In the Laundry – Washday

This is the fifth and final article in December of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Dec 31, 1905, and is a “practical talk” on laundry and washday. There are some very interesting tidbits of information on preparing laundry, for instance I had to Google “javelle water” which I leaned is a mixture of sodium hypochlorite used as a disinfectant or bleaching agent. I’m also perplexed at the idea of pouring keresone into wash water or rubbing butter into mechanical grease stains!

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

In the Laundry – Washday

Number One of a Series of Practical Talks

Said a Down East woman to me, with energy that was almost vicious:

“I hev’ washed and I hev’ ironed, but, as I tell my husband – ther’s one thing I won’t never do, and that is keep a boa’din’ house!”

Unless I am mistaken in my estimate of the makeup of our constituency, a majority of my readers would reverse the order in which she set the least desirable branches of a woman’s work.

A wit of the eighteenth century declared that washday was instituted in commemoration of the day on which Job was born, the date of which he said: “Let it perish; let darkness and the shadow of death stain it; let it not be joined unto the days of the year!”


A latter-day writer has given us gloomy statistics as to the proportion of human life spent in cleansing the house, clothing, and person, in fouling which the remaining time has been employed.

Our optimistic housewife does not waste time and lower her spirit-level in bemoaning the inexorable fact that clothes get dirty and must be cleansed. She bring to the tasks that fail to Job’s birthday cheerful philosophy and such knowledge of the best methods of doing the work as will achieve satisfactory results with the least expenditure of time and labor.

Let us reason together today concerning some of these.

The best excuse I know of for the appointment of Monday as washday is that mind and body have been reinvigorated by Sunday’s rest and comparative freedom from worldly cares. If our housemother be truly wise, she will forecast the morrow’s duties, so far as to put the “clothes” (all-embracing term!) in soak over night. In one household, at least, the bulk of this preparatory task is done on Saturday night, leaving only the body linen, laid aside on Sunday, to be added that evening.

Sort the various articles in making ready for soaking. Put table and bed linen in separate tubs, and keep soiled undergarments apart from both. You will save yourself much subsequent worry if you would “treat” stains before washing. Fruit, ink, coffee, chocolate, and tea stains may be wet with javelle water, or with a weak infusion of chloride of lime; left in this for five minutes and then rinse in pure water. Rub chalk upon grease spots and butter upon stains left by machine oil or axle grease, washing out the butter half an hour later with warm suds. When all are ready, put into the tubs and cover with tepid water – never hot – but just lukewarm. If the water be hard, stir a handful of powdered borax into each tubful.

On the morrow draw off the soaking water, wring each article hard; return each kind to its respective tub, and wash in warm suds, made with plenty of really good soap. Unless the water be soft, add borax again. It is perfectly harmless, softens the water, and tends to whiten the clothes.

Avoid Soda.

Abjure washing soda and all its works! The average laundress is so wedded to it that, if it be denied to her by employers, she will bring surreptitious parcels of the drastic destroyer into the laundry and add secretly. The owner of the maltreated linen never suspects the outrage until she finds it eaten into tiny holes, as if peppered with birdshot. There are other laundresses’ allies and housekeepers’ foes which have the same effect. They save the muscles of one class, rasp the sensibilities and deplete the pockets of the other. Borax is safe and efficient. One pound (powdered) will soften twenty gallons of water.

Clean at Last.

When the clothes are clean – the soiled places rubbed out, and all of uniform whiteness – rinse in clean, hot water, and put into a boiler half filled with tepid water, to which you have added shredded soap and a tablespoonful of kerosene, stirred in well before the clothes are put int. Never forget that boiling water “sets” dirt, and that dirt will make the contents of your boiler hopelessly dingy. Do not have the boiler so full that the water, in heating, cannot bubble freely between the clothes. Boil gently for an hour, lift out the wet linen with a wooden clothes stick, upon a wooden tray, or into a clean tub; again half fill the boiler, as before, and put in a second supply of clothes. Wash table linen first, and, as in soaking, do not mix it with bed or body linen. Be scrupulously particular in this separation, even after both kinds seem to be clean. Now comes the final rinsing. Have an abundance of clean, warm water, souse each article several times, shake hard, twist with a pair of strong hands, and put through the wringer. If there are buttons upon any article, turn them inside with a fold or two over them, that they may not be broken or torn off in the wringer.

A Cup of Tea
Freshen Up School Frocks in the In-Between Season
Is $4.00 a Week Enough?
Ring Tail Wild Cat Caught
Some Useful Recipes

Christmas Chat & Christmas Candy

This issue of School for Housewives was published in the San Francisco Call on Dec. 24, 1905. In the section entitled Christmas Chat, Marion remarks that a cross Christmas shopper is hard to come by where if we compare to today’s standards where many holiday shoppers are mowing down others for expensive gifts.

One aspect that puzzles me on the traditional Christmas tree is how ancestors prevented the tree from catching fire. You would think that the many candles would make it easy for a tree to catch fire if the flame was too close or too strong.

This year my Christmas funds are rather low I am inclined to make all of my gifts this year through art and sweets. While my skills are not as strong as the young woman mentioned in the section on Christmas candy I do look forward to make some delicious brownies, cookies, and other yummy goodies. A series of hand painted Christmas cards will help round out the gifts.

