Thursday, February 10, 2011

10 February 1957 “Cleaning 1907, The Divided Skirt, and More Weed Recipes”

The past week I have been thinking about the past. Now, one must remember that the past to me, here in 1957, might not be the past to most. I am simply looking back a mere 50 years to 1907.

That year, well 1908 to be exact, is the year my Household Discoveries book was published. mrscurtisbook I had one of these in the Corner store but there is now only one available and it is going for $60. And any on eBay are similarly priced. So, a bit pricey. And, anyway, I occasionally share information from it. Though, it is worth having in a good ‘homemaker’s library’.

I am not sure what has brought me to contemplating the past more this week. You would think living in the past would be enough to get a handle on, but I suppose my natural curiosity of the past simply kicks in no matter where I am ‘living’. Were it “My Year 1907 I would probably be considering 1857! So, you can see how one can rather go a bit overboard.

Back to the book at hand and the time period. The early 20th century would have been one I was familiar with through my fictional mother and grandmother. Most likely my fictional grandmother would have had this book on her shelf and referred to it often or perhaps gave it as a gift to a much loved housekeeper. Either way, it would be to we 1950’s women as the 1950’s is to we 21st century. It would have its cute little idiosyncrasies and we would have Ooh-ed and Ah-ed over the lovely dresses but been thankful to be in girdles, not corsets, and have washing machines and dishwashers.

Today I was having a glance through the chapter on House cleaning. I have read through this many times, but somehow missed this bit about what to wear while cleaning:

While house cleaning, dress appropriately for the work. Some housekeepers wear a divided skirt of bloomers made of four widths of heavy dark skirting. These are gathered into bands and buttoned about the ankles and waist. They are valuable protectors for skirts, and facilitate climbing stepladders, scrubbing floors, etc.

I was unable to find any photos of said outfit. This is understandable because, though the Brownie camera was readily available for the middle classes of the America of 1907, the idea of documenting every little thing, rather a norm in 2011, would have never occurred to them. One had scrap books and photo books or nice photo’s in frames on pianos and mantles. There wasn’t really anyplace a homemaker would want documented her cleaning outfit. This is rather too bad, because we today would like to see it. At least I know I would, but then again I am a product of the 21st century and we want to SEE everything documented, don’t we?

What I did find was these lovely bicycle bloomers.bikebloomersNow this darling outfit would certainly not have been for cleaning. It might, in fact, have even been made of heavy velvet or wool, as this drawing depicts. A quite possibly was put on like a coat or jumper, in one piece, stepped in and buttoned up over ones under things. But I am sure it looked more like that than these darling 1930’sdividedskirtversion. I have to say, though, these would be very good for golf. And, in a sensible serviceable easy to wash cotton or duck cloth, would fair very well for housecleaning. Especially with a pair of deep pockets. One could almost wear it in lieu of a cleaning apron.

Now, here is the rest of the advice for the 1907 homemaker before cleaning:

Pull the sleeves up as far as you want them to go, and put elastic bands on the arms over the sleeves. Trim the finger nails as short as can be borne with comfort. (the fashion for long fingernails NOT  yet in vogue)This prevents their being broken or torn when obliged to work without gloves. Wear a dust cap, a big apron, and loose gloves.

Half the disagreeableness of house cleaning is taken away by having a lotion to apply to parboiled and uncomfortable hands. Soak 2-3 ounces of quince3 seed over night, strain through cheese cloth, and add 2 quarts of water and 2 ounces each of glycerin, boracic acid, and witch-hazel. This is one of the best lotions.

I rather like that they were using quince seeds. Again, something we would consider trash or simply by pre-made the homemaker of 1907 would not have done.

Having cleaning items ready made were also not as prevalent and things, such as dishcloths and dusters, would have simply been made with spare wool and rags.

Here are two very easy crochet patterns for two versions of dishcloths:

  HERE is the pattern

moddishcloth HERE is the pattern for this one. It is rather 50’s and would easy to do up in colors coordinated with your kitchen.

