beans.

The beans must be young, and newly gathered. If toughened by long keeping, or if old and stringy, they are not available for our purpose. With a sharp knife remove the strings from both sides of the beans. As you do this let the prepared beans fall into ice-cold water. Now, cut them into inch-lengths, still dropping the bits into water. Put over the fire covered with cold water, slightly salted and peppered. Boil until soft, but not broken. Transfer to heated jars, cover with boiling salted water from the kettle and seal.

Okra.

Can as you would string beans. It is absolutely essential that pods be young and tender.

Stale vegetables are unfit for canning.

A paper upon canning fruit will Appear during the summer. To give it before the height of the ripening time is upon us would be premature.

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A Revival of the Art of Preserving

This is the final article in May of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on May 26, 1907, and is the first of two talk on the art of canning fruits and vegetables.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the Boston Sunday Post.

A Revival of the Art of Preserving

IF THE agitation and alarm excited by “food scandals” with the details of which the newspapers have reeked lately have no other permanent result, they have revived the custom of domestic preserving in thousand of households.

Canning is hardly fifty years old. It made its way but slowly for time. We paid fifty cents apiece for cans of fresh tomatoes, and $1 for a quart of canned peaches. Then factories of “canned goods” started up like mushrooms after a summer shower all over the country; prices came down on the run under the weight of competition, old-fashioned preserves went out of favor. They were expensive; they took time and thought that might better be bestowed upon worthier objects, and they were less wholesome than fresh, ripe fruits which retained, when canned, the flavor of the “real thing.” Here and there a housewife who learned her trade in the late forties and early fifties was stubborn in the belief that preserves, properly made, hurt nobody, and that the canned fruits were insipid caricatures of the ripe originals.

By degrees thoughtful women with more advanced ideas upon most subjects have swung around to her standpoint. with regard to conserves of fruit. We have learned that much sugar and long cooking prevent the generation of mischievous germs, and that where there is a modicum of sugar, and that little, when combined with acid fruits, is not cooked long, other agencies must be called in to secure sterilization. Hence—by a natural process of reasoning—the lavish use of “chemicals” in canning factories. This admitted, much become clear to the housemotherly perceptions that had puzzled her heretofore. We knew that canned fruits needed the addition of sugar and cream to make them presentable to our palates as desserts. We were aware, even after they were thus qualified and dressed for the table of a slightly bitter flavor in the “chemical blondes” and a certain roughness left upon the tongue.

Thanks to scientific sleuths we know now the full (and the fell) meaning of these peculiar features of the cheap and convenient substitutes for our grandmothers’ preserves, and we have resolved—thousands of us—to do our canning and other kinds of preserving fruits and vegetables. The health of our children is of more value than our time—precious as that may be.

In the practical directions for putting up fruits which will follow will be found some for canning. During the winter, which is now, we fondly hope, “over and gone,” at last, have had so much solid comfort in the store of fruits put up last summer under my own eyes that I am in good heart for the recommendation to fellow-housewives to do likewise. The “canned things” of unrighteous commerce have long been proscribed from our bills of fare. Home-made jellies, marmalades, and preserves are more delicious and indubitably more wholesome.

The “system” of which we spoke last week is eminently desirable in this branch of cookery. Have everything that will be required in the work laid to your hand before you begin.

In dutiful and affectionate imitation of my own grandmother’s and my mother’s methods, I do the bulk of my preserving in the early morning. Every utensil is set in order on kitchen table; if jellying be the business in hand, the fruit, preserved last night, was put into a covered crock and set in a pot of hot water at bedtime, the fire being kept low all night. By the time I (and the sun) am ready for work, the currants, quinces, or crab apples are cooked soft in their own juice and ready for straining. By 9 o’clock the jelly is in glasses, and the cooking utensils washed. Preserving at high noon is what our English sisters call “beastly work.”

Preserved Strawberries.

Choose fine, firm berries for preserving. The smaller and less sweet may be made into marmalade. It is well, on this account, to make marmalade on the same day. Cap the berries, handling lightly, not to bruise them. Allow a of fruit to one of sugar. Use the best grade of sugar in preserving.

Wash and drain the berries, not shaking the colander, yet letting all the water drip that will come away. Put a layer of fruit into the kettle; cover thickly with sugar, and fill the kettle in this order. Cover and set at the side of the range, where it will heat slowly for the first hour. Quicken the boil and cook steadily half an hour. Take out the berries, a few at a time, not to crush them, with a broad, perforated skimmer. Spread upon large platters and set in the sun you boil the syrup left in the kettle fast and hard. It should be quite thick in half an hour unless the berries were too watery. Return the berries to the syrup, and let all boil up once. Fill small glass jars with the hot preserves. Have them full, as the contents will shrink in cooling. Seal while hot.

Preserved Raspberries.

The large yellow and red varieties are best for preserving, although the smaller kinds and wild “black caps” make good marmalade. Cook exactly as directed in the recipe for preserving strawberries.

German Preserved Strawberries.

By this name are known to sellers and buyers the singularly delicious strawberries put up in narrow, tall jars.

Prepare the berries as for preserving in the usual way, and put them with an equal number of pounds of sugar in the kettle. Bring to a gentle boil, keep this up for one minute, and transfer the fruit with a broad, perforated skimmer to several large platters. Cover with panes of glass and set in the full heat of the sun. Leave them there all day; take in sunset and put out again on the morrow. Meanwhile, boil down the syrup until rich and clear, set away and on the third day put it back on the fire. When hot add thee berries, boil for five minutes and seal in small jars.

