Readings for Rural Life

Because it is that time of year for a tasty, even though it is bad for us, doughnut…..From Moore’s Rural New-Yorker in Rochester, NY

June 18th, 1864


It seems very strange that women don’t study culinary arts and sciences more thoroughly when they are the levers that move the world. Women, if they choose, can lead their lords whitersoever they will, yet few understand that a good dinner is a powerful aid. “A contented mind and a satisfied stomach go together,” said a great philosopher the other day.

Among the various articles of food that claim the attention of a successful cook, the highest in importance is the one under consideration; no wise woman will omit doughnuts, or trust their preparation to and inexperienced hand. Bread, biscuits, muffins, waffles – they are good in their several places, but what are they compared to doughnuts – the quintessence of the whole tea table, blending subtly together the nourishing qualities of the “staff of life” and the sweetness of delicacy of the entire cake tribe. They fill the place of many a dyspeptic dish, do away with unwholesome sweetmeats and pastry, substituting instead their own unrivalled excellence. Imagine anything more grateful than their spice fragrance when the crisp, golden-brown lies in flakes dames of old knew nothing of their moral influence?

Doughnuts should not be eaten alone, pickles and cheese should keep them company always; not pickled peaches, apples, or pears, not cherrier, olives, or walnuts, but the small, green cucumber, prepared in no common way, but after the recipe found years ago in this corner of the Rural.

Then the cheese should be judiciously  selected for one of poor quality would spoil doughnuts. It should not be one that falls off in white tough crumbs beneath the knife, dry and tasteless; nor the reddish yellow Herkimer, of doubtful age; nor the brown-sided Ohio, with its sharp strong flavor; but let it be one innocent of the press, whose creamy richness never departed under the torturing screw. It should be smooth at the bottom, tampering gently upward after the manner of a pine-apple; of a pale golden hue, soft of substance and delicious to the taste. Then, with it triangular pieces upon one side, and the good flint pickles upon the other, the doughnuts will certainly meet with favor. Dore Hamilton. April 1, 1864.

Published in: on October 16, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Make-Do Furniture

In the January, 1859 edition of Godey’s Lady’s Book there is a story “The Unexpected Guest” in which athe family has a room yet no furniture for their coming guest. The devise several nifty make-do pieces of furniture that are worth looking at. Now, I’m not saying everyone needs to run out and make each of these for their camp area. That would just look silly and create yet another over representation. I am saying it would be worth thinking through what they might have done for their make-dos when make-dos are appropriate.

To read the full story click here.



Published in: on February 6, 2015 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Readings for Rural Life

From Moore’s Rural New-Yorker in Rochester, NY

December 17th, 1864

Garments of Mourning

“Putting on black” as a sign of mourning was an essentially heathen custom, indicating the horror of death, and that all beyond the grave was a blank. Mrs. Ware, in her very useful little book, “Death and Life,” has some excellent remarks upon these customs: – “The early Christians recognized the new aspect which the knowledge if immortality gave to the death of the body; and the soon ceased to use the signs of mourning for the dead, that till then had been universal. They felt that it was wrong to mourn the dead; and their epitaphs in the Roman catacombs still testify to the peaceful trust and the hopeful assurance that animated the minds of those who there deposited the mortal remains, often sealed with the blood of martyrdom of those they held most dear.

Among the thousands of inscriptions still to be read there, there is no allusion to be found to the grief of those who were left to perform the last offices to their friends. No inconsolable relatives immortalized their tears on those walls. The simplicity of a childlike faith that to die here was to live in the mansions of the all-loving Father, seems to have been the abounding source whence flowed the countless phrases that speak of death as always a good rather than an evil. The bad Latin in which mny [sic] of the inscriptions are couched, proves that a large proportion of the dead were of the lower and little educated classes; but all ranks seem to have been animated by the same spirit. Selfish grief finds no expression there; and the historians tell us that all signs of mourning in dress were deemed unfitting in those who believed in the Christian immortality.”


