The “Professional Grandma”

Drawing Source: Good Housekeeping (February, 1917)

The April, 1917 issue of Ladies Home Journal suggested that women whose children are grown may want to get a job. The magazine described a new extension program that was looking for experienced homemakers, which the magazine dubbed “professional grandmas”,  to help younger women learn the ropes of homemaking.

Here’s a few excerpts from the article:

The “Professional Grandma”

We do not generally think of a “grandma” as having a profession. But the modern grandma is still young at middle age, young enough to want a profession of her own and a wider outlet for her activities than her own family supplies.

Through a new provision of Uncle Sam, the middle-aged homemaker is now enabled to give the benefit of her large experience to women who are still grappling with the many problems of homemaking, for by the passage of the Smith-Lever Act, a “profession for grandmas” has been created.  This work was to carry into the homes of farm women better ideals, newer methods and instructions in how to manage homes, cook, and care for children so as to reduce the drudgery of farm housekeeping and raising the standard of farm home living.

Here is the story of Mrs. M___, one of the first “professional grandmothers” in Massachusetts. A woman past forty who has raised a family and therefore has twenty-odd years of practical experience in home management she is also a woman of tact and sympathy.

Once a week, in the little village library she calls together the forty or more country homemakers in the surrounding district and talks to them intimately on food nutrition and on arranging their kitchens, how to choose labor-saving devices, and other problems of the homemaker.

Then she hires a horse and buggy, and visits personally the homes of those who had been at the group meeting. Once seated in the farm kitchen she gains the confidence of its mistress, noting that the kitchen might easily be arranged to save more steps, talking to the woman about the family meals, how much those meals cost and how they were prepared.

Another “grandmother” is Mrs. L__  in Illinois. Her state agricultural station told her that she was just the woman they needed as a canning demonstrator to go from county to county.

There is another “professional grandmother” in Indiana who gives cooking demonstrations at farmers’ institutes throughout the state. Sometimes this demonstration lasts two days, but generally it is what she laughingly calls a “one-night stand.”

Last spring I talked with the supervisor of this extension work in one of the largest states, and she said to me: “If I only knew where to turn to get the right women. We have more of a demand for workers than I can supply, and in a few years when the work becomes more established, still more will be needed.”

The “Professional Grandma” by Mrs. Christine Frederick (Ladies Home Journal: April, 1917)

Poem in 100-Year-Old Church Cookbook

Source: Tried and True Cook Book, published by The Willing Workers at the Minneapolis Incarnation Parish (1910)
Source: Tried and True Cook Book, published by The Willing Workers at the Minneapolis Incarnation Parish (1910)

This poem in a hundred-year-old church cookbook doesn’t quite work for me. I need poetry, music, and art – and friends, hope, love, and books. And, what about women? Don’t they need to dine, too? Nonetheless, the introductory pages in old church cookbooks provide an intriguing window into the times.

Hundred-Year-Old Reasons to Eat Salad Greens

Greens are so good for us – and as spring arrives there’s a renewed focus on these delightful vegetables. Here’s what a hundred-year-old cookbook says about them:

Salad Greens

At no time have greens played such an important part in our diet as they do today. We are realizing and appreciating their beneficial effects on the system more than ever before. Containing, as they do, valuable mineral salts and special medicinal virtues, they should be used liberally, while they are in season.

The tonic greens of spring correct the results of the heavy winter diet. Greens of every sort are held in high esteem for their purifying qualities–spinach, Brussels sprouts, kale, lettuce, cress, dandelion, sorrel, mustard greens, chicory, beet greens, horseradish, and parsley are examples.

Each green is considered as possessing specific medicinal value, and all are aids in clearing the liver, blood and skin.

Serving a variety of greens from day to day provides all the virtues possessed by the different ones. Americans are appreciating the homely garden greens more and more and are utilizing them in salads, soups, sauces, and as garnishings.

In the these days of auto-intoxication, and other diseases, due to accumulated poisons in the body, it is well to make liberal use of nature’s cleansing agents.

  • Water cress grows wild and may be found on streamlets. Like other greens it is an anti-scorbutic, palatable and wholesome.

  • Dandelion greens are regarded as liver and blood purifiers.

