Are Wives Loyal? 1937 & 1938

Letter 1–

It seems I am never with some of my married friends–girls my own age as well as those of the older generation–but they are complaining about their husbands, or criticizing them, one way or another.

Perhaps you would not call that a lack of loyalty, but I feel that it is.

I have been with these same husbands a lot, and have been more or less in their confidence. It is seldom, if ever, that they say one word in criticism of their wives. Is it because the wives are so nearly perfect in their husband’s eyes? Or do they, perhaps, see our faults, but are loyal enough to say nothing about them, even to close friends?

After all, we marry of our own volition, and surely should not expect our husbands to be faultless, when we ourselves are not.

Letter 2–

The other day I overheard two women talking about their husbands. Each seemed to be trying to make hers out the worse–nothing especially bad, just ordinary “meannesses” and I could not help but wonder what they would think and feel if their husbands “visited” the same way.

Why isn’t it just as easy to say, “John likes me to have meals on time,” as it is to say, “John is always so cross and unreasonable if I am behind with the meals”? Both statements can be true but how differently they sound when saying them to a group of other women!

One evening I knew my husband would be away late on business so I started the chores and was milking when a neighbor came in. She watched me for awhile and then said, “I wouldn’t milk any man’s cows. He could do it himself if he was late.”

“Well,” I replied, “I’m not milking ‘any’ man’s cows, I’m milking our cows.”

There wasn’t any answer.

 

Balancing Our Lives–Two Perspectives; April & July 1938

The following letters appeared in The Farmer’s Wife magazine and illustrate the age-long struggle women face in achieving a balanced life. Although I cannot say that I completely agree with either woman, I do lean more toward one of their positions. What do you think?

Dear Editor:

After looking around at some of my friends who are in a rut, I have resolved not to allow myself to become one of them.

I will not stay home day after day doing the same old things,–washing, ironing, cleaning, baking, and endless other chores; I will not spend all of my evenings mending. I will see that all these things are done for my husband and two small children, but they shall not take up all of my time, for my family’s sake as well as my own; everyone likes a happy, contented wife and mother better than a cranky and bedraggled one. One day a week I will take my children, aged 3 and 1 ½ years, to town, look around in the stores, perhaps have our lunch at a restaurant, and then call on some of my friends. A visit will do us good.

One evening during the week, I will go to the movies–with my husband if we can find someone to stay with the children; alone, if we cannot, and my husband will stay with them. (He will be free to go out alone for recreation any other night he chooses.)

In this way I’m sure I’ll have more pep about my work, get it done faster, and really enjoy doing it. My family will enjoy my company more for my having a better disposition and we’ll all be happier.–Mrs. S. from  New York.

Dear Editor:

I think the letter of Mrs. S. of New York, in the April issue is one of the silliest  you ever published.

It surely would be a jolly trip, taking a three-year-old and an eighteen months old baby to town to “look around in the stores, have lunch at a restaurant and call on friends!” I suppose the children will sit at a table and eat restaurant food?

Just when will these grown-up children have their naps? At the home of some “friend” no doubt. I am sure the friend will be delighted to have a woman with two tired, fussy children descend upon her for the afternoon. What does it matter if they wet her best bedspread? Or is she supposed to furnish baby beds with rubber sheets?

I think it is a crime for people to drag small children through stores. The child is way below the level of counters, and what can he see that interests him?

I should like to see that procession crossing the street when the light changes and cars are making right and left turns. I don’t feel safe when negotiating a crossing with my purse in one hand and my three-year-old child holding the other.

If such trips make you “happy and contented” my dear Mrs. S. I thank heaven for the discontented and unhappy mothers who stay home and take a nap when the baby does! Mrs. Y.  from Ohio

Minimalism and the Housewife, 1907

It is not easy to determine, in detail, just which things are really necessary to refined and beautiful living, and which are the evidence of…ostentatious waste. -1907

The lifestyle of all the cool people nowadays–minimalism. Like most extremes, it’s the reaction to the opposite way of life of the last several decades known as materialism.

