Tuesday, June 28, 2011
A Sense of Art in the Kitchen, and Thoughts on Proper Housekeeping Hester Mardel, 1906
The laziest women in the world refuse to work, and they sell themselves for personal ease and luxury and for "pretty things," exactly such as all women admire. But home is a safe shelter for woman's work, and much of it is done in a slipshod, monotonous way because of the fact that "nobody will see or know."
It is a very trite saying that nobody works so hard as the person who works badly, and this particularly applies, I think, to the poor housekeeper. She is always tired, always worked, and with the suffragette movement is now ready to complain over the abuses of women.
I heard a young man say of a woman with whom he boarded in the country that she put a dish of dried peaches on the table before Thanksgiving, and they were set on and off at every meal until New Year's.
This was probably an exaggeration, and yet I have seen women, and this minute know dozens of them, who do set uninviting dishes on and off the table day after day, perhaps in the mistaken idea that it would be wasteful to throw things away. Likely, too, because throwing the stuff away would involve washing the dish.
Women are very prone to take up the idea that they are not able to do certain things. Their excuse is that they do not feel like doing them.
They probably are not aware that in ten minutes they could work off this feeling and be all the better and happier for doing so.
We have the steepest flight of stairs at our house, and I often hear my daughters say, "Oh, mercy, I want something and it's upstairs, I'll try to get along without it!"
This is pure degeneracy in them, and I am sure I "raised" them better. It is a habit, nothing more, this dread of physical effort. Women for a number of years have been growing into the idea that they have a supernal right to everything that is lovely and easy, and there has been a lot of discussion by way of medical advertising which has fostered the idea in women that she will always do something that will hurt her or cause her to become ill.
Last winter I was in the home of a young couple who have every chance in the world to be happy. The young man knows his business of farming thoroughly, and he is ambitious to have things about him thrifty and pleasant. They have a family of healthy children, but the wife is slattern of the type that will sit all day long with beds unmade and dishes unwashed, reading a novel or working a piece of fancy work.
The man in this case does all that he can, every effort that he can make he makes, and he never reproaches his wife, but one can see how deeply it grieves him.
He says she is not well, that her tastes are too fine for housekeeping, but he knows the plain truth; the woman is lazy and she lacks the moral stamina to overcome it. Now this woman is very religious. She teaches a Sunday school class and is a great churchwoman. I believe she does not know that keeping her house comfortable and decent is a religious duty.
In speaking of proper housekeeping we always refer to orderly rooms and closets and bureau drawers and an immaculate pantry and spotless kitchen. Any woman who has done her own work and reared a family knows that this ideal one that we all try to reach.
It is good to have ideals to attain to; wanting to have a perfectly kept home and being able to keep it perfectly all the time, are two defferent things! Everybody admits the ideal household arrangement, but I believe there is equal misery in striving too hard to approach it and in consciously falling too far below it.
The mother of a household holds a very peculiar position in the world, the most responsible position, I think, that can be held. On her and her mental attitude hinges the destiny of a family. On her depends the atmosphere of a home. I think people pass by homes with scarcely giving a thought of what they really are.
They appeal to me as actual examples for society, and how sorry I feel for them when they have a bad history! How sad I am when I see them falling into neglect with swinging shutters and sagging porches. They seem pathetically to speak of human degeneracy.
Think how often you have seen a pretty farmhouse nestling in trees and looking somehow like the home you have always longed for. But when you have gone in how often you have been disapointed! Perhaps the house was full of bad air or perhaps you found the family far back in the home and you saw evidence that they lived a selfish humdrum, narrow, vegetating sort of life without Christ? Without His guiding hand in the heart of a mother, you may find laziness abounding.
This condition is fatal to a home and the atmosphere of a lazy woman permeates every corner of the household.
The best thing about putting the house in some order every day is the mental effect upon the woman who does it. She puts her mind in order.
Did you ever notice how irrepressibly happy you feel when the rooms are straightened up and there is something to eat in the house and you "see your way through" with your work?
This uplifting sense comes from your own mental state. You have put yourself in accord with God, for He commands us to do"everything decently and in order."
I hope you enjoyed this vintage article!
Until We Meet Again,