Published in: on November 22, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Readings for Rural Life

From Moore’s Rural New-Yorker in Rochester, NY

December 3rd, 1864

What the Ladies Ask

Women are very haughty creatures – very resentful of any supposed slight – very aggressive, besides, if they imagine the time for attack favorable. Will they sit down patiently as makers of pill-boxes and artificial flowers? Will they be satisfied with their small gains and smaller consideration? Will there not be ambitious spirits amongst them who will ask, What do you mean to offer us? We are of a class who neither care to bind books nor draw patterns. We are our equals – if we were not distinctively modest, we might say something more that our equals – in acquirement and information. We have our smattering of physical-science humbug, as you have; we are read up in theological disputation, and are as ready as you to stand by Moses against Colenso; in modern languages we are more than your match.

What have you to offer us if we are too proud, or too poor, or too anything else, to stand waiting for a buyer in the marriage-market of Belgravia? You will not suffer us to enter the learned professions nor the services; you will not encourage us to be architects, attorneys, land agents, or engineers. We know and we feel that there is not one of these callings either above our capacity or unsuited to our habits, but you deny us admittance; and now we ask, What is your scheme for our employment? What project have you that may point out to us a future of independence and a station of respect? Have you such a plan? or, failing it, have you the courage to proclaim to the world that all your boasted civilization can offer us is to become governess to the children of our luckier sisters? But there are many of us totally unsuited to this, brought up with many ways and habits that would make such an existence something very like penal servitude – what will you do with us? – Blackwood.


Published in: on November 21, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Readings for Rural Life

From Moore’s Rural New-Yorker in Rochester, NY

November 26th, 1864


If there is anything of which I am positively afraid, it is a baby – a real, live, genuine, long-white-gowned baby. I like little ducks, chickens, turkeys, and pigs are quite admissible. But a little, bald-headed, red-faced, tender-eyed, mouth-puckered baby is inadmissible. I am a very courageous youth; I hardly know the feeling of fear, but deliver me from entering a room where I am liable to be asked to hold some body’s “dear baby!” I rather hold a bag of cats. I am afraid to hold the thing with any degree of tenacity, for fear of squeezing it to death, and if I do not hold it fast, I am afraid it will fall to pieces. If I look at it, it sets up a squall, and if I do not look at it, it upsets itself.

Besides making me tremble with fear and horrible apprehensions, a baby nonpluses me. I neither know how to act, what to say, which way to look, or what to do with myself. So with a species of desperation unknown under any other circumstances, I grab a portion of the garments on either side of the bundle of flesh, and hang on! To keep my stomach from turning treasonable, I call up all the prose and poetry I ever read, to help me to believe that they are sweet, angelic, and the other pretty things that some women and a few men have written about, but I never could see where the dear adjectives applied. I never could understand why some persons will go a long distance just to see a baby, when I would go as far the other way to avoid it. When you have seen one you have seen the whole craft, for they all look alike. Some one, in the Rural, some time ago, says he “would recommend no many to marry a woman who says ‘I hate babies!’” and adds that such a one “is not fit to be a wife,” &c. So I infer if a baby is brought into a room full of young women, the one who makes the greatest pow-wow over it, and thinks Heaven has one in every niche and corner, and Earth is rendered a Paradise by their presence, she is the one who would make a model married woman. I do not deny his statement. I rarely indulge in newspaper conflicts – I have too much regard for the editors. On the contrary, I think “Lead Pencil” is correct, for I most thoroughly dislike babies! Even when a five-year-old girl, if one came toward me with a baby, I would run as if a thousand snakes were after me. But being considerably older now, I kill the snakes and run from the babies. S I suppose, according to “Lead Pencil’s” phraseology, when a marriageable man meets me, he ought to turn his head away, and run for his dear life. That would hardly be advisable, for having a profound passion for imitating broadcloth, I might “put” after him, and bless him! (just imagine how that would look!) he would think is time had come, surely.