Berry Marmalade.

For each pound of capped and weighted berries allow three-quarters of a pound of white sugar. Put the berries into the kettle and to a steady boil. Keep up for half an hour, then dip out all the juice that will come away without squeezing the fruit and add the sugar to the berries left in the kettle. Do not be afraid of getting the marmalade too dry. The sugar will make syrup enough. Cook for half an hour after the contents of the kettle begin to boil again and turn, boiling hot, into tumblers or jars, sealing at once.

Make jelly of the surplus juice you have dipped out.

Both manufactures may be carried on at the same time.

Preserved Cherries.

Get large tart cherries. Extract the stones, saving the juice that escapes in the operation. Put the sugar into the kettle with the juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Then add the fruit, cook for half an hour, take the cherries out with a skimmer and spread on broad platters in the sun. Boil the juice thick, skimming as the scum rises. In an hour’s time return the cherries to the syrup, cook slowly for fifteen minutes after the boll begins, anew, and turn hot into jars.

Orange Marmalade.

Take the skin from twelves large oranges. Before the skins have time to harden into dryness, remove the thick white lining and shred the outer yellow peel with sharp scissors into thin strips an inch long. Leave these in cold while you slice the pulp of the fruit thin, removing the tougher membrane and all seed. While you are about the work an assistant should prepare two large grape fruit and one lemon in like manner. Leave the skins in water—which must be very cold—until the prepared pulp is ready. Put pulp and peel together, draining the peel free of water, and set in a cold place all night.

In the morning measure the juice, straining the pulp through a colander, and mix with the liquid a pound of sugar for every pint. Return the juice to skins and pulp. Put them over the fire and bring to a slow boil. Simmer quietly until the peel is clear and tender. Then add the sugar and cook steadily for forty-five minutes longer. The peel should be translucent and the marmalade a clear golden jelly.

This is a truly exquisite conserve if properly made. Not even the famous Dundee marmalades surpasses it.

Marion Harland

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Economizing Time, Money and Strength in Housekeeping

This is the third article in May of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on May 18, 1907, and is an interesting discussion on how to economize time in housework.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the Boston Sunday Post.

Economizing Time, Money and Strength in Housekeeping

“SYSTEM is not a talent!”

I penned the words a quarter of a century ago. Today I turn back to them and the talk built upon them with a heart saddened as by a personal grief. I can begin this paper with nothing better suited to the case of four-fifths of the housewives who are my present audience. Listen! and judge for yourself if this be not true:

“The notable housewife who would be ashamed to admit that she does not look narrowly after paper and twine, bits of cold meat and scraps of butter—who does not calculate wisely concerning coal, candle-ends and crusts—confesses, without a blush, that she takes no thought of the gold-dust, known among us as minutes and seconds, that are sifting through her fingers. By and by she is as truly impoverished as if she had thrown away the treasure by the nugget. Then comes the lament, if not the repentance, unto life. She is ‘run to death with work,’ but to save her life she doesn’t see how it is to be helped. She never could economize time. She has no genius for arranging her business to advantage.”

SYSTEM IS EVERYTHING

I went on to say what I have repeated with vigorous emphasis—energy having gathered vehemence under the pressure of twenty-five years of added experience—“System—by which. I mean a sagacious and economical apportionment of the duty to the hour and the minute; an avoidance of needless waste of working hours; a courageous putting forth of the hand to the plow, instead of talking over the labors to be performed while the cool morning moments are flying—SYSTEM, then, is not a talent!”

I recall as if it were yesterday the circumstances under which the sentences were written. A neighbor—as city blocks settle neighborliness—had brought her fancy work over and sat herself down in my easiest chair to “spend the morning.”

“I know you don’t visit in the forenoon, and don’t want company then, but I thought I would run in and talk a few matters over. And it won’t hurt you to get out of the rut now and then. You are in danger of becoming a mere human machine.”

A FOOL TO HER FOLLY

I made no reply beyond a civil smile. It is the one and only way of meeting unintentional impertinence possible to a gentlewoman—and the most approved method of answering a fool according to her folly.

For two hours I hearkened to details of housewifely and domestic difficulties—a dolorous recital that returned oft and again to the impossibility of crowding all that is expected of a wife and mother who is also a housekeeper into the day, or week, or month appointed unto woman for work.

“Man’s work is from sun to sun;
Woman’s work is never done.”

she quoted, in rising to take her tardy leave. “My husband says it is bad management on my part, and tires me out by talking of ‘business principles introduced into the household.’ You know as well as I do that such talk is bosh! Maybe you systematic people, who do everything by rule and measure, may be able to accomplish something in that line. I haven’t a bit of system in my make-up. I wasn’t built that way!” With which morsel of slang she went her way to “be at home when the children come from school for luncheon.”

USE BUSINESS PRINCIPLES

In the fragment of my precious forenoon that remained after she had nibbled at it for two hours, I wrote what I have selected as the starting point of our confabulation today.

I believe, and hold for certain, that it is practicable to run a household upon business principles. That so few women recognize and act upon this as a cardinal truth is one reason why our work is “never done.” My opinion is that a man wrote the couplet, and that there is sarcasm at the bottom of it.