Christmas Chat

CHRISTMAS is the Children’s Day. I said that in my Thanksgiving Talk, but the thought is one that it is well to impress upon our minds as the holy season draws near. For, to enjoy this day of days in the true Christmas spirit, we must all be as little children. Just for a little while let us lay aside the thought of the toil and the stress, the getting and losing, the petty vexations and the still more petty jealousies of daily life. On this day we are all children together, thrilling with the joy of doing something to make others happy, with the delight of giving and with the eagerness to see all the good things that have come to every one else.

There is much talk – some of it decidedly wise, some of it heartlessly foolish – of the evil of gift-making. Without stopping here to go into the ethics of the matter, it may be well to call attention to the fact that at no other season is there so much good natured and unselfish jollity as during the holidays. Note the crowds coming home on street and railroad cars late in the evening, laden down with parcels of all sizes and description, footsore and weary, perhaps but merry and laughing. A cross Christmas shopper is an anomaly. For one such there are thousands of the happy kind. If one doubts the worth of this season, and is cynically tempted to ask. “What’s the use?” with regard to all the fuss and preparation let him simply read the papers and he will be answered. Is it nothing that in hospitals all over the country scores of children’s wards are graced by Christmas trees; that in countless institutions for the poor, the sick, the homeless, there are food and to spare, and gifts and joyous words; that there is one day in the year, when, to use worldly jargon, it is “fashionable” to be good to everybody? Let the sad faces brightened, the lonely made glad, the homeless that ???, answer the question. Is it nothing that on one day in the three hundred and sixty-five all Christendom follows the Golden Rule?


But evil creeps in when the giving because a tax and ceases to be a pleasure. And it is the place of the housemother to see that this is not the case in her nest. The giving must not be dome “grudging nor of necessity,” if it would be gracious.

In one family there was in Lang Syne, a method of making presents which divided the burden (if it can be so called) equally among the members of the household. Several months beforehand a Christmas box or fund was started. Into this locked box were dropped, by each member of the family, such coins as he could spare. They accumulated gradually until a fortnight before Christmas, when there was held what was called “a family council.” All – the father and mother and the children – met to apportion to each person his or her gift. First, the father was told to go out of the room, and a vote was taken as to what should be given to him and the money for that was taken from the box. Next, the mother was banished and the father recalled, and her gift was chosen. Afterward, one child at a time left the room, and the others decided on what he or she should have. Of course, the parents’ gifts took more money than did those of the little children, for toys did not cost much, and in the arrangement the children concurred joyfully. Surely such a method was an illustration of the principle – “In honour preferring one another.”

In another home, where many friendless students – boys and girls far from home – spend Christmas, there is a tree, and on this is a gift for each person, and every one of the number who receives gives something to every other person.


But there is one law that must not be disobeyed; no gift shall cost more than 25 cents. To depart from this would be considered unkind and unfair. One may pay as little as he wishes for a gift, but one cannot go beyond the sum named. The arrangement gives rise to much merriment. One girl whose hair was always falling down, as it was so heavy that it defied the stoutest pins, received a paper of hairpins elaborately tied with violet ribbon; another, who complained of cold hands and feet, received a tiny doll’s hot water bag and muff; the old-maid aunt, who had tea in her room every day, had a cheap, but pretty, Japanese teapot; to the youth whose dandelion-down moustache was struggling to face the world, was given a gorgeous shaving mug. It may all seem silly to the cool-headed and practical observer – silly and childish. But who would be practical, and who would not be a child at Christmas time?

One woman this year has (so far as her own practice is concerned) reversed the usual custom of giving to those who expect her to do so, or to when she has been in the habit of making gifts. She is now preparing gifts for those from whom she expect nothing, and who cannot send her anything. One great comfort in remembering the poor is the fact that one may not be accursed of giving in the hope of a return in kind.
As this is the home fest, let greens and other decorations be such as can be arranged by the members of the family. To many of us the odour of evergreen brings back a rush of memories of bygone Christmases, of happy faces, of cheering greeting. Let us not deny our children such memories for their future days. Have the prevailing colour green and red, the former much in evidence, the latter added to give a touch of brightness here and there; an exclamation point, as it were, to the general scheme. Get great boughs of cedar and of pine. Suppose each bough does drop its needles all over the floor – just now we will not pause to consider that. Over the mantelpiece bank the boughs, and fasten one across the top of each window.


A pretty idea is to frame each window in green. For this purpose use the ground pine or running cedar, tacking it with tiny brads to the window casing so that one looks out upon white world through a green frame. If one is whore holly and mistletoe grow, use both in abundance. But, if they must be bought at fancy prices, use them sparingly. Instead of the red of the holly, have wreaths and festoons tied with bows of bright scarlet baby ribbon. Of cotton-back ribbon, suitable for this purpose, one may buy a roll of ten yards for 12 cents. If holly is very expensive, be satisfied with having a sprig of it at each cover at the table, to be used at a boutonniere by each diner. Even if one can only have a small piece of mistletoe, hang this, in time honoured fashion, in the middle of the drawing room, and let each member of the family caught beneath it pay the penalty. The grandfather and grandmother will be younger for the merry joke, and the little folk always experience a thrill of excitement when thus aught and kisses. Anything that promotes mirth, or that produces a laugh, is to be advocated.