Published in: on November 20, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Readings for Rural Life

From Moore’s Rural New-Yorker in Rochester, NY

November 19th, 1864

Girls and Their Treatment

From intelligent physicians, having extensive practice in this city, we learn that, of the women of New York embraced in that class whose circumstances raise them above the necessity of labor, nineteen-twentieths who have reached the age of thirty are seriously diseased, and of their daughters nine-tenths have impaired health at the age of eighteen. In this class of society, for the last ten years the deaths have exceeded the births, so that, if it were not recruited by accessions from the country  or from the lower class, it would disappear in a single generation. This may be an exaggerated statement, and we care not to insist upon the figures, but there is ground for alarm. The diseases are chiefly dyspepsia, nervous affections, spinal curvature, etc. The causes are easily found. Our artificial life, want of proper exercise, stimulating diet, emotional excitement. Our young ladies feast at the same table as their parents, using the same luxuries and stimulants. They enter into society before they enter their teens; they take but little exercise, and that spasmodically and the most injudicious kind – the exercise of the lower limbs. What is the remedy? Exercise in the open air, the use of the broom, spinning-wheel, the washtub, which would develop the muscles of the arms and chest, expand the lungs, and pump the blood vigorously through the veins. But, next to a properly regulated exercise, girls need a properly selected food, both physical and intellectual. It would be well also to let them know that there is a distinction between girls and women, and that the social enjoyments, the late hours and the emotional excitement which can be endured by the one cannot be so well endured by the other. All this may be little heeded no, but the time may come when young men in search of wives will deem a broom in the hand of a lady more ornamental than a curve on her back; a knowledge of mathematics better than an acquaintance with romances; and a group of healthy children more acceptable in a nursery than a council of eminent and distressed doctors.


Published in: on November 19, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Readings for Rural Life

From Moore’s Rural New-Yorker in Rochester, NY

November 12th, 1864

The Profession of Women

A magazine article says the profession of women is housekeeping, declares it thoroughly dishonored and offers the following proofs:

The delicate constitution and failing health of young girls, the sickness and sufferings of mothers and housekeepers, the miserable quality of domestic service, the stinted wages of seamstresses, the despair of thousands who vainly strive for an honest living, and the awful increase of those who live by vice, are more and more pressing on public attention.

What is the cause of all this? The chief cause is, that woman is not trained for her profession, while that profession is socially disgraced.

Women are not trained to be housekeepers nor to be wives, nor to be mothers, nor to be nurses of young children, nor to be nurses of the sick, nor to be seamstresses, nor to be domestics.

And yet what trade or profession of men involves more difficult and complicated duties than that of a housekeeper?

When parents are poor, the daughters are forced into considerable practical training for future duties, though many a mother toils to the loss of health that her daughters may have all their time for study and school.

In the more wealthy classes the young girl is subjected to a constant stimulus of the brain, involving certain debility of nerves and muscles, books in the nursery – books in the parlor – books in the school-room surround her. Her body is deformed by pernicious dress, her stomach weakened by confectionary and bad food. She sleeps late in the morning, lives more by lamps and gas than sunlight, breathing bad air in close rooms or a crowded school. A round scientific study and fashionable accomplishments alternate, while her ambition is stimulated to excel in anything rather than her proper business.

School is succeeded by a round of pleasurable excitement till marriage is secured, and then – perhaps is one short year – the untrained novice is plunged into all the complicated duties of wife, mother, and housekeeper, aided only by domestics as ignorant and untrained as herself.

What would a watch-maker be called who should set up his son in the trade when he had never put together a watch, furnishing only journeymen and apprentices as ignorant as his son” if in addition to this the boy’s right hand were paralyzed, he would be no more unfit for his business than are most young girls of the wealthy classes when starting in their profession at marriage.

Then, on the other hand, women who do not marry, especially in the more wealthy class, have no profession or business, and are as ill-provided as men would be, were all their trades and professions ended, and nothing left but the desultory pursuits of most single women who do not earn their living. A few such can create some new sphere as authors, artists, or philanthropists. But the great majority live such aimless lives as men would do where all their professions ended.

Almost every method that can be devised to make woman’s work vulgar, and disagreeable and disgraceful has been employed, till now the “lady,” signifies a woman that never has done any of the proper work of a woman.