To begin with, take account of your duties and the time you will have to give to each. That “something must be crowded out” is as certain in your daily tale of labors as it is in your husband’s business. The unexpected is likely to fall into his lot as into yours. He leaves a margin for it, and so must you. For example, you know that three meals are to be prepared and served tomorrow. Before you close your eyes tonight arrange in your mind what shall compose these meals; what materials are in the larder that may be used for this purpose; what you must buy to supplement the supply on hand, and what you can afford for the outlay. You had company yesterday, and, manage as you will, an extra mouth does make a variation in the food bills. Beckon what your guests cost you and make up the difference by contriving a simpler menu for the next meal. I do not counsed meanness in showing one way in which the bills may be “evened” at tile week’s end. The canny housemother rather enjoys the task of keeping up her reputation as a good provider by dainty devices, best known to Frenchwomen, but which we are learning to practice. Yesterday’s roast is capable of metamorphoses the less ingenious caterer does not dream of. A spoonful of gravy; a cupful of cooked vegetable; half a dozen eggs and a handful of lettuce; the heel of dry cheese; a cluster of bread crusts, are so many possibilities in the eye of the aforesaid canny manager. In two or three households that I wot of, the day on which “the mother” is called to the kitchen to concoct a “toss-up” luncheon or dinner is hailed with acclamation by the children, while the father’s smile directed to the head of the table and his hearty “It is easy to see whose hand has been busy here” repay with compound interest for all the heat, the planning and the toil.

Housewifery is a profession—a craft; a lifelong contract—not a series of haphazard makeshifts. Into it should go serious thought and sustained energies. Just now two great nations are stirred by what in early English were termed “wondrous commovements,” touching the right of women to vote for rulers and to make laws. In more direct phrase, as is well formulated by an Englishwoman:

“What is, in fact, proposed is that women, while continuing to do all their own work, shall take an increased share in that of men.’’

I have no intention of entering into the main question at issue here and now. I allude to it that I may impress more deeply upon our housemother’s conscience the duty of ordering her present duties so wisely as to prove her ability to take her part in men’s work in such fashion as may make the world better.

DIGNIFY HOUSEWIFERY

Have I, in seeming, strayed from the subject in hand? It is in seeming alone. If we would dignify our profession—than which there is none more necessary to the welfare of humanity—we must, study the proportions of our several duties, assigning to each its lawful place. Every department of household work must have its place, and be kept in it. The housemother’s schedule of employments should be as orderly as the college girl’s daily appointment of recitations. To every day its especial line of labor; to every hour a specific task, or rest and recreation.

For some the obligation involves a long apprenticeship. The iron is blunt. Then lay to it more strength. System is not a natural gift, but an acquisition.

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What Can Be Done with Old Carpets

This is the second article in November of the School for Housewives 1906 series published on November 11, 1906, and is a discussion on how to bring new life into old carpets.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

What Can Be Done with Old Carpets

WHEN in tolerable preservation and passable in appearance, carpets are a discouraging feature in the autumnal domestic upheaval. They have gathered dust during the absence of the family—no matter how carefully the sun has been excluded by closed shutters and lowered shades, the colors have suffered from heated light, producing a general effect of dinginess peculiarly dispiriting to the frugal housewife.

For, as none of us needs to be told, floors and windows are the most serious items in computing the probable cost of housefurnishing. Your notable manager will tell you that, when hangings are up and carpets (or rugs) are down, the rooms are “more than half furnished.” What follows is mere child’s play by comparison. Tables, beds, chairs, sofas, and sideboards are optional with the mistress. It there are few, ingenuity to brought into exercise to place them to the best advantage, and no conventional decree in this our day obliges us to buy parlor and chamber, or even dining-room “sets.” Carpets and curtains are obligatory and immutable. Nor is it worth our while to pretend to ourselves that the wholesome fashion of hardwood or painted floors emancipates us from the bondage of expensive floor coverings.

We need not buy carpeting by the hundred yards, but we do not sit and stand on naked boards. The rich mask parquet and mosaic with costly rugs; the day laborer’s wife spreads rag carpeting in her kitchen, and scrimps her family bill-of-fare all winter to get what she shows as “a genuwine Brussel” (singular number, accent on last syllable) for the parlor. We must have carpets. As axiomatic is the assertion that carpets will wear out, and the cheaper they are the sooner they give way. Furthermore, a worn or ragged carpet imparts a poverty-stricken look to a room and house. No smartness of furniture can banish or conceal the squalor of a dingy floor covering.

A Dismaying Survey.

Appreciating the fell truth, our housewife of narrow means surveys with dismay the threadbare breadths in the middle of the dining room, defining where restless feet have stirred or beaten the pattern to death; the lines of gray blank spaces, stretching from doors to hearth in the family parlor; the holes worn in the 75-cents-a-yard ingrain, promoted only last year from “mother’s room” to the nursery. The hand-made rag carpet in the kitchen, a present from John’s mother, three Christmases back, was turned last winter—but, bless your soul! you can’t expect anything but wear and tear in a house where there are three boys, all under fifteen. The home-made carpet holds its own, so far as that own is represented, by warp and wool. But it is dirty—vulgarly and unequivocally dirty!

Our housemother is not easily approached while she ponders these things in her heart, and couples them with a gloomy talk she held with John last night upon the increased cost of living and the upward tendency of everything except wages. She is sore of heart—poor woman—and, although she may never have heard the word, a pessimist of a pronounced type.