The questions of the Christmas tree is perennial. In many families the grown people still cling to the dear old emblem. Even when Santa Claus has grown to mean only the Spirit of Christmas, and the dressing of the tree is no longer a mysterious rite performed after each of the younger members of the household is in bed, “while visions of sugar plums dance in his head” – still we hate to part with the tree. Of course, a great deal of work, and a great deal of disorder later. If there are children in the family, put aside these considerations, and trim the tree, large or small. It means more to the little ones than we can imagine, unless we have very distinct recollections of our own youth.


A pretty expedient, when a large tree is out of the question, is a tiny one o stand in the centre of the dining table. Have this fastened firmly in a wooden stand, and wind over the stand strands of running cedar. Then trim the tree. It must be made a veritable fairylike structure. At any toy shop one may buy tiny candles an inch or two long, with holders. Fasten these all over the tree. A pretty notion is to hang on this bush of evergreen a tiny scarlet box of bonbons for each person at the table. At the end of the meal, these are taken off and the contents eaten with, or after, the coffee. Tiny coloured beads, and strands of tinsel hang from the miniature branches. From the chandelier over the little tree suspend a red tissue paper Christmas bell, such as one sees for sae at thousands of shops at this season, and from the edges of this bell fasten yards of green smilax or other vine to meet the top of the tree. Streamers of ground pine wound with narrow scarlet ribbon can run to the four corners of the table. Sprigs of cedar dropped here and there upon the cloth add to the “Christmassy” effect.

All these things should be but the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual joy – a brightness that must make the whole year more glad because of the Gift of Gifts that came to the world on the first Christmas Day.

Marion Harland

Christmas Candy

A GIRL, who was famous among friends and family for her skill in candy making, found herself facing the problem one Christmas of an almost empty purse and a long Christmas list.

There was only one thing for it – either to give some of her candy, or to abandon the idea of Christmas presents at all. Somehow, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without giving, so the candy won the day.

Fortunately, she knew plenty of kinds to make. For days before Christmas she was busy getting the numerous things ready. Nuts had to be shelled and blanched; harmless colouring matter secured, and the prettiest little boxes and baskets made of crinkled tissue paper and pasteboard, or of heavy watercolour paper, decorated prettily with watercolour paints.

The day before Christmas she shut herself up in the kitchen, with pans and kettles and plates – anything and everything ready “to her hand” for the work.

Her fudges were many and varied. Some made exactly like chocolate fudge (with the chocolate left out), were a delicious invention of her own, the result of an experiment one day when she wanted to make candy and found she had no chocolate. Two cups of sugar, one of milk, and a good tablespoonful of butter were put in a double boiler and allowed to boil for five minutes then taken off the fire and beaten until the top began to glaze ever so slightly. Into the mixture was poured a cupful of finely chopped nuts and half a teaspoonful of vanilla; it was stirred again quickly and turned out to cool.


Leaving out the nuts and adding half a cake of bitter chocolate made the most delicious chocolate fudge. When some of her chocolate fudge turned out an apparent failure, she dumped into it a cup of molasses, put it all on to a boil up for five minutes, and turned out a batch of caramels.
Maple sugar fudge she made by boiling two cups of crushed maple sugar with one of cream. But it was a wonder o get just right, and unlike the chocolate fudge, stayed a failure when it turned out that way.

Chocolate fudge poured over a thick layer of chopped marshmallows made a fudge variation that was immensely popular, partly because the marshmallows offset the cloving sweetness of the fudge.

But the newest form of fudge was made with honey and cream, using equal proportions and beating “extra hard.”

Fudge biscuit she made for the girls who were at boarding schools, and who couldn’t get home for the holidays. She packed them in small cracker tins. They were simply small crackers, spread thickly with fudge, with another cracker laid on top.

With fondant as a foundation, all sorts of interesting cream candies and bonbons were made. To make this fondant, she put two cups of granulated sugar, half a cup of water and a pinch of cream of tartar into a double boiler, letting it boil until a little dropped in cold water formed into a soft ball between her fingers. This was hard to do, for the moment when it is just cooked enough to form, instead of separating, is the moment when it must come off, or be too stiff. She let it cook, and then stirred it until it grew creamy, then turned it out and worked it, like a batch of bread, until every lump was out of it and it was a smooth lot of cream.


Some of it she flavoured with vanilla and rolled into little balls (some with a nut in the centre) and dipped into chocolate, using a long wire with a loop on the end for dipping. The chocolate was the ready sweetened kind, melted and kept soft by being stood in hot water.
These were the beginnings. From them sprang all sorts of pink and violet-tinted bonbons, dipping balls of the cream in the tinted cream. Peppermint cream and chocolate covered peppermints were made by adding a few drops of oil of peppermint to the fondant, and wintergreen drops by the addition of essence of wintergreen.

Everton taffy came out crisp and delicious. Half a pound each of butter and granulated sugar were boiled for fifteen minutes, and poured out in buttered tins.

Her fondant ran short before she came to the dish of English walnuts, which had been carefully shelled to keep the halves unbroken. So she stirred confectioner’s sugar and cream together until it was of the consistency of the fondant, flavoured it with vanilla and put half an English walnut on each side.

It was a long, hard day’s work, with results in the shape of burns and blisters, a face very much flushed, and aching muscles; but when the various kinds were sorted, and packed in their pretty receptacles, her gifts “loomed up well, after all,” as her small sister (and general helper) observed.

