Resources for Life

 There are many different theories concerning the moral purposes of this world in which we dwell, considered, I mean, in reference to us, its human inhabitants; for some regard it merely as a state of transition between two conditions of existence, a past and a future; others as being worthless in itself, except as a probation or preparation for a better and a higher life; while others, absorbed or saddened by the monstrous evils and sorrows around them, have really come to regard it as a place of punishment or penance for sins committed in a former state of existence. But I think that the best definition, – the best, at least, for our present purpose, – is that of Shakespeare: he calls it, with his usual felicity of expression, “this working-day world;” and it is truly this: it is a place where work is to be done, – work which must be done, – work which it is good to do; – a place in which labor of one kind or another is at once the condition of existence and the condition of happiness.

Well, then, in this working-day world of ours we must all work. The only question is, what shall we do?

To few it is granted to choose their work. Indeed, all work worth doing seems to leave us no choice. We are called to it. Sometimes the voice so calling us is from within, sometimes from without; but in any case it is what we term expressively our vocation, and in either case the harmony and happiness of life in man or woman consists in finding our vocation the employment of our highest faculties, and of as many of them as can be brought into action.

And work is of various kinds: there are works of necessity and works of mercy; – head work, hand work; man’s work, woman’s work; and on the distribution of this work in accordance with the divine law, and what Milton calls the “faultless proprieties of nature,” depends the well-being of the whole community, not less than that of each individual.

Sisters of Charity, Catholic and Protestant. And the Communion of Labor, by Mrs. Anna Jameson. (Boston (1857)

I must say that while reading the paragraphs following these on the work of men and the work of women, I have an urge to make charts of “men’s work” and “women’s work” at various times in our history. I think it would be interesting (and quite telling) to see how the individual tasks move from one to the other.

Published in: on February 26, 2014 at 1:34 am  Comments (1)  

Resources for Life

Women’s Labor Not Compensated

The value of labor is too apt to be estimated, not by its usefulness, and the good it may bring, but by the rate at which it may be obtained – by the necessities of the laborers. Labor should be estimated by the amount of good it does in supplying the necessities, and promoting the welfare of mankind, individually and collectively, and wages should be proportioned thereto.

As business is now done, women’s self-respect and ambition are not called forth. Consequently women employed to work are more idle and less to be depended on – they are more likely to take advantage of an employer’s time than men. But if they had the same number of hours to work that men have, and were paid according to their industry and activity, a better disciple would be established. There would be more honor, and principle, and justice, on both sides.

There is no union or society among women to keep up the regular standard of prices – so the majority work for what they can get. The low wages of female labor tend to increase the feeling of dependence in woman, and tempt her to marry merely for a home.

Many event are tending to draw attention to these matters. How many hundreds, even thousands, of virtuous and worthy girls have been thrown out of employment by the late terrible war! After the great financial revulsion of 1857, many were rendered homeless and helpless. The “New York Tribune,” referring to them, says “It is estimated there are not less than seven thousand ready to go West, because society here has withdrawn its succor from them. At best they can but earn a pittance. A woman may be defined to be a creature that receives half price for all she does, and pays full prices for all she needs. No hotel or boarding-house here (nor elsewhere, we will add) takes a woman at a discount of fifty per cent. Butcher, baker, grocer, mercer, haberdasher, all ask her the upmost penny. No omnibus carries her for half price. She earns as a child – she pays as a many. Besides, her sex, if not barous custom, cuts her off from the best rewarded colleges. Her hands, feet, and brain are clogged.” We ask our readers to pause and inquire if this is not true.


This subsequent work of Virginia Penny’s is Think and Act. A Series of Article Pertaining to Men and Women, Work and Wages. (Philadelphia, 1869)

This work is packed full of article’s from Penny’s perspective on women, men, occupation, marriage, health and more. Here is a second passage to give you a better idea of how wide her topics are. (Looking at this passage, I will admit, I am one who must have her “order, system, and harmony”)

What a Woman Should Be

Some women are by nature gifted with more refinement of feeling, more delicacy of thought, than others. Education, or training, makes a still greater difference.

A woman’s virtuous counsels are a beacon-light to save from the rocks and quicksands of this stormy world, but the evil counsels of a woman lead to ruin and misery.

There are a thousand little courtesies that a woman alone is capable of performing; volumes could not contain all the delicate minutiae that form a true lady. The feeling that makes one must be native.

Order and harmony should prevail in all the arrangements of a lady. In the adjustment of her dress – the furniture of her room – her studies – her pastimes – her hours for rest, – in all, order, system, and harmony, are important.

A kind of consideration for the comfort of others is one of the most lovely traits of female character. A woman that does not discharge her duties, as wife and mother, does not deserve the name of woman.

Gentleness, tenderness, and decision should characterize a woman. A cheerful, contented, and forgiving disposition should mark her temper. Nothing is more to be admired than modesty, humility, and consistency. They form bright jewels in the crown of virtues. A warm heart, and refined manners, command admiration and love; but a cultivated intellect will add a greater charm, and enable a woman to accomplish more good.


Published in: on February 19, 2014 at 1:33 am  Leave a Comment  

Women’s Patriotic Association for Diminishing the Use of Imported Luxuries

This is one I was initially going to include in the Resources series. But, with some recent discussions, I would like people to be aware of this movement. It became fairly well known about since I am seeing it in rural papers (which I’ll share) as well as papers in England and Australia (I’ll have to refind that to transcribe.)