Nevertheless, it is she, and at this season, with whom I would hold converse today.

You may not be able to make money. You and every other woman—even a busy editor—can make time to do what must be done. And, since your carpets are pastworthy, it follows that they must be renovated.

Begin we with the dining room. It not escaped your housewifely eye that the breadths next the walls are comparatively unworn.

“Of course!” you interrupt, sarcastically; “just where they are least seen!”

Take that as your starting point. Have the carpet beaten free of dust; take it to the least frequented room in your house; rip the seams and shift the breadths. Put the breadths together again, piecing ingeniously, so as to bring the best bits into the light and thrusting disreputable portions into dark corners, or where they be shaded by the heavier articles of furniture. A window bench may cover an atrocious two-yard strip. A sideboard is a friend in need, and hearthrug a boon. You will find real pleasure in the task when you discover to yourself a talent or matching figures and discerning possible fits.

When the carpet is a harmonious whole and on the floor, imitate the example of a happy-go-lucky housewife whom I have quoted here before—and more than once—who set the table “so as to humor the spots” on the cloth. Dispose your furniture charitably, with an eye to the weak points in your handiwork.

The parlor carpet, if good at heart, may be manipulated successfully in like manner. The task is easier, since the widest license prevails in the disposition of rugs in a drawing room. One expects to see a tag under the piano, where the feet of the performer must rest. A smaller, cast carelessly down diagonally, here and there, excites no suspicion of the bare space beneath. You may not have an open fireplace, but the sham chimney and mantel demand the corresponding sham of a hearthrug—the bigger, the better.

Now for the nursery ingrain, too good to be thrown aside, even if you could afford to do it, yet unpresentable in its present dishevelment. Take it up and bundle it up—never mind about shaking it—and send to one of a dozen factories, where it will be cleaned, torn into shreds, woven into rugs of the size designated in your letter of instructions and returned to you in such guise as reminds you of the spring resurrection of leaf, bud and flower from the unsightly root burled in soil. Meanwhile, have the nursery floor painted—or stained and oiled—letting the children sleep elsewhere for three nights to allow paint or stain to dry so thoroughly that the smart new rugs will not suffer from contact with it.

For smart they will be, and new to all intents and purposes, with a world of honest wear in them.

I have omitted in the inventory of pastworthy floor covering the grievous disappointment of the “filling” you laid down in own bedroom four winters agone, in the fond hope that it would be as serviceable as it was cheap. You bought it for 15 cents a yard off at an auction—a bankrupt sale. It was soft green in color—“Nile green,” said the auctioneer—and rested the eyes with its modest uniformity of hue. You mentioned to John, one unseasonably warm spring day, that it reminded you of mosses and young grasses.

It began to fade by the first of April, and has been at the evil work ever since. It has faded in spots—“greenery yallow” and “yallowy green,” saffron and sage color—each vying in hideousness with its neighbor. A more depressing, hopeless carpet it would be hard to imagine, and impossible to manufacture.

Banishing a Nightmare.

Why not rid your eyes and spirits of the nightmare by dyeing it? I am assured by six incorruptible witnesses that this is practicable.

Make up your mind what scheme of color you will adopt, and purchase patent dyes with this end in view. Mix with boiling water in as saucepans as have colors or shades, and keep them hot while you work. Use a broad painter’s brush—four inches in width is not too large—and apply with long, straight sweeps. Paint toward you, as you kneel on the carpet, receding as the painted area broadens. If you paint in strips, or patterns, let each dry before you begin another, that the colors will not run into each other. If you would have a border running around the main carpet cut out a conventional design in stiff pasteboard, tack or pin it to the carpet, and apply dye within the openwork of the design, shifting as you go. This is known, by fresco painters as “stenciling.”

Do not step upon the dyed carpet until it is perfectly dry.

Our descending scale has brought us to the home-made and vulgarly dirty kitchen carpet. Were it mine, I should wash it on the floor. Choose a fine, windy day, when John and the boys are safely off to work and to school, for the operation. Shave a bar of old white soap into a pail or hot water; churn it to suds and stir it in a cup of gosolene. (Have no fire in the room.)

In another pail, close at hand, have plenty of clean hot water for rinsing. You should be provided with a new, strong scrubbing brush and abundance of clean, soft cloths. When everything is in order, scrub that carpet as you would a floor, but with less slopping. Wash a space the width of a breadth and a foot wide, rinse quickly and wipe as dry as you can get it before taking the brush in hand for another scrub. Proceed in this way until you have been over the whole carpet. Rub the badly soiled parts hard, applying suds several times before rinsing.

The floor will be dry in an astonishing short time, if you have not been too lavish with the water.

Leave windows and doors open, and let the air and sunshine do the rest.

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In the Laundry – Washday

This is the fifth and final article in December of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Dec 31, 1905, and is a “practical talk” on laundry and washday. There are some very interesting tidbits of information on preparing laundry, for instance I had to Google “javelle water” which I leaned is a mixture of sodium hypochlorite used as a disinfectant or bleaching agent. I’m also perplexed at the idea of pouring keresone into wash water or rubbing butter into mechanical grease stains!

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

In the Laundry – Washday

Number One of a Series of Practical Talks

Said a Down East woman to me, with energy that was almost vicious:

“I hev’ washed and I hev’ ironed, but, as I tell my husband – ther’s one thing I won’t never do, and that is keep a boa’din’ house!”

