Detained at Home to Help with Work

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

Saturday, June 27, 1914:  Was going to town this afternoon, but then was detained at home to help with the work.

Photo Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1913)

Photo Source: Ladies Home Journal (July, 1913)

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

Oh dear, Grandma, I’m so sorry. You’ve worked so hard for the last two weeks or so—first picking strawberries for wages and then helping harvest hay. A 19-year-old deserves to get Saturday afternoon off so that she can spend a little time with friends in town.

I write this while knowing in my heart that wasn’t the way farms operated. I have very clear memories of working long days when we were making hay when I was a child. Saturday often was an especially busy day, and I’m sure that it was the same when Grandma was young.

The next day was Sunday.  People didn’t work on Sunday’s back then— and there also weren’t accurate weather forecasts a hundred year ago. Grandma’s father was probably very worried that it would rain before Monday.

The old saying “make hay while the sun shines” is literally true for farmers. Farm work is very time and weather sensitive. Hay needs to be dried and brought in from the fields while the weather is good. A thunderstorm can nearly destroy a cut hay crop.

25 Responses

  1. Oh dear, ‘detained’ gives the impression that being at home was like a prison sentence. :(

  2. I’m sure Grandma was disappointed.

  3. The only good thing about haying season is that it doesn’t last forever! I hope Helena gets her trip to town soon . . . .

  4. Yes, the word ‘detained’ is very strong, by our standards anyway!

  5. “going to town” makes me wonder what she was going to do there… Visit a friend? Go to the Mercantile? Have an ice cream soda? Whatever it was, it had to be more fun than working. …but maybe she got to go on another day?

  6. My late grandmother grew up a Minnesota farm girl and her memories of “childhood” were not particularly happy ones. She said it was all hard work, all the time. She said that’s why women wore gloves back then – to cover their ruined hands. She was so happy to get off the farm as a young woman.

    • I never thought about the reason that gloves were in style back then, but it makes sense that women and girls wanted to hide their work-roughened hands

  7. Aww poor Helena. I imagine even today farmers need their whole family to help where needed.
    Diana xo

  8. Her word detained says it all doesn’t it? I agree with the memories of long days of work on the farm.

  9. Bless her heart, I can just imagine how sad that must’ve made her.

    • It can be so hard for farm teens when agricultural labor needs take precedence over the normal adolescent desire to spend time with friends.

  10. “Make hay…” is an apt phrase for a lot of things.

  11. I never realized until I started blogging just how sensitive the timing is for hay. I have a new appreciation for those who make their living this way.

  12. Going to town would have been so much more fun…working in hay is a hard, tiring job especially in very hot weather. Hugs

  13. My grandfather was very strict about not working on Sunday. He would kill a chicken the evening before and cook it … Always cold chicken for Sunday dinner! Jane

  14. A lot of hard work being a farmer. I am better in front of a computer. :)

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