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nothing that he would call any thing, or you either, taken separately

Women’s Work.

[There is much force in the following article, and we hope that none of the thousand husbands and fathers into whose hands the Farmer regularly goes will fail to read and consider it. — Ed.]

      Women’s work is never done. Up in the morning with the lark, prepare breakfast for ever so many hungry mouths; wash dishes, skim milk, churn, work butter, bake bread, make beds, sweep rooms, dust furniture hunt strings for Willie, bonnet for Susie, jack-knife for Sammy, and shoestrings for Mary, fill the dinner basket, wash and comb and send off to school half a dozen urchins: clean kitchen, black stove, scour pans, knives, forks, and no one but a genuine housekeeper can tell what not. Prepare dinner, wash dishes, sweep and now for a little rest. — Yes, rest, for the feet, but not for the fingers, for are there not plenty of little garments that have been unluckily caught upon strong brambles or inconvenient nails, besides the backs that will soon require a new covering. Children tear off their clothes so fast, especially when they go to school.
      All too soon the noisy boys and girls are at home again — then there are twenty things wanted at once, and for the life of you you can’t tell which to get first. Their wants supplied, you turn your attention towards supper; wash dishes again, attend to milk, clean sauce for breakfast, wash chubby faces, hands and feet, slip them between the sheets, sit down and draw a long breath of relief, that is, if the little troop are likely to drop asleep soon.
      Again there is rest for the weary feet, but none for the ever busy fingers, for there are all the feet in the family to keep covered, and the knitting is everlasting. As you sit by the bright light, busily plying the shining knitting needles, the good man of the house comes in. His day's work is done ; perhaps it has been n hard one, but now it is over. He seats himself by your table in an easy chair, asks wife to get him the last paper, and composes himself for a good rest, fingers and all; furnishing his mind with healthful food at the same time. If you should ask him to read aloud, as you had found no time to look over the papers, he would undoubtedly tell you he was too tired. Should you intimate that you were tired also, he would look at you in astonishment, wonder how any one could get tired puttering around in the house all day; he could do all the house work in two hours. Wants to know if you are tired why you don’t rest and read, not sit there punching away at that knttting work that don’t amount to any thing.
      You turn your eyes back, review your days labor and find, fatiguing as it has been, that you have done nothing that he would call any thing, or you either, taken separately; yet all together how tiresome it has been. Take six I almost might say seven such days, for in a large family there is much that must be done even on the Sabbath; add the washing, ironing and other extra work and you have a hard week’s labor. Fifty-two such weeks with soup making and house-cleaning in the Spring and butchering season in the fall, and you have a year’s work which no woman can perform, year after year, without injuring her health and bringing on old age prematurely.
      Those who are not blessed with a strong constitution to commence with, fall by the way. They die of consumption, fevers and every disease flesh is heir to, — but no one can tell how long they have been dying by inches. Husbands, if you have wives with whom you would spend the evening of your days, see to it that they are not overburdened, but have a little chance for rest of the body, and improvement of the mind. Be not more careless of their necessities than you are of the wants of your beasts of burden. Do not think be cause a woman’s whole time is consumed in such work which would be nothing for your broad shoulders and strong arms, that she is never weary. Do not say that housework is not anything, until you have tried it yourselves for a week, — not after your bungling masculine manner, but as it should be done. Do not be very particular about getting all the latest patented drills, reapers, mowers and sowers before you fix things convenient for her work about the house and door yard; and above all, don’t speak so slightly of housework before your young daughters; this creates a distaste for it in their minds, and causes them to wish for employment that will be more appreciated, thus leaving the whole burden upon their mother’s shoulders long after they should have relieved her of a part of its weight.

Mrs. G. H. Adams (Elba, Dodge Co., Wis.), “Women’s Work,” The Wisconsin Farmer (“A monthly magazine devoted to agriculture, horticulture and rural economy,” edited by J. W. Hoyt) 15:8 (August 1863) : 304-305

1 March 2022