Dark and dirty kitchens, mean and filthy dress, ignorant and vulgar associates, inconvenient arrangements, poor utensils, hard and dirty work, and ignorant and unreasonable housekeepers – these are the attractions offered to young girls to tempt them to one of the most important departments of their future profession.

The care of infants and young children is made scarcely less repulsive and oppressive, and usually is given to the young of the ignorant. Thus the training of young children at the most impressive age, the providing of healthful food, and suitable clothing, and of most of home comforts are turned off to the vulgar and ignorant. A woman of position and education who should attempt to earn her living in any of these departments of woman’s proper business would be regarded with pity or disgust, and be rewarded only with penurious wages and social disgrace.

Meantime, while woman’s proper business is thus disgraced and avoided, all the excitements of praise, honor, competition, and emolument are given to book-learning and accomplishments. The little girl who used to be rewarded at school for sewing neatly, and praised when she had made a whole skirt for her father, now is rewarded and praised only for geography, grammar and arithmetic. The young woman in the next higher school goes on to geometry , algebra and Latin, and winds up, if able to afford it, with French, music and drawing. Twenty other branches are added to these, not one of them including any practical training for any one of woman’s distinctive duties.

The result it, that in the wealthy classes a woman no more thinks of earning her living in her true and proper profession than her brothers do of securing theirs by burglary of piracy.

This feeling in the more wealthy classes descends to those less favored by fortune. Though forced by lack of means to some degree of training for woman’s business, the daughters of respectable farmers and mechanics never look forward toward earning a living in their proper business, except as the last and most disgraceful resort of poverty. They will go into hot and unhealthy shops and mills, and even into fields with men and boys, rather than to doing woman’s work in a private family. Not that, take the year round, they can make much more money, but to avoid the tyranny and social disgrace of living as a servant in the kitchen, with all the discomforts connected with that position. Few except the negro and poorer German and Irish will occupy the place which brings to respectable and educated women social disgrace and the petty tyranny of inexperienced and untrained housekeepers, who know neither how to perform their own duties nor how to teach incompetent helpers to perform theirs.


Published in: on November 12, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Readings for Rural Life

From Moore’s Rural New-Yorker in Rochester, NY

Nov 5th, 1864 – Appears to be a relative of mine. (Wordens, Lincolns and Stids of South Bristol, Bristol and Canandaigua.)


The practice of Economy is a virtue, and would seem a necessity now, when the prices are so high and destitution so common. Fathers should teach it  to their sons, and mothers to their daughters. By economy we don’t mean stinginess; but careful, prudent management in the house, on the farm, and throughout all arrangements of both.

We may be a guest or boarder in the family of Mrs. S. Almost invariably her table is well set and all the food palatable. As we so often gather around this well-spread board, we compare it to that of our friend, Mrs. L., whose table, to be sure, is bountifully loaded; but we seldom relish a meal she cooks. There is a towering pile of bread on the plate, a pound or two of butter in the dish, cheese, pickles, cakes &c., in proportion; the platter is loader with meat; but with all this bountifulness nothing is just right – and why is it? Well we can tell you. Mrs. S. is a very careful to cook, if possibly just what will be eaten. She don’t cut a loaf of bread for two or three. She don’t put two or three pounds of butter on at one time, neither cheese nor pickles in such a proportion. When you leave the table you will find but a few fragments left, and so the next meal will be fresh and wholesome.

Look at Mrs. L.’s table. There is meat enough left for two or three meals, a large plate of butter unfit for the table again, bread, cheese, pickles, &c., not half consumed. Mrs. L. don’t intend to be wasteful, so all these eatables are set away in the pantry, (perhaps uncovered) and repeatedly put on the table until hardly fit for swill.

Our experience in housekeeping has taught us the value of economy, in this particular, to be very great. During the past season we employed a domestic at three dollars a week. She was a careless, wasteful girl; having lived in large families, she had not judgement to cook for a few. She would waste more in cooking one week than a tolerable sized family would consume, unless closely watched.