A Cup of Tea
Benefits of Price Schedules for Servants
Consideration You Ought to Show in Christmas Shopping
Marion Harland’s Chat With Housemothers

Christmas Bells & Simplicity Marks the Modern Maid’s Wedding

This is the third article in December of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Dec 10, 1905.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

When I transcribe these articles from newspapers, it is sometimes difficult to determine what is supposed to be the main article by Mrs. Harland. In this instance, I thought possibly the poem Christmas Bells as Marion was an author of a number of publications outside her cookbooks and syndicated articles.

As it turns out, I was incorrect as this is actually a reprint of a poem by Sarah Webb Vilas entitled My Shrine. I found an earlier publication in The Home-Maker – An Illustrated Monthly Magazine Vol. 3 October 1889 to March 1890 edited by Marion Harland.

This has led me to believe that her article may possibly be “Simplicity Marks the Modern Maid’s Wedding” which I have also transcribed for reading pleasure.

Christmas Bells

FLUSHED warmth within’ without white cold;
In library-chamber vast and old,
I, basking in the fragrant red
By logs of birch and cedar fed –
So still the night – heard, toll on toll,
The distant belfry call to soul
Belated, or distraught with sin,
To pray the holy Christmas in.
From carven mantel, grim and brown,
The Virgin and her Son looked down;
At right and left knelt martyr-saint;
Tulips and roses, fashioned quaint,
Bloomed at their feet, and cherubs’ eyes
Surveyed them with a glad surprise.

Was’t midnight-bell
That wrought the spell,
Or incensed glow
That, flickering slow,
Showed caravan shapes instinct with life?
While, breaking forth in tuneful strife,
Like fall of streams and hymns of birds,
Weird music throbbed and soared in words –
(The while the far-off rhythmic beat
Of towered bell chimed low and sweet).
The story of the ages grew –
Tales of the tempted and the true;
Of vanquished Self, and Vice withstood,
And Evil beaten down by Good;
How saints had lived; how martyrs died
By sword, and rack, and scourge, and tide;
Had found in dungeon trysting-place,
Had clasped the stake in rapt embrace.

And evermore,
And o’er and o’er
Angelic tongues
Blended the songs,
Harmonious billows of one sea –
“This have we done, dear Christ, for Thee!”
Now far and faint, now near and clear –
“All hail to Thee! O Christ most dear!”
The bell made answer straight and strange;
On chime and voicings fell a change,
From age-browned oak on me were bent
Regards of griefful wonderment.

“And thou? and thou?
Art silent now?
For sun and showers,
Fruit and flowers,
For watch and ward by night and day;
For dangers ’scaped in darksome way;
For hourly grace and passion reined;
Foes reconciled and friends retained;
For ransom paid and debt forgiven;
For love and life and hope of heaven –
Hast thou no need of praise to bring?”
“And thou? And thou?” The voiced ring
Still calls my humble soul to prayer,
While flares and falls the perfumed glare
On carved saint and child divine –
To me, this Christmas tide, a Shrine!

Simplicity Marks the Modern Maid’s Wedding

A sort of reaction is taking place against the elaborate weddings so long in vogue, with the result that several brides have had the simplest sorts of ceremonies, carrying out the idea of simplicity in decoration, and even in the wedding dress itself. When present-giving is carried to the extent that it was with one bride, who returned just her duplicates to one well-known firm of silversmiths and had a credit there of something over a thousand dollars, it becomes something most unpleasantly overdone.

The exchanging of presents too, by brides for presents to send to other brides, has been carried on to the same way as the exchange of euchre prizes which became so annoying that several stores were forced to refuse such exchanges. For not only was the original purchase returned, and something else taken out, but that second purchase probably was returned, and its equivalent brought back until there was no end to it.

It seems dreadful that anything so closely connected with sentiment as a wedding gift should be put to so prosaic a use, but it is done every day.

One bride who declare that an invitation to a wedding reception was a “hold-up” for a present, refused to have a reception on that very account, contenting herself with announcements, and comparatively few of these. A good many persons were annoyed at seemingly being over overlooked but the reason leaked out and the tide of feeling changed.

Another bride refused to have bridesmaids because she couldn’t afford to give them their dresses and she felt it unfair to put them to that expense. It’s a pretty hard thing for a girl to have to refuse to be bridesmaid for her dearest friend, but many a girl has had to, and then, for the life of her, not been able to avoid a pretty sorry feeling of discontent.

But one might go on indefinitely quoting the little prettiest little acts of consideration. There was the girl who planned just simple summer dresses for her bridesmaids; and the other who asked her nearest and dearest friends to sit in the front pews of the church so as to be near her, and to give them a pretty little distinction, asked them to wear their white dresses. She herself sent them the flowers they wore – the richest, most velvety of roses.

As to the wedding itself, there’s room for a deal of consideration to be shown there It isn’t every family to whom a big affair doesn’t come as a severe tax. And, for that matter, any sort of elaborate display of decoration seems a little out of keeping with the solemnity which belong by rights to the ceremony.

The simplest sort of a church wedding was given by a girl who felt (as so many girls feel) that her wedding wouldn’t be quite real unless she had it in a church. Only the altar was decorated, and that simply, but prettily, with white flowers and foliage and plants. There were no invitations issued at all, but all of her friends were told about it, and whoever wanted to come, came. There was none of the usual crowd curious to see the dresses; only the people she wanted about her, and who really wanted the pleasure of being present on her one great day. From the standpoint of sentiment it was an ideal wedding.

