Sunday, March 22, 2009

What defines a housewife?

Above, the few remaining ranunculus from last week's trip to the farmer's market. They are still so lovely!

During the past few week's I've been thinking a lot about what it means to me to be a classic or vintage, or old fashioned housewife and trying to figure out where I got my ideas about what I ought to spend my days doing as a housewife. 

I think a lot of my aspirations and idea come from the books I read as I grew up. Some of my favorites included anything by Louisa May Alcott (Little Women, Rose in Bloom, Eight Cousins, An Old Fashioned Girl...) and the Anne of Green Gable's series. As a girl, I simply adored Anne (I still do!) and I read and re-read those books over and over again. Perhaps it was because we both shared the wonderful experience of being red-heads. In those books I read of strong women who loved and cared for their families, made things by hand, and took pride in their handiwork and housekeeping skills. 

As I've been thinking about housewife responsibilities, I've come up with a list of things that I'd like to do as a housewife. After thinking about my list a bit I've realized that it is composed of activities that could be broken up into three broad categories. 

First, there are the tasks I already know how to do (to a certain extent) and enjoy doing such as baking, sewing, cooking, and canning. 

Next, there are the chores that have to be accomplished in every household and so I must do them, despite the fact that they are not my favorite thing in the world to do. That short list includes: cleaning of all sorts from vacuuming to scrubbing (especially the bathtub!), de-cluttering and putting things away, bill paying, and shopping. 

Lastly, there is the dream list. These are the things that I feel I really ought to be able to do because in my mind every good housewife ought to be able to tackle them but currently I have very little or no experience with them. For me, these include gardening, knitting, and embroidery. (I'm sure there are more that I can't think of at the moment.)

I am trying to weave these various activities throughout each week - learning a little about those I am unfamiliar with, making sure the house is neat and tidy, and developing the skills I already have. However, I also want to continue my research into housewives of years past to learn more about their priorities, lives, and passions. I will have to report what I discover as I continue to learn. 

But for now, here are some things I aspire to do as a housewife (I know some may take me years to accomplish!). Let me know if you think of some that I've forgotten:

Bake bread once a week, make chicken stock several times a month, grow an herb garden and a small vegetable garden, can fresh berry jam, applesauce, and pickles each year, sew dresses, aprons, and gifts for friends, mend my husband's pants when the buttons come off, keep a tidy, organized home, entertain friends several times a month, prepare delicious, healthy meals at a reasonable hour, make the bed each morning, send birthday and anniversary cards to friends and family, grow a cutting garden so we can have fresh flowers in the house, keep chickens for fresh eggs, knit sweaters and baby outfits (when the time comes or for friends), and most importantly, continue to study the Bible and actively participate in church life.

For tomorrow, my plans are a bit less inclusive. Here's my To Do List for Monday: 
1. Bake 4 loaves of bread 
2. Finish the laundry
3. Check on the herb seedlings
4. Clean the bathroom
5. Organize the blue room
6. Make carrot top soup and fish for dinner 
7. Practice counted-cross stitch

We shall see what becomes of it!



  1. When I was dating the person in Munich, his mom was once telling me about going to some sort of housewife school in Switzerland when she was younger. Apparently, she did not do terribly well there. One skill they were required to learn was replacing the collar on a man's dress shirt using fabric from the shirt tails. She managed to replace a collar once correctly, but they realized she'd cut the material from the middle of the shirt!! Whoops.

  2. Wow! That is such a great story! I didn't know they had housewife school in Switzerland. How cool!

    I have to say, I never thought of replacing a collar as a housewife skill, but I can see how it would come in handy - those collars do get dirty. At this point I think Woodley really wishes I would replace the buttons on his trousers. Poor guy, we were wandering around the mall last weekend and he kept worrying his pants might fall off. So far I just haven't gotten to them, but I really ought to. Perhaps this week!