Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Who is Making Supper in 1910?

Over on Facebook, Stephanie posed the question if Ma is sick in bed right now, who is doing all of the cooking?

I think that's a great observation as Adam and Bessie are over there all the time for supper, including during this week when Ma is in bed all day long.

To answer that question I looked at the Census record to see who was living in each house and what they are up to during the day.

At Adam's parent's home we have:
Henry (Pa Age 52) Works in the Steel Factory
Louisa (Ma Age 52) Home in bed sick this week (and presumably, alone.)
Clara (Age 29) Grammar School Teacher -note that school is probably in session right now.
Raymond (Age 23) Works in the Steel Factory
Oscar (Age 21) Works in the Steel Factory

Adam & Bessie's House
Adam (Age 25) Works in the Typewriter Factory
Bessie (Age 25) At Home. 

It seems unlikely to me that any of the men, working in a factory all day long, are going to come home and round up supper for 7 people. Ma is (Notably) in bed. That leaves Bessie as the only other option, with  possible help from Clara. Bessie does not have a job ( For the record,  the comment section is closed to all of you who may want to comment that I don't have a job and yet, do not make supper....) Anyway, she does not  have a job and I'm wondering if perhaps they've eaten over so many times this week because she needs to cook for them.  Since women typically performed this function, it's not unusual enough for Adam to mention it in the diary.

I could also be way off but that sounds like the most plausible answer to me.

**I think I should note that I called Bess, Bessie because that is how she is listed in the Census records even though Adam refers to her as Bess.


Meredith said...

I would think that it is Bess, and probably some neighbors thrown in the mix. You know how in Little House, Ma was making bread and pies for other people all the time.

Am I the only person who saw that you looked up that cool stuff on Ancestry and thought it was the logical thing to do? the obvios thing to do? This is what makes me strange in my family....

So cool!!!!!

Christine said...

You know, I'm going to get a little philosophical here for a moment in regard to Ma Ingalls. I like to make food for others and sometimes I'll bring bread or jam or soup to someone. People seem to appreciate it and are often surprised by it. It's a little perk. Something sweet. Nothing more.

However, when you think about Ma Ingalls making bread for someone who is sick or in need and you understand that the sick person could not have purchased the item and would have had to build a FIRE and MAKE bread, including kneading and rising and then baking, you understand what a real gift that was. It wasn't just a "cheer up" gift. It was a real help in feeding that person.

I recently had a conversation with someone regarding the fact that the work that housewives do is often undervalued. It used to be a big deal for a woman to be looked at as "Keeping a fine home" or to be "An accomplished homemaker." However, back then making a fine loaf of bread took a lot more skill than purchasing one at Wegmans does today. There was some real skill involved. A housewife was more of a creator than an acquirer.

Christine said...

I don't know if you are the only one who thought it was cool and logical but I actually did think it was cool and logical as well.

And that is what makes me a geek in my family ;-)

Meredith said...

People sometimes seemed surprised when I mention that I made something. I have friends that I have made afghans for and they want to know where I bought it. I think that people in general don’t think of people actually making things anymore. For a gift or to be nice, or out of the necessity of the Ingalls time.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately, since reading that book by Percy Wollaston. Being alone with the closes neighbor a few miles away in some cases. How nice it would have been to have someone come to visit, and all how nice it was to have neighbors that would look in on you and actually move in and take care of you and your family if sickness came. It’s interesting to me that in the days of homesteading the prairie when people lived so far apart, they took better care of each other than people do today - when we can look out the window in the morning and see what the neighbor is having for breakfast but we don’t even know their name.
It is interesting that you mention home makers, as I have been trying to decide what this means lately. I worked two jobs before I became pregnant and I also managed to keep a house and yard. I sometimes felt like the odd ball because I valued a clean house and a well maintained yard, and a groomed husband for that matter. Roy would want to leave the house wearing something utterly un-matching and stained with coffee or oil and he would wonder why I insisted that he change. I would tell him “How you look is a reflection on me and my housekeeping.” People would come over and see things in order and just kind of look at me like I had too much time on my hands. I take pride in keeping an orderly home, and I also live by the saying “You can tell a lot about a person by how they keep their yard.”
I guess we are both home maker / geek/ odd balls.

Christine said...

I think that's an interesting observation that people used to take better care of each other when they lived farther away from each other. I also think it's true. I think that must stem from a sense of more community cohesiveness.Or perhaps they were all in the same boat where one's misfortunes might mean starvation.

Certainly in times of crisis people today have bonded together for the common good or to help their neighbor. Perhaps people don't feel like their neighbors actually need them.

Additionally, it IS easier to obtain bread when you are sick than it used to be. :) If my neighbor is sick I don't necessarily worry that they might also starve.

However it might all be a nice start if we all got to know our neighbors a little better.

Christine said...

As for the undervaluing of home making skills, I can't say that I actually have excellent homemaking skills, just that society at large seems not to put a premium on these skills any longer!

Christine said...

And I can't WAIT to read that book Meredith!

Meredith said...

I am by no means a perfect housekeeper - and it has gotten harder sence the baby came. But I still try - and I think it is important to try.

And, you are right, I don't think people put as much into valuing these skills as they used to. I know that I didn't growing up. My poor mother - trying to keep the house in order with us kids. And I also remember that I thought anything store bought was tons better than home made. One example is pizza. When Mom would say we were having pizza for supper, we would be happy because we thought we were getting dominos or something. But Mom made a pizza from scratch, using home canned tomato sauce. I was disappointed then but now I know the value of such things - the cost savings and just being able to make it!