Another bride held no reception – she was like the other girl, and held that receptions meant presents – but word was passed along somehow, and everybody drifted home with her from the church. Her presents had been put out, so that a survey was made, everybody had a chance to wish her joy, and in the dining room was a great wedding cake with its three mystic tokens hidden away somewhere in its interior, and ices.

It is hard to plan things on a modest scale for the one important occasion of your life, but so much less strain attends that sort of thing, and there’s so much more time in the last few days in which to get close to your family that it pays. And the bride who has the courage to considerate at the expense of a little of her own pleasure has a quality about her that is like a talisman to insure future happiness.

Christmas Dinner Suggestions
Housewife’s Exchange
Recipes by Marion Harland
Recipes for Candy Makers
Told by the Cheeks

A Foreword of New Year

This is the second article in December of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Dec 10, 1905, and is about ringing in the new year with a clean house and a clean score!

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

A Foreword of New Year

The Real Resolution

IF EVERY reader of this page were called upon for a candid expression of opinion as to the observance of New Years Day those who have never given the latter much thought would be surprised to learn how many are disposed to regard the anniversary as a bore, and the festivities connected with it as a mistake.

Christmas frolics have left us jaded, and blunted our appetites for pleasure. Christmas giving has depleted our purses. We have no money left for Near Year presents, and if we had, the impression is so general that these are the “Arriere pensee” of conscience stricken donors, recalled by the receipt of Christmas gifts to the fact that sundry of their dear 500 friends were overlooked by themselves at Yuletide – that there is scanty grace in giving.

Memory and Tears.

As to the patent and pious resolutions enjoined as a conventional ordinance by ancient and goody-goody appointment the most serious-minded of us dismissed the habit of formulating them when age and experience had showed us the emptiness and inefficiency of spasmodic righteousness.

The dawning year, as a true poet of the last century sang –

“Is a time for memory and for tears.”

Each heart knows for itself the bitterness and the sweetness of memories that crowd upon it at this season, and to each his own griefs are scared. I have no sermon today for my dearly-beloved and loyal constituency – only a word of cordial good cheer, a hearty “god-speed,” and then a brief practical conference with my fellow-housewives.

A pleasing custom prevails in some families of having the house swept, scrubbed and garnished before the coming of the blessed Christmas Day.

As one youngling phrased it: “It would be a shame for Santa Claus to come to a dirty house!”

Another put it more aptly:

“Everything should be in order upon Our Savior’s birthday!”

I confess to the same feeling with regard to the Near Year that the thrifty housemother has as to the “shiftlessness” of carrying the week’s wash over into the next Monday, and leaving Saturday’s mending incomplete when workbasket and thimble are laid aside for the rest of Sunday. There may be a tinge of superstition in my aversion to the thought of seeing the sunshine on New Year Day through dingy windows. The impulse to clear decks for action during the last week of the old year is natural and commendable. As the warm-hearted, hot-headed heroine of “hitherto” longed, in her unhappy childhood, to “rub out and begin all over again,” we would, if possible, forget the mistakes, and rid ourselves of the drawbacks of the past year, and press forward to cleaner – therefore, better – things.

Begin with your bookshelves. Unless you are given to periodical weedings of your library you have no right conception of the quantity of “trash” you have accumulated in a twelve-month. Books that are not worth a second and even a third reading are not worth keeping. If you can get rid of them in no other way, sell them by the pound to a junk dealer or old clothes ma. If you do not mean to have your magazines bound, sort and ship them to a hospital or soldiers and sailors’ home – or, failing these, send to me (inclosing stamp always) for the address of some one of the many who hunger for reading material they have not the money to buy. Sufficient unto the year is the rubbish thereof. And whatever may be the title of a book which nobody reads, and which nobody ever will read, that book is rubbish, be it bound in calf or in paper.

Next, attack closest and drawers, and rid your house and would of what you have kept for months – maybe for years – because they were not fit to give to anybody, were of no earthly use to yourself, and yet were adjudged by some abstruse law of economics to be too good to throw away. Were your thrifty soul to depart from the workaday world tomorrow, the entire collection of cracked and broken china, out-of-date collars and cuffs, scraps of unmatchable stuffs, remnants of forgotten gowns, and mortified bonnets would be consigned to the flames by your heirs and assigns. Spare them trouble and spare your memory from disgrace by cremating the ungainly and unprofitable assortment before the bells ring out the false and ring in the true.

If, in the course of righteous work, you happen upon some forgotten article that would be of real service to the poor widow you visited at Christmas, consider that you have found a bit of her property and restore it to the owner.

I promised not to preach; but you will not take it amiss if I counsel you to carry the New Year cleaning up and clearing out work into a higher sphere than that of pantry and bookshelf? Get rid of old grudges and family feuds, of unholy enmities, mean jealousies – all you would not have cling to your soul were you sure this year would be your last on earth. “Rub out and begin again!” Don’t resolve to do it, but do it – and at once! One right deed is worth ten thousand inactive resolutions.

If there be in God’s world one fellow being to whom you would not hold out a helping hand, if he or she were in need convict yourself at the bar of conscience of sin, and repair the fault.

