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Mother sewing up little boy's pants,1904
John Boyd fonds
Reference Code:C 7-4-0-0-32
Archives of Ontario, I0003740
Today we buy what we need at any convenient time. In the 19th century these women prepared foods that were only available seasonally and made most of the clothes for their family. After her mother’s death, Marty Hastie managed the household, at first with help, and then on her own.
“The more I do the more I see to do & it keeps me going as hard as I can …”
“Busy canning cherries, Jennie helping to stone them. Boiling ½ my
… Bottled & sealed vinegar
Busy in my raspberry vinegar still.”
Milne, August 2, 3, and 5, 1869 “Busy at my rug & knitting sock in the evening.
Jan 29: Finished rug.
Started 2nd sock for Em.
Cut my lilac print.
Busy at my lilac print dress,
Cut Wm.’s shirts.”
Milne, January 17, 28, 29; February 1; March 14-15; April 28, 1870
“The worst of it is we, Miss M & I, have no time to think of keeping cool
or resting but its work work all the time over the hot stove in that little hole
of a kitchen, which is like an oven itself, or ironing & when that is over there
is no end of sewing, mending & dusting besides Harold to put to sleep, dress
“The last time I wrote about my housekeeping I was in very good spirits. I
had not had a long enough trial of it, but today I was pretty low spirited. The
more I do the more I see to do & it keeps me going as hard as I can keep to
things in proper order, & often I get thoroughly exhausted … Sometimes
I feel as bright & lively as a cricket working around & thinking what a
splendid little housekeeper I make, then I will get discouraged & be in despair
for a while ...”
Frances Milne not only managed all the housework, childcare, and sewing but also did many of the farm tasks. She spent a lot of time preparing meals for both live-in farm hands and seasonal workers. Every year she hired a seamstress to come to the house and help with the sewing.
“Busy preparing for the [barn] raising tomorrow, beheaded 2 geese for it.”
“Busy day preparing for butchering tomorrow.” and “Killed 7 hogs
and got them salted before dark. … Got them all killed before dinner. Margaret
& I got on very well alone & quite delighted that this job is over.”
“ … baking in the afternoon preparing for a lot of men tomorrow.”
“William & I stuffed mattress. We sewed it all & did it very nicely.
… We both tied the twine. Didn’t finish today.
Frances recorded Miss Hood’s days of work and pay for 1868 on an end page of her diary.