Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Woman's Work

Those of you who are a decade or two older than me (I'm 39) are going to have to help me out with this brochure. The front cover states that it was distributed by the Home Economics Extension Staff of the Ohio State University in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture. The date on the cover is May, 1943.

Were these pamphlets distributed by people, presumably women, who acted as agents for the USDA? Apparently these people made sure that the topic of Home Economics was well understood and practiced by women all around the country. I am assuming that this program eventually lead up to what we now know as the Cooperative Extension Service. There is one such office located in the basement of our town's post office.

If Jim hadn't pointed it out to me I wouldn't have noticed the huge "V" for victory on the front cover. The women on the cover are cheerful and keeping the home fires burning while their husbands are overseas engaged in battle.

My how our focus has changed! And in such a short period of time. Sixty years really isn't that much time, all things considered. But look at what the women had to handle while the men were off fighting the war. Here's a sampling of a huge checklist inside this handout. The checklist also includes the topics of cleaning and caring for clothes which I didn't scan. Click the image for the full sized version.

Between my mother and me we have what must be the entire collection of all the letters my grandparents wrote to each other during the war. The letters are poignant for the most part with patches of mundane in between. Grandpa's brother, Richard, was wounded and sent to an Army hospital to recover. He sent this V-Mail to my grandmother during his hospital stay, also in May 1943.

If you've never seen a V-Mail or held one in your hand let me just say that they are a marvel to behold. They are miniscule! (Click the photo for the actual size.) They're actually a photo of the original letter, shrunk down. The tiny envelopes they were mailed in are absolutely perfect in their small scale. The smaller size made them cheaper for the government to send. I have only a few of these and they are precious to me. In his letter, Uncle Richard makes small talk and asks how my Uncle Donn and my infant mother are doing. He passes along blessings and well wishes and in his own way asks Grandma not to worry about him. It's all very pleasant and chit-chatty.

The back cover of the "Shortcuts in Housework" brochure encourages women to "keep a set of steady nerves" and "smile and still do your part to win the war". I gotta hand it to the women of the 40's. They were a breed apart. They had a lot on their plates yet they still did everything they could to keep their families fed, clothed and sheltered not to mention maintaining the household while the men were away.

What a fascinating and inspiring glimpse at life just a few decades ago. My grandmother was one of the women who kept the home fires burning while her husband was gone. This brochure makes me appreciate all that she had to do.

1 comment:

  1. I clicked interesting. You're putting a lot of nice work into this.


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