I have no idea where I bought this book or when, but The Housekeeping Book of Susanna Whatman, introduced by Christina Hardyment is turning out to be quite the little gem. Little indeed, since it is a slim sixty-page book that has all sorts of helpful advice for the 18th-century housewife. I use the term loosely considering the housekeeping book was written by the lady of the manor for her servants! I don't imagine women were called housewives back then, however since in the last quarter of the 1700s women certainly were not working outside the home. I love books like this that show some aspect of life and how people lived so long ago. And I am sure this is pretty accurate, too, since it is a primary resource more or less.
It is interesting and very illuminating, too. I already more or less knew this, but the book is just affirming how I would not then (and probably don't now either) fit the picture of respectable, genteel womanhood. I would have frowningly been looked upon as a failure to my sex, I'm afraid. I'll tell you more about the book next week, since I have a bit more to finish this weekend, but this is what would have been expected of a proper lady per a "Housekeeping" book early in the twentieth century.
"The modest virgin, the prudent wife, and the careful matron are more more serviceable in life than petticoated philosophers, blustering heroines, or virago queans."
Blustering? Well, now that just puts me in my place. Do I perceive someone feeling a little inadequate? Or maybe just a little too full of themselves and perhaps a little pompous? It's always a little disconcerting, however, when another woman shares the same sentiments as her closed-minded male counterpart. Marion Harland was a domestic expert born in Virginia and writing in the 1870s. Here's her two cents:
"The chief end of woman is home-making. After all the study of her capacities and capabilities, after all the proofs she has given of her power to rule the wide empire, master the abstruse sciences and write the great book, the final conclusion of the thinker is synonymous with the earlier judgement of nature. Her first duty is to be a wife and mother and make a house. Other walks are open to her if for any reason she is unable to fulfil the purpose of her being, but in so far as the opportunity to do this is denied to her, she is, in a sense, a FAILURE." (Modern Home Life, 1902).
My. It would seem I am a FAILURE (Ms., oops Mrs. Harland's emphasis on the word by the way). That's okay, though. I can honestly say I do not feel deprived in the least. I rather relish my freedom! Dust bunnies may lurk beneath my bed and piles of books may accumulate where they shouldn't, but I feel in no way a failure because of this.