  • Lettuce contains an opium principle, is a laxative, introduces mineral matter and helps to provide an alkaline condition of the blood.

    The Housevife’s Cook Book by Lilla Frich (1917)

The statement about lettuce containing an opium principle made no sense to me, so I googled it, and discovered that the white oozy liquid that emerges from lettuce stems when they are freshly cut looks similar to opium. This liquid was once considered to have medicinal properties. It used to be dried and was put into some patent medicines. It was believed to be a sedative and cough suppressant.

Great Hotel Dining Rooms and Kitchens a Hundred Years Ago

hotel-dining-room-gh-4-1917Caption: So many persons are not content with a “perfect day,” but want a perfect evening, too, that a scene like this at the Hotel Biltmore, New York, is set every night.

There were some very elegant hotel restaurants a hundred years ago. Here are a few pictures from a April, 1917 article in Good Housekeeping.

hotel-kitchen-gh-4-1917Caption: The kitchen is the very heart of a hotel, where the tremendous task of feeding a multitude is always in process. This is a busy corner in the kitchen of the Ritz-Carlton, New York.

hotel-dining-room-gh-4-1917-cCaption: Managing the dining-room of a great hotel is, after all, much like managing the dining room of a private home. (Plaza Hotel, New York)

Play Aprons for Children Making Mud Pies

burlap bag 1

Are children’s play aprons and mud pies a relevant topic for a post on A Hundred Years Ago? This blog is about food and related topics. Today I may be stretching the limits,  but somehow it seems to work on this muddy spring day.

Now that spring is on the horizon, children are playing outside again—and horror of horrors– perhaps making mud pies. They may need a play apron.

Here are hundred-year-old directions for making one:

Play aprons for children may be made most satisfactorily of burlap. An ordinary feed bag will do.

For the material on the shoulders cut a kimono clip apron having a square neck large enough to permit dropping of the apron over the child’s head. Do not seam it, but bind it all around with some bright-colored material and fasten under the seams with large buttons and loops.

This kind of apron requires little washing, as the coarseness of the material prevents the dirt from sticking to it. Such aprons will protect the children when playing in the sand or dirt, or making mud pies.

Ladies Home Journal (April, 1914)

Sometimes when I read old magazine articles, I’m surprised how much times have changed. A hundred-year-ago so many people must have still had such close ties to farms that a mass-circulation magazine like Ladies Home Journal thought that readers could easily get an “ordinary feed bag” made of burlap.

I also can’t quite picture parents putting burlap aprons on their children today. And, do kids still play in the mud? What about the germs?

P.S. I know that the burlap bag in the photo is not anywhere close to being a hundred years old, but it brought back nice memories of Agway feed bags that we had on the farm when I was a child.

Raising Pineapple in Hawaii a Hundred Years Ago

Source: American Cookery (February, 1917)
Source: American Cookery (February, 1917)

Did you ever wonder what it was like in Hawaii a hundred years ago?  Well, according to a 1917 magazine article there were huge pineapple plantations – and there were tourists. Here are a few excerpts from the article:

Hawaii’s Immense Fields of Pineapples

The Islands of Hawaii possess many interesting sights, but they have none that elicit more universal admiration from the tourist than the immense pineapple plantations, which, in some localities, spread over the landscape as far as the eye can see.  While pineapples are grown on nearly all of the islands of the group, by far the larger part of the acreage is on the capital island of Oahu.

The larger portion of the Hawaiian pineapple crop is consumed by the canneries and juice-makers on the Islands. The raw or fresh fruit comes chiefly to the mainland ports of the United States, but the juice and the canned product go, also, to Canada, Great Britain, and the continent of Europe.

American Cookery (February, 1917)

Pound Equivalents for Recipe Ingredients

Source: The Housewife's Cook Book by Lilla Frich (1917)
Source: The Housewife’s Cook Book by Lilla Frich (1917)

Today there’s lots of discussion about whether it is better to measure recipe ingredients by volume (teaspoon, tablespoon, cup, etc.) or by weight (typically grams).  A hundred years ago cooks apparently wanted to go back and forth between volume and weight measures. Here’s a table from a 1917 cookbook which shows approximately how many cups (or other measures) of various ingredients were the equivalent of one pound.