Some ladies have a faculty of repairing their old dresses and making them look like new, and are called very extravagant, while others have three times as many clothes and never looked neat or well dressed. I tell you it is economy here, as well as in the first case. Repair your old clothes, – they may often be turned, dyed or the trimming changed, and you charged with extravagance; but no matter, while it consists in using what others would throw aside. The whole domestic arrangement must come under a system of economy to make it complete. We should know just how far a pound of tea or sugar goes if we do justice to our providers. How much anxiety it would save the fathers and husbands, if their wives and daughters thought how much it cost to live, and remembered those who were toiling so hard to provide for their wants. But there are two sides here. The wives and daughters cannot do all towards making things come out right at the end of the year. If the farmer lets the golden days pass without improving them, and don’t plow until the grain should be up, leaves the potatoes in the field until they are frozen, the corn unhusked until it sours and molds, things will run behind at an astonishing rate.

Some farmers think it all folly to hire a day’s work. We know of those who have nearly two hundred acres of land, and, with the help of two small lads, “carry on the farm,” and raise about the same amount they could off of fifty acres well tilled. Is this economy? Besides it keeps the children constantly toiling. We believe in having children work; but they need pastime, they need recreation and education, and if kept constantly at work they have neither Their forms will be bent, and their spirits broken, before thirty years old. It this economy?

It is economy too, to make your homes beautiful. The ladies must have their silks and jewels, the gentlemen their tobacco and cigars; but they have no money with which to get shrubs, trees and flowers. They must have their Brussels carpets and sofa furniture; but can not have a melodeon or piano. If we can have but one, give us the cottage with its trees, shrubs and flowers, its music and sunshine, its wealth of love, its foretaste of heaven, instead of the dome-like edifice, with its elegant carpets, its velvet-covered furniture, its solemn, still, monotonous air; without flowers and music, or the light affection to gladden the heart, or brighten the long weary journey of life. Yes, it’s economy to make our home beautiful.

Mrs. Mattie D. Lincoln. Canandaigua, N.Y. 1864


Published in: on November 5, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  

Readings for Rural Life

From Moore’s Rural New-Yorker in Rochester, NY

Oct 29th, 1864

Cream Cheese

An inquiry in the London Field for a recipe making cream cheese was replied to as follows by three correspondents:

“We put a quart of cream into a clean jug, with half a teaspoonful of salt stirred in, and let it stand a day or two, till thickish. Then we fold an ordinary grass cloth about six or eight times and sprinkle it with salt, then lay it in a sieve about eight inches in diameter. The sides of the cloth should come up well over the sides. Then pour in the cream and sprinkle a little salt on it. Change the cloth as often as it becomes moist, and as the cheese dries press it with the cloth and sieve. In about a week or nine days it will be prime and fit to eat. The air alone suffices to turn the cream into cheese.”

“Take about a half pint of cream, tie it up in a piece of thin muslin and suspend it  in a cool place. After five or six days take it out of the muslin and put it between two plates, with a small weight on the upper one. This will make it a good shape for the table, and also help to ripen the cheese, which will be fit to use in about eight days from the commencement of the making”

“Take a quart of cream, either fresh or sour, mix about a saltspoonful of salt, and the same quantity of sugar. Put it in a cloth and with a net outside, hang it up and change the cloth every other day; in about ten days it will be fit for use.”


Published in: on October 29, 2014 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  

Readings for Rural Life

From Moore’s Rural New-Yorker in Rochester, NY

Oct 22nd, 1864

The Expression of Dress – Women are more like flowers than we think. In their dress and adornment they express their nature, as the flower do in their petals and colors.  Some women are like the modest daisies and violets, they never look or feel better than when dressed in a morning wrapper. Others are not themselves unless they can flame out in gorgeous dyes, like the tulip of bush rose. Who has not seen women just like white lilies? We know several double marigolds and poppies. There are women fit only for  velvets, like the dahlias; others are graceful and airy, like the azaleas. Now and then you see hollyhocks and sunflowers. Then women are free to dress as they like, uncontrolled by others, and not limited by their circumstances, they do not fail to express their true characters, and dress becomes a form of expression very genuine and useful. – Meredith.



Published in: on October 22, 2014 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment