Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Article #31 Chores at Home

Just the word chores brings back memories of the good old days on the farm: milking the cows, feeding the chickens or cleaning out the barn. Although I never lived on a farm but in mining and railroad communities, there were still daily chores to do at my grandparent’s homes. The most important work was chopping kindling and wood for the fires needed year round for cooking, heating, and warming water for bathing or washing clothes.

Each family member was important and needed to help with the chores everyday. Dad and/or the boys generally did the hard work like chopping wood or carrying kindling or coal in, and ashes out from the home. The girls’ work was domestic––helping Mom: cooking, washing, babysitting, ironing, canning, sewing and mending. My grandmother was a widow and had to work outside the home, that necessitated her oldest daughter Esther taking over as the babysitter. Ethel, the youngest child in the family, grew up calling her sister mom. 

The older boys gave their substitute mother a hard time with their constant fighting. That’s probably why Esther was the first to leave home before finishing high school. She escaped to Salt Lake City with two of her girl friends from Silver City. She shared a small apartment and found employment in the local laundry for about $3/week. It was drudgery work, but she was on her own and being paid to work. Esther sent some of her money home to assist her mother. This enabled her mom and sisters to have their first nylons and perms, and her brothers to have a radio to listen to ball games. 

During the summers, Esther’s sisters would come to the city and spend their vacation riding the streetcars, buying penny candy, and going to Liberty Park or Saltair. When Esther married and started her own family, she still worked outside the home to supplement her husband’s income. Her household chores were never done. Cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing plus raising the children still had to be accomplished in the time available after her day job.

Women today have smaller families, but more of them work outside the home. Gone are the days of chopping wood and milking cows for most families, but there still are chores to be done daily. Hopefully, each family member helps out with the work and contributes whether mom works outside the home or not.


  1. For women with families, women's work is still never done. But at least it's easier.
    We lived much as you describe. My mother lost two fingers chopping stove wood while Dad was in the Army. My sister was three and I was one at the time. It amazes me haw she coped then and later as she raised seven children.
    Good post.

  2. Thanks for swinging by the good old days of growing up on the farm. I enjoyed your post.

    I grew up in the country in the 60's, when a small family farm was getting harder to sustain a growing family, so eventually the cows, pigs, chickens all dwindled down to one ole horse and a farm dog, when my dad went to work off the farm.

    One of my earliest memories is one of the old barn where Mom and Dad are milking as the evening shadows lengthen. An old coal oil lamp hangs from a nail and little calves lick warm milk from my fingers.

    I think that's why to this day, I still love long evening shadows, cozy lanterns and dim corners... I felt safe, warm and cozy in that old barn.

  3. I think women still have a lot to do working or not and with working, it's two jobs..

  4. I grew up hearing stories about the work that had to be done just to keep the household ticking over. This brings back a lot of those memories. Thanks, Lin!

  5. Well... for one thing, it's amazing that sending just a portion of $3.00 a week would vuy nylons, perms and a radio.

    This was a fun read! I really, no...I mean REALLY enjoyed this post!

    I remember visiting my aunts and uncles on their dairy farms and getting up when it was dark outside. We climbed out from under the quilts reluctantly and scurried downstairs to stand by my Aunt Desa'a stove to toast our tushies before helping get the table set, slice fresh bread, pour milk, etc.

    I thought it was great fun to help on the farm, milking (by hand) pitching hay, cleaning out the irrigations ditches, bringing in kindling and coal. I loved it! But, it was a vacation for wasn't a way of life. When we got home, I'd tidy up the bathroom or vacuum now and then, but mom had a maid come in once a week, sent the sheets and towels out to be laundered, daddy had a gardener, there were no leaves to be raked or snow to be life was pretty dang easy for me.

    When I got married I really took to housework... it was delightful to be able to run my own household. When I had children, I taught them early to do their own laundry and a few household chaores. Wayne insisted that they learn to work outside... and they did! They worked harder and longer than any other children in the neighborhood.

    BUT... nothing like my cousins, or Wayne and his cousins. They had a lot of responsibility heaped on their shoulders when they were growing up that I never exerienced. I think those responsibilities built marvelous young people and great adults.

    I would love to hear more of Linda's story!

  6. Thanks for you help with the blog class. I think it went well. There is so much out there to learn! Everywhere I searched, there was more and more to talk about. You do a great work! Congrats on all your publications too!