Unless I am mistaken in my estimate of the makeup of our constituency, a majority of my readers would reverse the order in which she set the least desirable branches of a woman’s work.

A wit of the eighteenth century declared that washday was instituted in commemoration of the day on which Job was born, the date of which he said: “Let it perish; let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let it not be joined unto the days of the year!”

Preparation.

A latter-day writer has given us gloomy statistics as to the proportion of human life spent in cleansing the house, clothing, and person, in fouling which the remaining time has been employed.

Our optimistic housewife does not waste time and lower her spirit-level in bemoaning the inexorable fact that clothes get dirty and must be cleansed. She bring to the tasks that fail to Job’s birthday cheerful philosophy and such knowledge of the best methods of doing the work as will achieve satisfactory results with the least expenditure of time and labor.

Let us reason together today concerning some of these.

The best excuse I know of for the appointment of Monday as washday is that mind and body have been reinvigorated by Sunday’s rest and comparative freedom from worldly cares. If our housemother be truly wise, she will forecast the morrow’s duties, so far as to put the “clothes” (all-embracing term!) in soak over night. In one household, at least, the bulk of this preparatory task is done on Saturday night, leaving only the body linen, laid aside on Sunday, to be added that evening.

Sort the various articles in making ready for soaking. Put table and bed linen in separate tubs, and keep soiled undergarments apart from both. You will save yourself much subsequent worry if you would “treat” stains before washing. Fruit, ink, coffee, chocolate, and tea stains may be wet with javelle water, or with a weak infusion of chloride of lime; left in this for five minutes and then rinse in pure water. Rub chalk upon grease spots and butter upon stains left by machine oil or axle grease, washing out the butter half an hour later with warm suds. When all are ready, put into the tubs and cover with tepid water – never hot – but just lukewarm. If the water be hard, stir a handful of powdered borax into each tubful.

On the morrow draw off the soaking water, wring each article hard; return each kind to its respective tub, and wash in warm suds, made with plenty of really good soap. Unless the water be soft, add borax again. It is perfectly harmless, softens the water, and tends to whiten the clothes.

Avoid Soda.

Abjure washing soda and all its works! The average laundress is so wedded to it that, if it be denied to her by employers, she will bring surreptitious parcels of the drastic destroyer into the laundry and add secretly. The owner of the maltreated linen never suspects the outrage until she finds it eaten into tiny holes, as if peppered with birdshot. There are other laundresses’ allies and housekeepers’ foes which have the same effect. They save the muscles of one class, rasp the sensibilities and deplete the pockets of the other. Borax is safe and efficient. One pound (powdered) will soften twenty gallons of water.

Clean at Last.

When the clothes are clean – the soiled places rubbed out, and all of uniform whiteness – rinse in clean, hot water, and put into a boiler half filled with tepid water, to which you have added shredded soap and a tablespoonful of kerosene, stirred in well before the clothes are put int. Never forget that boiling water “sets” dirt, and that dirt will make the contents of your boiler hopelessly dingy. Do not have the boiler so full that the water, in heating, cannot bubble freely between the clothes. Boil gently for an hour, lift out the wet linen with a wooden clothes stick, upon a wooden tray, or into a clean tub; again half fill the boiler, as before, and put in a second supply of clothes. Wash table linen first, and, as in soaking, do not mix it with bed or body linen. Be scrupulously particular in this separation, even after both kinds seem to be clean. Now comes the final rinsing. Have an abundance of clean, warm water, souse each article several times, shake hard, twist with a pair of strong hands, and put through the wringer. If there are buttons upon any article, turn them inside with a fold or two over them, that they may not be broken or torn off in the wringer.

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Christmas Chat & Christmas Candy

This issue of School for Housewives was published in the San Francisco Call on Dec. 24, 1905. In the section entitled Christmas Chat, Marion remarks that a cross Christmas shopper is hard to come by where if we compare to today’s standards where many holiday shoppers are mowing down others for expensive gifts.

One aspect that puzzles me on the traditional Christmas tree is how ancestors prevented the tree from catching fire. You would think that the many candles would make it easy for a tree to catch fire if the flame was too close or too strong.

This year my Christmas funds are rather low I am inclined to make all of my gifts this year through art and sweets. While my skills are not as strong as the young woman mentioned in the section on Christmas candy I do look forward to make some delicious brownies, cookies, and other yummy goodies. A series of hand painted Christmas cards will help round out the gifts.

Christmas Chat

CHRISTMAS is the Children’s Day. I said that in my Thanksgiving Talk, but the thought is one that it is well to impress upon our minds as the holy season draws near. For, to enjoy this day of days in the true Christmas spirit, we must all be as little children. Just for a little while let us lay aside the thought of the toil and the stress, the getting and losing, the petty vexations and the still more petty jealousies of daily life. On this day we are all children together, thrilling with the joy of doing something to make others happy, with the delight of giving and with the eagerness to see all the good things that have come to every one else.

