I’ve decided the summer series will take a look “Around the House”. To kick this off, lets start with a bit of perspective.
This passage comes from the “Ladies’ Department” of the June 1860 Genesee Farmer, published in Rochester, New York. Do keep in mind this is the forward thinking “Burned Over District.”
Women’s Occupation – In these days of progress and improvement, not the least among the many evidences we meet with of the triumph of science over difficulties hitherto supposed insurmountable is the invention of the sewing machines. Women need no longer be a mere mechanical drudge, doomed to pass her days forever in the seclusion of home – wasting away her energies, and her life in the everlasting occupation of needle-work. The days when Tom Hood wrote his pathetic “Song of the Shirt” have passed away, and are numbered among the things that were. It may perhaps be said by some, that with the introduction of the sewing machines, women’s occupation is gone. This, perhaps may be true of many of those who, having been educated in a former age, find that education too limited for the present time, and have no resource to fall back upon, or the ability to adapt themselves to follow new channels of life
So long as the present system of female education is followed, the effect of this loss of her occupation will be to make her still more dependent. But a revolution in the system of education must sooner or later take place, and woman must be fitted – not to be a mere ornament to the house – a gewgaw to be taken around for show, like a little dog led by a golden chain, or as a mere household slave. No! woman must be be [sic] so educated as to become not merely the companion, but the teacher of man. Her education must be carried out on a sounder and broader basis. She must be taught so as to be fitted to become herself a teacher. She must be fitted to take care of herself, and to feel that she has a mind, and that her mind is capable of being directed into channels of thought – by which she can acquire a position of independence and exercise a greater and better influence than she at present does. She should also become more accustomed to out-door exercises, and should study physiology; and take an interest in the discoveries of science, and what is going on outside of her immediate circle. ~~Progress.
As I’ve been thinking a good deal about cooking lately, thanks to my little sister, I expected to find a similar passage regarding the leap forward in a stove for cooking. I have not, yet. It seems, period literature is far more concerned about the heat stove than the influence the cooking stove had on the daily life of women. (Or, atleast I should say the pieces of literature I have thus found.) I did find this to share: From Eighty Years of Progress of the United States, by CL Flint (1861) I suggest reading the entire chapter beginning on p245 http://books.google.com/books?id=OiEaAAAAYAAJ
Cooking was performed over an open wood fire; a mode in many respects more laborious and less convenient than the present use of stoves and ranges; but which, if skillfully conducted, gives the food a flavor more perfect and delicate than can be attained in any other manner.
As has been implied, the changes in food have thus been more in the treatment than in the materials of it. The chief of these changes, like those in warming houses, have arisen from the introduction of anthracite coal into use, which has caused the employment of cooking-stoves and ranges, instead of the open fire. Nearly four hundred patents for cooking-stoves and ranges were issued from 1812 to 1847, and great numbers of others have been granted since; the total number of such patents may safely be estimated at not less than six hundred.
An early style of cooking-stove, and quite a favorite ne in its day, was the rotary, whose top could in its day, ws the rotary, whose top could be swiveled round by a crank and cog-wheel geared to a ratchet underneath its edge, so as to bring any underneath its edge, so as to bring any sauce pan or kettle forward to the cook. This variety is, however, now nearly obsolete, and innumerable later inventions have succeeded, each enjoying a brief reputation, usually conferred rather by diligent advertisement than by any real peculiar merits in the stove itself.
The cooking range may be described as a modified stove bricked into a fireplace, instead of standing out in the room. Its oven, instead of being [in] back of the fireplace, as in a stove, is above it; and most patterns, so far back as to render it very hot and inconvenient for use. Some late patterns, however, have brought the oven sufficiently far forward to remedy this objection.
The use of stoves and ranges has rendered cooking much more convenient, but has, in a great measure, substituted the baking of meats in the oven for the better old fashion of roasting. Their advantages, however, are greater than their disadvantages; they are far cheaper and easier in management than an open fire; and in all older portions of the country are necessary, because would could not be furnished to supply the kitchens.
Just a few other pieces:
If you are interested in perspectives on the duties or position of women entering the mid-century, you may find these of interest: Woman’s Rights and Duties Volume 2 and Lectures on the Sphere and Duties of Women
Of general, useful interest, I came across this: Hand-books for Home Improvement: Comprising, How to Write, How to Talk, How to Talk, How to Behave, How to Do Business.(1857)