Monday, January 11, 2016

31 Days: What Was The Woman of Yesterday?

If we're looking at snapshots, it seems only natural to look at The Woman of Yesterday too, while we're at it. It doesn’t take much research to discover that the woman of yesterday was quite different than the woman of today. Stories of pioneer women like Ma Ingalls and, for a lot of us, even stories of our own mothers or grandmothers paint a stark contrast to what is the accepted norm in today’s world.

Sometime during the past year, my 7 year old got started on the American Girls Collection books. I found the stories of the changing culture in the history of America rather fascinating. I thought the following excerpt painted the woman of yesterday very well:

“(9 year old) Felicity stirred the apples with a long wooden spoon. Round and round, again and again, she stirred the apple mush till her arms ached. It was tiresome work, and dull. Her hair stuck to her sweaty neck. Her hands were sore, and her back was stiff. As soon as one batch of apples was cooked soft, Rose took it away and put another pot on the fire. Felicity tried to hide her impatience. But after a while, she could not help asking, "Isn't that enough? Haven't we made hundreds of pounds of apple butter by now?"

"Goodness, no," said her mother. "A whole pound of apples makes only one pint of apple butter." Pints were very small.

Felicity sighed. "It seems to be a great deal of work for a little bit of butter. I don't think it's worthwhile," she said. "And once the apple butter's eaten, there's nothing to show for all the hard work. You are left with nothing at all."

Mrs. Merriman laughed. "I remember thinking just the same thing when I was your age," she said. "And 'tis true, there's nothing left that anyone can see. But I know that I've provided for my family, and that pleases me." She looked kindly at Felicity. "Caring for a family is a responsibility and a pleasure. It will be your most important task, and one that you must learn to do well. I want you to be a notable housewife when you are grown."

"Notable?" asked Felicity.

"Yes," said Mrs. Merriman. "A notable housewife runs her household smoothly, so that everyone in it is happy and healthy. Her life is private and quiet. She is content doing things for her family."

"Things nobody ever sees," said Felicity.

"Aye," agreed her mother. "But many lovely things are private and hidden." She picked up one of the apples. "Look," she said. She sliced the apple in half across its fat middle, instead of top to bottom. She held the halves up to Felicity. "Have you ever seen the flower that is hidden inside every apple?" she asked. "It's there for those who know how to find it. See?"

Felicity grinned at her mother. There was indeed a flower inside the apple.”

 -- Excerpt from The American Girls Collection book ‘Felicity Learns A Lesson’


Betsy said...

A wonderful lesson to be sure! I don't want to sound judgmental in any way, but I think a lot of grown woman would do well to read this excerpt. I wonder when the idea of providing well and beautifully at home for your family wasn't enough for a lot of women? It has taken root so deep that those who choose to follow this calling are ridiculed. Thank you for this reminder.

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful! There is depth and character here that is missing in many women today. This kind of woman, I think, is immensely attractive to men who are looking for a help-meet, as well as to women who need a bosom friend. It feels much more like God's design than your post about Today's Woman!!

I wish you courage and words to speak your thoughts in this series! :)
- Karen