There is much talk – some of it decidedly wise, some of it heartlessly foolish – of the evil of gift-making. Without stopping here to go into the ethics of the matter, it may be well to call attention to the fact that at no other season is there so much good natured and unselfish jollity as during the holidays. Note the crowds coming home on street and railroad cars late in the evening, laden down with parcels of all sizes and description, footsore and weary, perhaps but merry and laughing. A cross Christmas shopper is an anomaly. For one such there are thousands of the happy kind. If one doubts the worth of this season, and is cynically tempted to ask. “What’s the use?” with regard to all the fuss and preparation let him simply read the papers and he will be answered. Is it nothing that in hospitals all over the country scores of children’s wards are graced by Christmas trees; that in countless institutions for the poor, the sick, the homeless, there are food and to spare, and gifts and joyous words; that there is one day in the year, when, to use worldly jargon, it is “fashionable” to be good to everybody? Let the sad faces brightened, the lonely made glad, the homeless that ???, answer the question. Is it nothing that on one day in the three hundred and sixty-five all Christendom follows the Golden Rule?

WHEN GIVING IS A TAX

But evil creeps in when the giving because a tax and ceases to be a pleasure. And it is the place of the housemother to see that this is not the case in her nest. The giving must not be dome “grudging nor of necessity,” if it would be gracious.

In one family there was in Lang Syne, a method of making presents which divided the burden (if it can be so called) equally among the members of the household. Several months beforehand a Christmas box or fund was started. Into this locked box were dropped, by each member of the family, such coins as he could spare. They accumulated gradually until a fortnight before Christmas, when there was held what was called “a family council.” All – the father and mother and the children – met to apportion to each person his or her gift. First, the father was told to go out of the room, and a vote was taken as to what should be given to him and the money for that was taken from the box. Next, the mother was banished and the father recalled, and her gift was chosen. Afterward, one child at a time left the room, and the others decided on what he or she should have. Of course, the parents’ gifts took more money than did those of the little children, for toys did not cost much, and in the arrangement the children concurred joyfully. Surely such a method was an illustration of the principle – “In honour preferring one another.”

In another home, where many friendless students – boys and girls far from home – spend Christmas, there is a tree, and on this is a gift for each person, and every one of the number who receives gives something to every other person.

GIFTS AT 25 CENTS APIECE

But there is one law that must not be disobeyed; no gift shall cost more than 25 cents. To depart from this would be considered unkind and unfair. One may pay as little as he wishes for a gift, but one cannot go beyond the sum named. The arrangement gives rise to much merriment. One girl whose hair was always falling down, as it was so heavy that it defied the stoutest pins, received a paper of hairpins elaborately tied with violet ribbon; another, who complained of cold hands and feet, received a tiny doll’s hot water bag and muff; the old-maid aunt, who had tea in her room every day, had a cheap, but pretty, Japanese teapot; to the youth whose dandelion-down moustache was struggling to face the world, was given a gorgeous shaving mug. It may all seem silly to the cool-headed and practical observer – silly and childish. But who would be practical, and who would not be a child at Christmas time?

One woman this year has (so far as her own practice is concerned) reversed the usual custom of giving to those who expect her to do so, or to when she has been in the habit of making gifts. She is now preparing gifts for those from whom she expect nothing, and who cannot send her anything. One great comfort in remembering the poor is the fact that one may not be accursed of giving in the hope of a return in kind.
As this is the home fest, let greens and other decorations be such as can be arranged by the members of the family. To many of us the odour of evergreen brings back a rush of memories of bygone Christmases, of happy faces, of cheering greeting. Let us not deny our children such memories for their future days. Have the prevailing colour green and red, the former much in evidence, the latter added to give a touch of brightness here and there; an exclamation point, as it were, to the general scheme. Get great boughs of cedar and of pine. Suppose each bough does drop its needles all over the floor – just now we will not pause to consider that. Over the mantelpiece bank the boughs, and fasten one across the top of each window.

PRETTY WINDOW DECORATIONS

A pretty idea is to frame each window in green. For this purpose use the ground pine or running cedar, tacking it with tiny brads to the window casing so that one looks out upon white world through a green frame. If one is whore holly and mistletoe grow, use both in abundance. But, if they must be bought at fancy prices, use them sparingly. Instead of the red of the holly, have wreaths and festoons tied with bows of bright scarlet baby ribbon. Of cotton-back ribbon, suitable for this purpose, one may buy a roll of ten yards for 12 cents. If holly is very expensive, be satisfied with having a sprig of it at each cover at the table, to be used at a boutonniere by each diner. Even if one can only have a small piece of mistletoe, hang this, in time honoured fashion, in the middle of the drawing room, and let each member of the family caught beneath it pay the penalty. The grandfather and grandmother will be younger for the merry joke, and the little folk always experience a thrill of excitement when thus aught and kisses. Anything that promotes mirth, or that produces a laugh, is to be advocated.

The questions of the Christmas tree is perennial. In many families the grown people still cling to the dear old emblem. Even when Santa Claus has grown to mean only the Spirit of Christmas, and the dressing of the tree is no longer a mysterious rite performed after each of the younger members of the household is in bed, “while visions of sugar plums dance in his head” – still we hate to part with the tree. Of course, a great deal of work, and a great deal of disorder later. If there are children in the family, put aside these considerations, and trim the tree, large or small. It means more to the little ones than we can imagine, unless we have very distinct recollections of our own youth.

