Aunt Betsey on Men’s view of Women’s Work

Moore’s Rural New-Yorker

July 29th, 1861


Letter from Aunt Betsey.

The man that’s telling about his wife scolding on Mondays, is in a bid “pickle,” to be sure. I’d just like to be lookin’ in at the kitchen window next time his “A.” washes, and see how things do go on, for if he’s as much of a saint as a body would think from hearing his side of the question, he really ought to be translated away from all that “domestic discord and discontent.” As for his wife, she must be a dreadful cross woman, troubled with a drop of black blood in her heart, or something of that kind, if she can’t be satisfied when he tries to help her.

There’s precious few men that have the knack of helping a woman more than they hinder, but it always make [sic] good natured just to have Joshua try to help me, even if he knocked down twenty things where he picked up one, and put the fire all out trying to kindle it, ‘cause he showed his good will, and that’s the main thing. I don’t happen to be constituted so that I think a man isn’t a true man – or as near true as anybody gets to be in this world of mortal failin’s – if he don’t always see when he might do a chore to help his wife; for let folks that has boys to bring up, say what they will, and do what they will, to learn ‘em to do chores in the house, if it isn’t in them to be quick to see, and handy to do, they can’t be made over.

But about that scolding and feeling cross on wash days. There’s quite a number of reasons why a woman may feel out of sorts – some of the “Country Cousin” and the rest have given – and seeing that I’ve had the cares of a family (as you may know by my gray hairs), maybe I’m qualified to give a little bit of advice, too. It isn’t in human natur’ to really like to be sweating over a tub of hot suds and soiled clothes, breathing steam and scrubbing till shoulders ache and fingers are blistered; and the men would only have to try it a few times to find that it brought out some dirty streaks, even in their angelic natures; but when it has to be done, a body must make the best of it, and one way to do this is to begin with that first law, order. Know just what you are going to do, and how you are going to do it, then go ahead. If you do your work alone, get your breakfast and have things go on a near right as they generally do; if you go to snapping, you’ll be likely to get snapped at back again, and that’ll be a load for your heart to carry, a slight heavier than any your hands will find. Pick up things, and sweep your rooms, not as thoroughly as you generally do, if you have not the time, but still so that they’ll look decent, for if you’re naturally tidy, having your rooms look worse than usual will be one thing that’ll fret you. There’s something in your personal appearance, too. It’s all very well to have a wash-dress, but there’s no sort of use in having it torn half off the waist, ripped under the arms, or any such thing. I don’t blame men for not feeling much like helping a woman in such a rig, with her hair hanging down her back, like enough, and her face looking as sweet as could be expected in such a settling our; but if you look as well as you may, and ask as pleasantly as you can (if he don’t think to do it without asking) to have wood and water brought for you, you’ll be likely to get it. Then if you are sensible, you will be very glad to have your liege lord say, “Is there anything more we can do to hell you?” to which you will answer, “No, thank you;” and he will go to do his work and you to yours, neither of you to be disturbed by the other’s petty trials if you are wise enough to keep then to yourselves.


Hoping that the afflicted “A.” and his wife may be benefited by confiding their troubles to the public, I am, respectfully, your Aunt Betsey.



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Published in: on May 4, 2014 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

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