What Did 18-year-old Girls Think About a Hundred Years Ago?

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, September 27, 1913:  Ditto

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

The previous day Grandma wrote that she was “still pegging away.” In order words, she was using a husking peg to remove the husks from corn as it was being harvested.

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Click here to see an awesome YouTube video of people husking corn the old-fashioned way at the 2009 Nebraska State Hand Corn Huskers competition.

Husking corn sounds like a mindless, repetitive  task.  I bet that Grandma’s mind wandered while she pegged away.

What was Grandma thinking? . . . hmm, what did I think about when I was 18? . . . guys? . . . my friends?. . . chores? . . . nice things someone said about me? . . . not so nice things that others might be whispering about me?  . . . books I was reading? . . . the future? . . .

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29 Responses

  1. Nice, this makes me think of the hand-made husking glove that my great-grandfather made. I have it in one of my boxes of treasures.

    • Your comment makes me realize that, even though I’ve found pictures and descriptions of husking pegs (and a video of people husking corn by hand), I don’t completely understand how people husked corn years ago. Was a husking glove a substitute for a husking peg?

  2. Thinking about what she would do with her money, maybe.

  3. Being 18 is never easy, whatever era. Helena probably thought about a lot of the same things we did when we were 18, like “what’s next for me”?

  4. I agree with KerryCan….of course, many things young girls think about have changed through the years, but many have stayed the same!

  5. The comment underneath the Youtube video made me smile: ‘That was when men were men, they did more work before noon than most of us do in a week now.’ Hmmm. Another example of the hidden/forgotten nature of women’s work!

    • Oh dear. . . somehow I missed that.

      Obviously women husked corn years ago–I have the diary as evidence. It’s sad that the role of women has been forgotten over the years. Maybe we should form a women’s corn husking team and join the competition next year. :)

  6. Well, I got already cold only from looking at the Nebraska youtube;0) Beautiful horses BTW
    I would not be surprised if what 18-years old are thinking about, is global and of all times: clothes, guys, the future ;0)

    • It sure looked like a miserable day for corn husking. With the snow and everything it looked like the competition was held really late in the year, so I just went back to see if there was a date. I was surprised to discover that the competition was held on October 10, 2009.

  7. The 1937 National Corn Husking Championship reel is also very interesting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=21vWSJpgXwE

    • Thank you for sharing the link. Wow, it’s amazing how thousands of people attended this event–even US Secretary of Agriculture Wallace. It was really fun to see all of the state champions completing for the prize. I also enjoyed the descriptions that the old time narrator used to describe the event.

  8. Especially if she wasn’t mooning over a boy?

  9. I’m pretty sure I was thinking about boys all the time!

  10. I also think it was boys and her future :)

    • Since I wrote this post, I find that I’ve been monitoring my thoughts. Of course I’m much older than my grandmother was when she wrote the diary, but I’ve been surprised how mundane many of my thought are. . .Should I wear a pair of pants or a skirt to work today?. . . Whew, there’s lots of traffic on the road today–I bet that I’ll get to work 5 minutes later than usual. . . .

  11. We used to “peg” the field corn from my grandfather’s corn crib–but only for fun, and only one or two ears. I can’t imagine doing that ALL day!

    You’re soup recipe (and link) is in my community soup supper blog today. Thank you for contributing.

  12. At 18 I didn’t think about guys a lot. I did, however, think about my job a lot! Of course, thoughts of boys were in there now and then, too. ;) I love this blog and all its entries. It reminds me of things my grandmothers told me when I was a kid. Thank you for the wonderful memories you bring.

    • Thanks for taking a moment to write the nice note. I have a lot of fun pulling things together for this blog and it’s always wonderful to hear when someone enjoys it.

  13. Awesome video. Doing a task like that connects me with history — I imagine lines of ancestors harvesting the earliest grasses, and becoming experts in their cultivation to bring about the highest yield, then streamlining the harvesting process, so no good thing is wasted. I don’t know if anyone else feels that way about farming, what else could make you feel more connected to life?

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