In general I enjoy looking at the world of a hundred-years-ago through rose-colored glasses – but sometimes I cringe and am glad I live now. Today is one of those times. Here’s what I recently read in a hundred-old-magazine:
Women, as controllers of at least seventy-five percent of the incomes of the men of the nation, must look to our habits and whether they need to be altered.
It has been said that there are three ways of producing prosperity, namely: by better production, by better choice, and by better consumption. One sees at a glance that the first lies within the diction of the men of the country, while the second and third are at the command of the women.
Statistics have proven that women waste ten percent of their husbands’ incomes! But those statistics are of the past, for the wide-awake women of today are giving time and thought to the study of the various interests of the home with a view of bettering conditions as well as economically as possible. Thrift has become a slogan. . .
There was a lot of fascination with foods from far away places a hundred year ago. It may seem presumptuous today, but back then people believed that the world was getting smaller, and there was interest in how people served foods in other countries.
Tea houses were very popular in the United States in the early 1900’s, and it was widely believed that the Japanese knew how to serve tea and other foods very elegantly and gracefully.
Here is the description of how to create a “Japanese” tablescape in a hundred-year-old magazine:
A Japanese table, exquisitely dainty and unpretentious, is that decorated with day lilies. It is laid with a snowy crash runner, and has crash plate doilies. The shallow white center flower bowl contains four claw feet holders, and from these, tall spikes of the white lilies rear their fragile heads above their own bloom. Note the arrangement at the base, and observe how the lily leaves are clustered to form pads, thus accentuating the green and white effect against the snowy background.
A white marble statue of Buddha at each end of the center receptacle under the shelter of a tall lily boom, reminds one of Sir Edin Arnold’s lines to the Great Lord Buddha:
“The dew is on the lotus, Rise great Sun!”
Blue and white Canton dishes add the final note of color to this dainty luncheon table.
American Cookery (November, 1916)
When I read this description, “crash runner” and “crash doilies” made no sense to me, so I looked up “crash” in the online Free Dictionary, and found that crash is a type of cloth:
Crash:A coarse,light,unevenlywovenfabric of cotton or linen,usedfortowelsandcurtains.
Caption: Garden things never fail to give a pleasant little comfortable thrill that is worth more than money. (Source: Good Housekeeping– June, 1917)
I’m not into keeping up with the Jones, but I’m slightly envious of people with beautiful patios and outdoor rooms filled with stylish lawn furniture. People a hundred years ago also wanted nice outdoor furniture. According to an article in the June, 1917 issue of Good Housekeeping:
Garden furniture reminds one of cool summer drinks to be served.
I’ve been doing A Hundred Years Ago for six and a half years now. Over that time I’ve noticed many changes. One is that electricity and electrical appliances were much more common in 1917 than what they had been in 1911. Here’s an excerpt from a June, 1917 article in Good Housekeeping that promoted the use of electric stoves:
“But cooking by electricity is so expensive,” says the average housekeeper when the question of installing an electric range in her kitchen is broached. But is this so?
Against the cost of operation must be charged the savings in time and energy which the use of electricity insures. At the same time, the savings in wear and tear on utensils and household furnishings that will result from the use of a fuel which produces no smoke to discolor walls, woodwork, or curtains must be considered.
Today there is a lot of discussion about whether students need physical education classes in school – or whether the time is better spent on academic subjects. I recently discovered that this issue has been discussed for at least a hundred years. This is what it says in the October, 1916 issue of American Cookery:
The belief seems to be growing that physical training in the American public schools should be standardized, greatly improved, and made obligatory. The Swiss system, which begins with youngsters of eight or ten years, or some adaption thereof, is being strongly urged in many quarters.
Adoption of such a system, administered by carefully trained, and thoroughly competent instructors, ought in a very few years to bring American youth to the requisite degree of “physical preparedness” — which would fit them, broadly speaking, for better and more useful citizenship in peace and in war time.
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)
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.