Begin the New Year with a clear score. Don’t wait to be dunned by remorse.

Let the midnight bells that tell the death of the past, and the birth of the future, ring in for you –

“The larger heart, the kindlier hand.”

And so, as Tiny Tim – happiest of the household, although a sickly cripple – has taught us to say:



Four Dollars a Week Enough
Housemothers in Conference With Marion Harland
Little Talks With Discontented People – No. 1
The New Shades for Lamps and Candles

Slighting as a Useful Art

This is the first article in December of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Dec 3, 1905, and is a discussion on how overwork does more harm than good when keeping house.

I find this article interesting as Mrs. Harland talks about using tricks and tools to reduce the workload of the housemother to save her health. In a later article in the month on Washday she also talks about how housemothers should tell their laundress to avoid soda at all costs as it “save the muscles of one class, rasp the sensibilities and deplete the pockets of the other.”

So then, is it only housemothers who should use these tricks to save their muscles and avoid an early grave?

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

Slighting as a Useful Art

A FRIEND at my elbow suggests “Simplifying Work” as a more apt title. A Big Brother puts in “How not to make work so hard.”

Not one of the captions covers my ground. I do not mean to talk of methods of arranging work by wise provision and judicious planning. Nor have I in mind the countless ways some women have of laying hold of every task by the heavy end, and making work as they go – the women who sweep the dust toward, instead of away from them, and drain dishes washed in lukewarm water, streaking them so palpably that they must be rubbed hard with one’s napkin before any self-respecting stomach can tolerate the idea of eating from them.

Nor do I quite relish the world “slighting!” It implies willful neglect of a recognized obligation.

Woes of a Fussy Woman.

Let a few homely illustrations define what a single phrase cannot:

I am so unhappy as to know a woman who has her whole house, including attic and cellar, swept every week and dusted thoroughly daily. Every picture is taken down on Saturday morning that the backs and cords may be wiped off with a damp cloth wet with a disinfectant. She changes servants from twelve to twenty-four times a year. She will tell you with an air of calm, sad conviction, that “there is not one tolerably efficient maid in America.” She “despaired long ago of ever keeping her house decent without doing most of the work with her own hands, even when she has tow grown daughters to help her.” The daughters have been her slaves since they could wield broom and duster. They are pale and thin; their eyes have a hunted look and are hollowed by fixed dark crescents beneath them. One of them was married two years ago, and sank into confirmed invalidism after the birth of a pitiful scrap of a baby that wailed feebly for an hour and died.

I met the single sister not long ago on a ferryboat, and she confided to me that she is to submit to a crucial operation in a few days.

“The doctors say it is too much housework,” she said bitterly, “I cannot recollect when I was not tired, tired, TIRED! My mother keeps the cleanest house in town. She says ‘dirt is disease.’ Maybe so! I know that life is not worth living when one has to pay such a price of cleanliness. My mother has bones of steel and nerves of while, and cannot comprehend ‘how it happens that she should be afflicted with delicate children.’”

Fruit Cans Overwork Her.

Another notable housemaker, who puts up never less than a gross of jars of canned and preserved fruits every season, makes it a point of conscience to devote one forenoon of each week to examination of her potted treasures. Each jar is wrapped in thick paper, and the wrapper tied on with a string. Four mortal hours of an immortal creature’s time are devoted weekly to the business of inspecting the fruit, and washing each jar before it is rewrapped, tied up and returned to the shelf. Her boast that, in all the ten years during which she has pursued this plan she has not found one fermented can, aggravates, not justifies, her offense against common sense and economical laws, for it proves the needlessness of the ultra-violence.

The mistress of a superb country house affects to lament the absolute necessity of spending two hours of every forenoon all summer long in arranging in pots and vases the flowers brought in daily by the gardener.

“But what can one do? Servants cannot be trusted to do suck work, and ill-assorted flowers drive me wild.”

A fourth has had a bellows made for dislodging the dust from the corners of stairs and rooms, and since no maid will use it faithfully, the poor slave of her own housewifely caprice, who weighs nearly 200 pounds, and is sixty years old, invites apoplexy six days in the week by getting down upon her gouty knees to blow out the atoms left when the broom has done its best.

Yet another “walks after” her competent staff of servants from two to three hours per diem, to make sure that their appointed takes are well done. She keeps none long which fact she accepts as a proof that surveillance is needed. Three out of these five conscientious housemothers have bemoaned in my hearing their inability to make time for reading. Two confessed that they do not read one book a year, one adding:

Something Must Be Slighted.

“Unless the mistress can reconcile it to her conscience to slight some part of her lawful work, she must resign such luxuries as books and music.”

“Extreme cases these, amounting to eccentricity, if not to monomania,” I hear some one say.

I could multiply the five by ten, and not exhaust my stock of similar anecdotes. Coming to close inquiry into our individual experiences, each of us who is a careful, practical housekeeper, if she puts herself into the confessional, would be forced to admit similar blunders as to the relative value of domestic duties.

My dear mother gave me an initial lesson in this useful art when I was but ten years old. Her skill with her needle was my pride, and I was eager to emulate it. In the effort I crowded tiny stitches upon one another in hemming a towel she had set me as a task. “My child,” she said, when she came to see why I was so long in completing the task, “never take two stitches when one will do the business as well.”