Have you ever looked at pictures of a minimalist home tour? To generalize my observations, they’re usually condo/apartment type homes consisting of one or just a few people. A twin bed, a nightstand that doubles as a dresser, and a small table with an uncomfortable looking, modern chair. Is it my imagination that most minimalists seem to be bloggers and writers? I’ve yet to see a homesteading, DIY minimalist. Yes, there isn’t a smidge of clutter or disorder anywhere. But I don’t see the personality, either. Where is the cupboard of favorite teas? The photo albums? The boxes of craft supplies? And most importantly, where is the stash of mason jars?

We can’t deny the mass quantities of possessions we all have these days, more than at any other time in history. Garage sales, thrift shops, and big-box discount stores have allowed even those with a small income to have stuff galore. Several friends and I have gotten together numerous times to brainstorm and share ideas on managing our homes more efficiently and smoothly so that ultimately, we spend less time at it. It took us over a year to conclude that the best way to manage our stuff is to simply have less of it to manage. (We may not be sharp, but we’re persistent…)

For those of us who make our home our profession, we can’t keep our equipment scanned and digitally managed. Ours are tangible tools, essential to running a household. A cherry pitter may collect dust 363 days a year, but when I buy 12# of cherries, every time I’ve had to shuffle it around in a drawer has been worth it. I keep several tins of thread in all colors, because I actually mend and sew clothes and things for the house. I may not know what color thread I may need for a future project, but I have enough variety that I’m prepared. Having supplies on hand means that I don’t have to interrupt my day to track down what I need and run all over town to get it. Who’s to say that we’ll always be able to access anything we need at any time? Life would be a lark if we never had to consider the future. But a good manager prepares for possible needs in various situations.

It’s not that the minimalism movement is all bad. I’m learning to be a little more realistic and less sentimental when it comes to hanging on to something I haven’t used and likely won’t in the future. I’m also learning that I don’t need as much as I think I do.  By culling the excess, I can spend more time, money, and energy on the stuff I do value. Like books. Ahem.

As usual, happiness is found in balance. The Shoppers and Hoarders on one side and Minimalists on the other can tout their ways of life but I think the rest of us can live peacefully in the middle, hanging on to what we need and use without feeling materialistic and greedy. 

Where do you stand?

My Summer in a Garden, 1870–Week 2

My garden, early June

This summer I’m comparing each week of Charles Dudley Warner’s gardening journal, My Summer in a Garden, to my own garden. I’m finding that I can relate to many of his perspectives, and this week, his thoughts are centered on weeds.

Hardly is the garden planted, when he must begin to hoe it. The weeds have sprung up all over it in a night.

Ain’t that the truth. Warner continues…

The most humiliating thing to me about a garden is the lesson it teaches of the inferiority of man. Nature is prompt, decided, inexhaustible. She thrusts up her plants with a vigor and freedom that I admire; and the more worthless the plant, the more rapid and splendid its growth. She is at it early and late, and all night; never tiring, nor showing the least sign of exhaustion.

I’m in the middle of that long wait for my seeds to sprout (or not) while weeds merrily enjoy their head start. I always hope I can identify my seedlings by the time they come up, but if I can’t, it becomes a “Where’s Waldo” kind of adventure. Here are two examples from my vegetable and herb garden this week.

Can you see the lettuce seedlings? The teeny light green sprouts in the center of the picture? Besides the fact that the weeds are much bigger than the seedlings, I’m also a little bothered that there are so few lettuce sprouts, but that’s a whole other problem.  I may just have to replant.

And then there’s this little disaster zone. Can you spy the dill among the quack grass? (I can barely see it myself but there’s actually quite a lot buried in there.) Sigh.

On the whole, though, my garden is off to a good start and not completely overridden by weeds, but we’ve had a lot of rain this early summer. I’ve had to watch the weeds helplessly from the sidelines as they have their way with my baby plants. But with no rain in the forecast this week, I hope I can get some of my weedy spots under control.

A final quote from my gardening friend, Charles–

…there is no liberty in gardening. The man who undertakes a garden is relentlessly pursued.

Weeds. They’re after me.