I thought, as I mentioned the lotion from the 1907 manual made of Quince, that I would talk more about the ‘weeds’ in my last post.

chickweed Chickweed, which looks like this: chickweed2 Has a very long and useful list of eating and health uses:

Chickweeds are Medicinal and edible, they are very nutritious, high in vitamins and minerals, can be added to salads or cooked as a pot herb, tasting somewhat like spinach. The major plant constituents in Chickweed are Ascorbic-acid, Beta-carotene, Calcium, Coumarins, Genistein, Gamma-linolenic-acid, Flavonoids, Hentriacontanol, Magnesium, Niacin, Oleic-acid, Potassium, Riboflavin, Rutin, Selenium, Triterpenoid saponins, Thiamin, and Zinc. The whole plant is used in alternative medicine as an astringent, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, refrigerant, vulnerary. A decoction of the whole plant is taken internally as a post-partum depurative, emmenagogue, galactogogue and circulatory tonic. It is also used to relieve constipation, an infusion of the dried herb is used in coughs and hoarseness, and is beneficial in the treatment of kidney complaints. as an astringent, carminative, demulcent, diuretic, expectorant, laxative, refrigerant, vulnerary. A decoction of the whole plant is taken internally as a post-partum depurative, emmenagogue, galactogogue and circulatory tonic. It is also used to relieve constipation, an infusion of the dried herb is used in coughs and hoarseness, and is beneficial in the treatment of kidney complaints. New research indicates it's use as an effective antihistamine. The decoction is also used externally to treat rheumatic pains, wounds and ulcers. It can be applied as a medicinal poultice and will relieve any kind of roseola and is effective wherever there are fragile superficial veins or itching skin conditions.

It also appears to be a good pain relief:

Chickweed tea is a very popular home remedy for pain relief, and one that usually works very well. Because of the anti-inflammatory properties that the herb has it can reduce any inflammation and help to relieve pain, both internally and externally.

Last time I had forgot to mention one fun thing we can do with dandelions and that is make wine! When you consider the amount of dandelions available anywhere. Even if one does not have a yard, they grow in sidewalk cracks, abandoned lots in urban areas, gutters. You name it and they grow there. And I am sure a neighbor would only be to happy to have you pick out those ‘darn weeds’.

HERE is a page that has a few recipes for that lovely wine. This is a very informative step by step process for making the wine.

These lovely and vitamin filled flowers can even be added to pancakes for a delicious taste treat.

I think, now that I have opened this can of worms, that I want to see what else I can find out about using weeds this way. I would also like to find any 1950’s books that might still have had some of this information as it would have been used quite a bit in the early 20th century I am sure.

Happy Homemaking (and weed gathering!)


  1. Wow, that is interesting about the divided skirts for cleaning.

  2. Since your Household Discoveries book is from 1908, I looked it up on the Internet Archive. Lo and behold I found it! For free. Download as a full-color PDF that's a scan of the actual book, or download it for your e-reader.

  3. Rachel-That is great! Though the one you listed is from 1874, which for me is great, as I already have the 1908 version.
    We will have to remember to put this link on the ebook section of the Forum.
    Mary-isn't it though?

  4. I love that pattern and the style of that era! Wish I could sew.

  5. I am very interested in the Edwardian era, my parents have antiques in their recreation room, so I grew up playing with the old wood burning stove, pretending to use the butter churn that still smelt of butter, as well as the old spinning wheel, on their wall is an old wood phone whose bell still works, my bro and I would pretend to phone on that as well.

    Being surrounded by the antiques growing up helped to fuel this passion for the past and it was a great playground for children. My parents had also an electric fireplace that we would try to increase with the blower fan (pumped like an organ).......

    Alot are family heirlooms that will be passed on.

    On the wall over their couch is a treasury trove of turn of the century photos, in those days the photos had dignity, here we are, this is what we are, unlike nowadays where casual is the name of the day.

    Sorry to be longwinded, my impression of my great grandmothers life (both maternal and paternal) were one of many years of childbirth coupled with drudgery of housework. My one great grandma (french) had 13 children over a 25 year span, she married at 15, 9 of those children survived, one was 6 and died on his birthday.

    The reality is that living in the 50`s would be like a dream world to the women in the early 1900`s I believe many would have embraced the conveniences just to make their survival a little bit easier.

    It`s too bad history rarely talks of these pioneer women who were truly the backbone of society, his story tends to be far too prevalent in the books.

    Mom in Canada

  6. LOVE the 'lessons' from the past. They might not have had a lot of fancy technology but they really were pretty clever. This reminds me of one of my mom's favorite books called Only 50 Years Ago, a personal account written in the 1950s about, of course, the 1900s. I loved it as a child, saved it when she passed - think I'll go page through it again, Thanks.

  7. It is very flavorful, but tough, so it is mainly used for pot roasts.


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