The Liz Library presents Irene Stuber's Women of Achievement

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April 6

Compiled and Written by Irene Stuber.

What it was really like...


QUOTE by Pauline R. Kezer.

Women's Work

      " 'Until the end of the 19th century, all the physical labor of maintaining a household still had to be done by hand. To have heat or cooked food, wood or coal had to be hauled up from a cellar or in from a yard; ashes had to be carried out and soot cleansed from the furniture, rooms, and windows...
      " 'Bread and cakes were made at home, all the preserves for the winter: fruit, from the simplest dried kind to the most complicated jellies, meat in all its various preparations, butter and eggs - everything was prepared and preserved at home for the household's needs,' remembered Louise Otto-Peters (1819-1895), the German feminist, of her girlhood in Meissen in the 1820's. Cold running water was piped into wealthy neighborhoods in European cities in the eighteenth century; the flush toilet was not standard, even in the larger cities, before the 1880's. Until then, families made do with either a small closet with a chamber pot or an outhouse in back. As cities grew, outhouses disappeared, and the job of emptying and cleaning chamber pots, water closets, and later, toilets, fell to women within the home...
      " 'Laundry was done at home, and doing laundry involved bringing large amounts of water to boil, stirring the garments in, scrubbing them on a washboard, wringing them partially dry by twisting or passing them through double rollers, and then hanging them up or ironing them dry. Ironing was done by heating heavy flatirons on stoves and pressing the wet clothes dry. The increase availability of cotton clothing escalated the amount of laundry a good century before technology was applied to lightening the burden of washing...
      " 'In 1800, Dorothy Wordsworth (1771-1855) kept house for her brother William in a small country cottage, enabling him to write the poetry which made him famous. Despite the service of 'Old Molly' from a neighboring family, Dorothy Wordsworth's days were filled with household duties... she 'ironed until dinner time - sewed till near dark - then pulled a basket of peas, and afterwards boiled and picked goose-berries.'
      "Carrying heavy loads of wood, coal laundry or foodstuffs; emptying and washing chamber pots; boiling clothes, diapers, and sheets before washing them; cleaning cooking pots, dishes, fireplaces, and stoves; laboring in the home workshop if there was one - these were the chores women first shared with or turned over to their servants ...."
(when and if they could afford them. Most, like today, couldn't. It should be noted that today's idealized "nuclear family" did not come into being until very recently.
      "Families" consisted of unmarried, widowed, or poorer aunts, cousins, nephews, etc. And most women had no outside help and had to do everything herself.)
            -- pp. 132-3, Anderson, Bonnie S., Zinsser, Judith P., A History of Their Own, Women in Europe. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.
      Ah, women, the weaker sex.

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Event: 04-06-1327, Petrarch's first sighting of Laura, subject of more than 300 sonnets as well as other poems to her.

B. 04-06-1851, Martha Moore Avery abandoned the Socialist Labor Party in which she had been very active in leadership positions when her daughter converted to Catholicism and entered a nunnery. With her longtime associate David Goldstein who also converted, she wrote a number of pro-catholic works against socialism especially Socialism. Her Nation of Fatherless Children (1903) has become an underground tour de force with the religious right. It implies socialism, not poverty, produces homeless (fatherless) children who would become wards of the state.

B. 04-06-1884, Rose Schneiderman, labor leader, organizer National Women's Trade Union League; national organizer for the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

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      "The glass ceiling gets more pliable when you turn up the heat."
            -- Pauline R. Kezer.

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© 1990-2006 Irene Stuber, Hot Springs National Park, AR 71902. Originally web-published at We are indebted to Irene Stuber for compiling this collection and for granting us permission to make it available again. The text of the documents may be freely copied for nonprofit educational use. Except as otherwise noted, all contents in this collection are © 1998-2009 the liz library.  All rights reserved. This site is hosted and maintained by the liz library.