Dust may be disease in embryo, and should be done away with by the use of all reasonable means. Overwork and worry kill more women in one year than the neglected deposit upon picture cords slays in a century. “Let all things be done decently and in order” is a capital working motto, but reserve the right of private judgment in determining what constitute order and decency. Study what you can leave undone, or what may be laid over for another day with least inconvenience or discomfort to yourself and others.

Simplify work by labor and time-saving machines. Don’t beat eggs with a spoon or two forks for fifteen minutes when a patent beater will produce a stiff froth in two. Don’t mince meat in the old way when a chopper worked by a crank will make it even and fine in one-tenth of the time.

Spare yourself, and study Slighting (so-called) as a Useful, Life-Lengthening Art.


Chats With Housemothers
A Handy New Cabinet for the Kitchen
Marion Harland Recipes
A Pretty Salad for the Christmas Table
A Treasure for the Lover of Beautiful Glass
Value of Good Music

Getting Ready for Dressmaking and Renovating

This is the fourth article in April of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Apr 30, 1905, and an article about how to get ready to spruce up the housewife’s wardrobe.

School for Housewives – Getting Ready for Dressmaking and Renovating

How to Lighten the Springtime Burden

The general unrest of springtime – which is the stirring of new life, and dissatisfaction with the old and rusty and half-worn things of the past season – is contagious. It is a wholesome indication in all forms of life. It means progress, a reaching forward toward something better, cleaner and higher than that we now have. It signifies growth and reformation.

Which bit of moralizing introduces and may reconcile us in part to the discouraging drudgery of a part of the spring work which falls to the part of every housewife of modern means.

When trunks and boxes and drawers have given up their stores of partially worn garments, quite too good to be thrown, and quite unpresentable in their present condition, the stoutest heart quails at the thought of the task set before the owners and wearers of the uninviting assortment. Silks are shiny and creased, woolen stuffs are ring-streaked in faded folds, and spotted with dirt, and speckled with grease; organdies and ginghams are crushed and limp; laces and flabby.

“If I were rich,” – cried a housemother in despair, but yesterday – “I would bundle the whole lot of horrors out of doors, without giving them a second look.”

Since we are not millionaires, let us be wise and grasp the mettle of present necessity. The situation, when faced courageously, has redeeming features.

Since Burns’ cotter’s wife –

“Wi’ her needle an’ her shears
Gars auld claes look amaist as weel’s the new” –

Notable mothers have expressed the oil of honest satisfaction from the practice of the like cunning art. There is a glow of hopefulness in bringing order out of confusion, prettiness out of homeliness and livelier glow of complacency when the renovated last season’s gown passes for new.

Now to particulars.

In preparing to turn and make over a silk dress: rip each seam carefully, clipping the stitches instead of tearing apart. Ripping is an art. Unless you have some old-fashioned body – a pensioner, may be, who is willing to do this with painstaking learned in an earlier day – do the ripping yourself on stormy evenings when John has time to beguile the task of weariness by reading aloud to you as the sharp scissors are piled. When all the breadths and sections of waist and sleeve are separated, brush the dust out and wipe off both sides with a bit of old flannel. Spread, breadth by breadth, upon a doubled clo9th and sponge with warm water (not hot) in which potatoes have been boiled until mealy. Strain the water before using it. It should be damp when ironed – on the wrong side, of course – leaving the right free from the gloss of the iron. If there are grease spots, sponge with ammonia before ironing.


Colored silks may be treated in the same way, unless the colors run under water. Try a piece first.

A mixture of equal parts of naphtha, alcohol and chloroform is an excellent cleansing agent. Being very volatile, the bottle must be kept closely corked.

Worsted stuffs of all grades may be washed in gasoline without fear of fading or shrinking.

If you can do this out of doors, it is best to take all you apparatus into the open air, with no fire or artificial light near. If, as is more probably, you must work in the house, shut yourself into the bath room and set the window open wide. Lay the breadths – several at a time – in a wash basin, cover with gasoline, put a close lid upon bowl or boiler and leave for half an hour. Lift then, wetting your hands as little as may be, and shake and suse alternately for two or three minutes. Do not rub. Hand in the air to drip and dry, and the work is done. In the bottom of the bowl a heavy deposit of sooty matter shows how soiled the cloth was and how through is the purification. When all the dirt has settled, pour off the clear gasoline cautiously and use for the next supply of clothes. If the cloth is badly soiled, throw away the first lot of gasoline and rinse the articles to be cleansed in a fresh supply. Gasolene will be remove grease. Therefore, before using the bath I have described, cover grease spots with a paste of fuller’s earth or of French chalk, and leave on all night. Next day cover with blotting paper and “draw” out the oil with a hot iron.

Renovate rusty, limp black lace by dipping it several times in water in which black kid gloves have been boiled for an hour, then left to soak until the water is tepid. Squeeze the gloves hard before removing them. Use a quart of water for a pair of gloves. There is coloring matter as well as stiffening in the water thus treated.

Marion Harland

Housewives, Their Cares and Joys Discussed in Council
Good Things for the Table – Recipes That Are Recommended
The Little Things That Soon Wear Out

An Aquatic Conversation

This is the third article in April of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Apr 23, 1905, and an article about what sort of plants can be grown with the coming of spring.

School for Housewives – An Aquatic Conversation

Flowers and Easter go as naturally together in the mind and upon the tongue as April and soft showers, June and roses. It is human and natural that plant and flower vendors of all ranks should take advantage of the season’s demand to impose preposterous prices upon those to whom the association of the Christian festa with the resurrection of blade, bud, and blossom is sweet and sacred.

Every housemother must have a living plant upon her table on Easter day. The extravagance of the rich and time requisition of the churches set a price upon the humblest spring flowers which puts them beyond the poor man’s reach.

Our forefather’s kept house plants, not in leaf alone, but in flower, all winter. The traveler in England, in Scotland, and on the Continent sees cottage windows lined with thrifty shrubs and blossoming blubs, from November to May. We of this country and this generation have long since given over the attempt to decorate our sitting rooms in like manner. Azaleas, geraniums, cinerarias, and primroses, brought hopefully at the conservatory, begin to droop within a few days after they are brought into the arid atmosphere of furnace-heated, gas-lighted houses. We may inhale impalpable dust by the proverbial peck, and lengthen out our days in seeming health. Plant pores are choked and the sap refuses to circulate.

The flat-dweller who reads these lines may have abundant testimony to their truth if she will look out upon the balconies and fire-escape lining the court separating her back windows from her neighbors’. That window is exceptional which does not display one – often a dozen-forlorn, discarded earthen flower pot, with brown stalks of varying height protruding from useless soil.

Because to most of us the love of green and growing things is a passion I am writing this article. There is keen delight in watching the successive processes of the ever-new, always marvelous miracle of creation. The exquisite story of “Picciola” is in no particular exaggerated. Every leaf is a revelation; every bud has a history.

Because the sincere lover of the beautiful cannot content herself with the stiff monotony of glazed rubber plants – bearing at their best estate a humiliating likeness to patent leather – or the mournful droop of palms that live, but do not grow; because pots with earth in them are cumbrous, homely, and, as we have shown, always more or less monuments of blasted hopes – I would direct the ambition of my fellow-worshiper to some methods by which the Easter spirit may be invoked by one who is no gardener, and winter barrenness be beaten back from our windows.


The wise woman who buried bulbs of hyacinths, tulips, narcissus and crocus in the earth, sex weeks ago; who kept the tiny pots in the dark, wetting the soil once a week – may now bring them into the light by degrees, and have the pure delight of seeing the tender shoots leap up to meet the sunlight, gaining strength and color hour by hour. The next best thing to this – and sometimes a surer joy – is to buy hyacinth, crocus, and jonquil bulbs which are already “Started,” to the extent of showing a couple of inches of sturdy leafage above the top of the bulb. Hyacinth glasses are cheap. Fill each to the ridge that supports the swell of the blub, so that the lower part will touch the water. If it is submerged, the tissues will rot before the roots can strike downward. Set in the shade for a week, approaching nearer and nearer to your sunniest window daily. Then let them bask, rejoicing in the source of light and all life. As the water slowly evaporates, replenish with more that is just the temperature of the room. I have had most satisfactory results from bulbs treated thus. You should have the same.

The Chinese sacred lily deserves a distinguished place in our aquatic conservatory. Choose bulbs of uniform size; settle them in and among clean pebbles in the bottom of a bowl. A pressed glass bowl will allow you to see the lively work of the roots among the stones. The better vessel is a stout, broad-bottomed china bowl with a Chinese pattern upon it – the willowware, if you can get it in any color except blue. The opaque blue contracts unfavorably with the green stem and leaves. When bulbs, pebbles and water are in, set the whole construction in a dark room or closet, and leave it there for a fortnight. As with the other bulbs, let its approach to the perfect light be gradual. Otherwise, the delicate shoots will be scalded.

Another most pleasing decoration for mantel, window or dinner table is made by setting among clean pebbles in the bottom of a glass bowl a dozen or more healthy sprays of variegated Tradescantia, familiarly known as “Creeping Charley,” “Wandering Jew,” and “Wandering Willy.” Select woody stems, fill the bowl half-way to the top with water; set in the window – and see it grow! In a few weeks the stems will curl over the brim of the bowl and hang downward, branching to the right and left until you have a cataract of green streaked with purple and pink. A goldfish globe suspended in the window and stocked with Tradescantia is a pretty ornament.


Another hanging plant is port, or Madeira, vine. China cornucopias, with holes at the side by which to suspend them against the wall, may be bought at Japanese stores. Set a port vine root in each, pour in water and hang evenly at the side of the window.

The common sweet potato is a faster grower than the Madeira vine. Pick out one that will fit loosely in the mouth of a hyacinth jar. You will soon cease to think it homely in watching the tiny, swift filaments shoot into the water, the rapid growth above of a delicate green leaves and the graceful sway of the sprays.

A pleasant dash of green to window sill or table is gained by lining a large round platter with canton flannel and setting in the middle of it a globular sponge. Soak the flannel with water, and scatter millet seeds thickly all over it. The sponge should be filled in every pore with the seed while dry, and before it is put in place upon the flannel. Fill it with water and set in the window, wetting it every morning. In an incredibly short space of time you will have a hillock of dapple green, surrounded by a band of verdant turf.

Ah! the blessed Easter-tide! Ah! the visible promise of resurrection and of life to which death is unknown! Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Marion Harland

The Housemother’s Exchange
Three Little Kitchen Conveniences
Unique Dishes – Syrian Recipes Contributed by a Syrian Constituent