A TINY TREE ON A TABLE

A pretty expedient, when a large tree is out of the question, is a tiny one o stand in the centre of the dining table. Have this fastened firmly in a wooden stand, and wind over the stand strands of running cedar. Then trim the tree. It must be made a veritable fairylike structure. At any toy shop one may buy tiny candles an inch or two long, with holders. Fasten these all over the tree. A pretty notion is to hang on this bush of evergreen a tiny scarlet box of bonbons for each person at the table. At the end of the meal, these are taken off and the contents eaten with, or after, the coffee. Tiny coloured beads, and strands of tinsel hang from the miniature branches. From the chandelier over the little tree suspend a red tissue paper Christmas bell, such as one sees for sae at thousands of shops at this season, and from the edges of this bell fasten yards of green smilax or other vine to meet the top of the tree. Streamers of ground pine wound with narrow scarlet ribbon can run to the four corners of the table. Sprigs of cedar dropped here and there upon the cloth add to the “Christmassy” effect.

All these things should be but the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual joy – a brightness that must make the whole year more glad because of the Gift of Gifts that came to the world on the first Christmas Day.

Marion Harland

Christmas Candy

A GIRL, who was famous among friends and family for her skill in candy making, found herself facing the problem one Christmas of an almost empty purse and a long Christmas list.

There was only one thing for it – either to give some of her candy, or to abandon the idea of Christmas presents at all. Somehow, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without giving, so the candy won the day.

Fortunately, she knew plenty of kinds to make. For days before Christmas she was busy getting the numerous things ready. Nuts had to be shelled and blanched; harmless colouring matter secured, and the prettiest little boxes and baskets made of crinkled tissue paper and pasteboard, or of heavy watercolour paper, decorated prettily with watercolour paints.

The day before Christmas she shut herself up in the kitchen, with pans and kettles and plates – anything and everything ready “to her hand” for the work.

Her fudges were many and varied. Some made exactly like chocolate fudge (with the chocolate left out), were a delicious invention of her own, the result of an experiment one day when she wanted to make candy and found she had no chocolate. Two cups of sugar, one of milk, and a good tablespoonful of butter were put in a double boiler and allowed to boil for five minutes then taken off the fire and beaten until the top began to glaze ever so slightly. Into the mixture was poured a cupful of finely chopped nuts and half a teaspoonful of vanilla; it was stirred again quickly and turned out to cool.

A TASTY CHOCOLATE FUDGE

Leaving out the nuts and adding half a cake of bitter chocolate made the most delicious chocolate fudge. When some of her chocolate fudge turned out an apparent failure, she dumped into it a cup of molasses, put it all on to a boil up for five minutes, and turned out a batch of caramels.
Maple sugar fudge she made by boiling two cups of crushed maple sugar with one of cream. But it was a wonder o get just right, and unlike the chocolate fudge, stayed a failure when it turned out that way.

Chocolate fudge poured over a thick layer of chopped marshmallows made a fudge variation that was immensely popular, partly because the marshmallows offset the cloving sweetness of the fudge.

But the newest form of fudge was made with honey and cream, using equal proportions and beating “extra hard.”

Fudge biscuit she made for the girls who were at boarding schools, and who couldn’t get home for the holidays. She packed them in small cracker tins. They were simply small crackers, spread thickly with fudge, with another cracker laid on top.

With fondant as a foundation, all sorts of interesting cream candies and bonbons were made. To make this fondant, she put two cups of granulated sugar, half a cup of water and a pinch of cream of tartar into a double boiler, letting it boil until a little dropped in cold water formed into a soft ball between her fingers. This was hard to do, for the moment when it is just cooked enough to form, instead of separating, is the moment when it must come off, or be too stiff. She let it cook, and then stirred it until it grew creamy, then turned it out and worked it, like a batch of bread, until every lump was out of it and it was a smooth lot of cream.

EVOLUTION OF A CONFECTION

Some of it she flavoured with vanilla and rolled into little balls (some with a nut in the centre) and dipped into chocolate, using a long wire with a loop on the end for dipping. The chocolate was the ready sweetened kind, melted and kept soft by being stood in hot water.
These were the beginnings. From them sprang all sorts of pink and violet-tinted bonbons, dipping balls of the cream in the tinted cream. Peppermint cream and chocolate covered peppermints were made by adding a few drops of oil of peppermint to the fondant, and wintergreen drops by the addition of essence of wintergreen.

Everton taffy came out crisp and delicious. Half a pound each of butter and granulated sugar were boiled for fifteen minutes, and poured out in buttered tins.

Her fondant ran short before she came to the dish of English walnuts, which had been carefully shelled to keep the halves unbroken. So she stirred confectioner’s sugar and cream together until it was of the consistency of the fondant, flavoured it with vanilla and put half an English walnut on each side.

It was a long, hard day’s work, with results in the shape of burns and blisters, a face very much flushed, and aching muscles; but when the various kinds were sorted, and packed in their pretty receptacles, her gifts “loomed up well, after all,” as her small sister (and general helper) observed.

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
A Cup of Tea
Benefits of Price Schedules for Servants
Consideration You Ought to Show in Christmas Shopping
Marion Harland’s Chat With Housemothers
Recipes

Slighting as a Useful Art

This is the first article in December of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Dec 3, 1905, and is a discussion on how overwork does more harm than good when keeping house.

I find this article interesting as Mrs. Harland talks about using tricks and tools to reduce the workload of the housemother to save her health. In a later article in the month on Washday she also talks about how housemothers should tell their laundress to avoid soda at all costs as it “save the muscles of one class, rasp the sensibilities and deplete the pockets of the other.”

So then, is it only housemothers who should use these tricks to save their muscles and avoid an early grave?

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

Slighting as a Useful Art

A FRIEND at my elbow suggests “Simplifying Work” as a more apt title. A Big Brother puts in “How not to make work so hard.”

Not one of the captions covers my ground. I do not mean to talk of methods of arranging work by wise provision and judicious planning. Nor have I in mind the countless ways some women have of laying hold of every task by the heavy end, and making work as they go – the women who sweep the dust toward, instead of away from them, and drain dishes washed in lukewarm water, streaking them so palpably that they must be rubbed hard with one’s napkin before any self-respecting stomach can tolerate the idea of eating from them.

Nor do I quite relish the world “slighting!” It implies willful neglect of a recognized obligation.

Woes of a Fussy Woman.

Let a few homely illustrations define what a single phrase cannot:

I am so unhappy as to know a woman who has her whole house, including attic and cellar, swept every week and dusted thoroughly daily. Every picture is taken down on Saturday morning that the backs and cords may be wiped off with a damp cloth wet with a disinfectant. She changes servants from twelve to twenty-four times a year. She will tell you with an air of calm, sad conviction, that “there is not one tolerably efficient maid in America.” She “despaired long ago of ever keeping her house decent without doing most of the work with her own hands, even when she has tow grown daughters to help her.” The daughters have been her slaves since they could wield broom and duster. They are pale and thin; their eyes have a hunted look and are hollowed by fixed dark crescents beneath them. One of them was married two years ago, and sank into confirmed invalidism after the birth of a pitiful scrap of a baby that wailed feebly for an hour and died.

I met the single sister not long ago on a ferryboat, and she confided to me that she is to submit to a crucial operation in a few days.

“The doctors say it is too much housework,” she said bitterly, “I cannot recollect when I was not tired, tired, TIRED! My mother keeps the cleanest house in town. She says ‘dirt is disease.’ Maybe so! I know that life is not worth living when one has to pay such a price of cleanliness. My mother has bones of steel and nerves of while, and cannot comprehend ‘how it happens that she should be afflicted with delicate children.’”

Fruit Cans Overwork Her.

Another notable housemaker, who puts up never less than a gross of jars of canned and preserved fruits every season, makes it a point of conscience to devote one forenoon of each week to examination of her potted treasures. Each jar is wrapped in thick paper, and the wrapper tied on with a string. Four mortal hours of an immortal creature’s time are devoted weekly to the business of inspecting the fruit, and washing each jar before it is rewrapped, tied up and returned to the shelf. Her boast that, in all the ten years during which she has pursued this plan she has not found one fermented can, aggravates, not justifies, her offense against common sense and economical laws, for it proves the needlessness of the ultra-violence.

The mistress of a superb country house affects to lament the absolute necessity of spending two hours of every forenoon all summer long in arranging in pots and vases the flowers brought in daily by the gardener.

“But what can one do? Servants cannot be trusted to do suck work, and ill-assorted flowers drive me wild.”

A fourth has had a bellows made for dislodging the dust from the corners of stairs and rooms, and since no maid will use it faithfully, the poor slave of her own housewifely caprice, who weighs nearly 200 pounds, and is sixty years old, invites apoplexy six days in the week by getting down upon her gouty knees to blow out the atoms left when the broom has done its best.

Yet another “walks after” her competent staff of servants from two to three hours per diem, to make sure that their appointed takes are well done. She keeps none long which fact she accepts as a proof that surveillance is needed. Three out of these five conscientious housemothers have bemoaned in my hearing their inability to make time for reading. Two confessed that they do not read one book a year, one adding:

Something Must Be Slighted.

“Unless the mistress can reconcile it to her conscience to slight some part of her lawful work, she must resign such luxuries as books and music.”

“Extreme cases these, amounting to eccentricity, if not to monomania,” I hear some one say.

I could multiply the five by ten, and not exhaust my stock of similar anecdotes. Coming to close inquiry into our individual experiences, each of us who is a careful, practical housekeeper, if she puts herself into the confessional, would be forced to admit similar blunders as to the relative value of domestic duties.

My dear mother gave me an initial lesson in this useful art when I was but ten years old. Her skill with her needle was my pride, and I was eager to emulate it. In the effort I crowded tiny stitches upon one another in hemming a towel she had set me as a task. “My child,” she said, when she came to see why I was so long in completing the task, “never take two stitches when one will do the business as well.”

Dust may be disease in embryo, and should be done away with by the use of all reasonable means. Overwork and worry kill more women in one year than the neglected deposit upon picture cords slays in a century. “Let all things be done decently and in order” is a capital working motto, but reserve the right of private judgment in determining what constitute order and decency. Study what you can leave undone, or what may be laid over for another day with least inconvenience or discomfort to yourself and others.

Simplify work by labor and time-saving machines. Don’t beat eggs with a spoon or two forks for fifteen minutes when a patent beater will produce a stiff froth in two. Don’t mince meat in the old way when a chopper worked by a crank will make it even and fine in one-tenth of the time.

Spare yourself, and study Slighting (so-called) as a Useful, Life-Lengthening Art.

MARION HARLAND.

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Chats With Housemothers
A Handy New Cabinet for the Kitchen
Marion Harland Recipes
A Pretty Salad for the Christmas Table
A Treasure for the Lover of Beautiful Glass
Value of Good Music