Were Children Paid for Working on Their Family Farms a Hundred Years Ago?

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

Saturday, October 11, 1913: Received part of my pay today. It amounted to twelve dollars. I feel quite rich now. This surely ought to help me out in a pinch.

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

Grandma—

You’ve sure worked hard husking corn, and you deserve every penny you earned.  According to an online inflation calculator, $12 in 1913 would be worth about $285 now.

You are extremely fortunate to be paid for doing farm labor. Your parents must have been progressive thinking. Many young women working on their family farms probably received no compensation.

I’d like to thank Gallivanta for giving me the idea for this post. Let me share a story—

Gallivanta reads this blog and regularly makes comments. And, I’ve discovered her blog, Silkannthreads. She recently did a post on the lack of appreciation of the domestic work that women do, and on how women generally are not paid for this work (doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc.).

I made a comment on her post, and she responded:

. . . By the way, I have been thinking how great it is that Helena is being paid for her work during the corn harvest. She is not being treated as free family labour.

And, a light bulb went off in my head—

Wow, I’ve been feeling sorry for Grandma, when I should have recognized that she was incredibly fortunate to be paid.

Thank you, Gallivanta, for giving me valuable new insights.

You may also enjoy reading a previous post that I did on teaching farm kids the value of money.

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