The Women’s Patriotic Association for Diminishing the Use of Imported Luxuries (New York, 1864)

This book opens with an address from May of 1864. It also contains several letters.

There is something more we can do for our country! We wish to make, we can make, no stronger appeal that this to those who have been working for our sick and wounded soldiers for the past three years, who are working for them now, who means to work for them until the war is over. We ask you to consider seriously the subject now presented; let it commend itself to your reason; for, if once convinced of the importance of the measure, we cannot doubt but that you will show yourself as ready to help our country by not doing, as you have hitherto helped it by doing.

… The most effectual way of doing this, we are told, is to diminish our use of foreign luxuries, although a general economy is all superfluities will do much towards it. At present our imports – or the articles purchased by us from foreign countries – are very much greater in value than our exports – or the articles we produce at home and sell abroad. It is estimated that when the accounts for the year are made up, on the 30th day of this coming June, we shall find that the country has been sending abroad seventy or seventy-five millions of dollars in gold to pay the balance of trade against it. And what have we bought with this money, so much needed at home just now, and which might be dispensed with? Silks, satins, velvets, laces, jewelry, ribbons, trimmings, carpets, mirrors, and other imported luxuries – every woman knows what they are without running through the whole list – things that are not necessary, which would benefit our country should we do without them altogether, but which, if wanted, can, with but few exceptions, be obtained of our own manufacture.


As with the Temperance movement this also has a pledge:

Form of Pledge We, the undersigned, during the continuance of this war of rebellion, pledge ourselves to refrain from the purchase of Imported Articles of Luxury, for which those of Home Manufacture or Production can be substituted.


Edited later to add:

I’ve been reading The Needle’s Eye: Women and Work in the Age of Revolution by Marla Miller. When I reached this passage, I instantly thought of this post. 

After the war ended, women remained conscious of the political impllications of the astorial choices. In November of 1786, more  than one hundred women in Hartford, responding to the postwar economic depression adn the tension swelling to the nrth as Massachusetts coped with Shay’s Rebellion, expressed their patriotic zeal by forming an “Economic Association.” “Taking into serious consideration the unhappy situation of their county, and being fully sensible that our calamities are in great measure occasioned by the luxury and extravagance of individuals,” the founders expressed the hope that “those Ladies that used the to excel in dress… will endeavor to set the ebst examples, by laying aside their richest silks and superfluous decorations, and as far as possible, distinguish themselves by their perfect indifference to those ornaments and superfluities which in happier times might become them.” The resolutions reflected the signers’ sense of themselves as participants in an internationaly network of clothing makers and consumers. They observed that “the English and French fashions, which require manufacture of an infinate variety of gewgaws and frippery,  may be highly beneficial and even necassary in the countries where those articles are madel as they funish employment and subsistence for poor people.” But, thought sympathetic these individuals, they also recognized larger and more sinister interests at work; “foreign nations,” they stated, were anxious to “introduce their fashions into this country, as they thus make a market for their useless manufactures, and enrich themselves at our expense…. Our implicit submission to the fashions of other countries is hightly derogatory to teh reputation of Americans, as it renders uss dependent on the interest, or caprise, of foreigeners, both for taste and manners; it prevents the exercise of our own ingenuity, and makes us the slaves of milliners and mantaumakers in London or Paris. For the next seven months, the women said, they would refrain from purchasing “gauze, ribbons, flowers, feathers, lace and other trimmins from frippery, designed merely as ornaments.” They would reduce new purchases for weddings and mourning, eliminate purchases of new materials for routine visiting, and buy domestic rather than imported goods whenever possible. In sum, they vowed to dress simply, to limit occasions that called for fashionable excces, and to “use [their] influence to diffuse and attention to industry and frugality, and to render these virtues reputable and permanent.” 

The Hardford Association’s success is impossible to gauge – perhaps this was the year that one of the Trumbull girls famously wore the same, plain muslin dress all season long, to great local acclaim for her simplicity – and bravery. Whether the signers abstained from the unneccassary purchases in unknown, but their awareness of the political and economic impact of ephemeral style is striking.     

This also brings to mind Mrs. Philadelphia’s words in my January post.

Published in: on February 17, 2014 at 1:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Resources for Life

It is very easy to obtain book after book on “The Sphere of Woman,” “The Mission of Woman,” and “The Influence of Woman.” But to a practical mind it must be evident that good advice is not sufficient. That is very well, provided the reader is supplied with the comforts of life. But plans need to be devised, pursuits require to be opened, by which women can earn a respectable livelihood. It is the great want of the day. It is in order to meet that want that this work has been prepared. The few employments that been open to women are more than full. To withdraw a number from the few markets of female labor already crowded to excess, by directing them to avenues where they are wanted, would thereby benefit both parties.

At no time in our country’s history have so many women been thrown upon their own exertions. A million of men are on the battlefield, and thousands of women, formerly dependent on them, have lost or may lose their only support. Some of the mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters of soldiers, may take the vacancies created in business by their absence – others must seek new channels of labor.

An exact estimate of woman as she has been, and now is, furnishes a problem difficult to solve. Biographies and histories merely furnish a clue to what she has been. Prejudice has exaggerated these portraits. Woman as she now is, save in fiction and society, is scarcely known. The future position of woman is a matter of conjecture only. No mathematical nicety can be brought to bear upon the subject, for it is one not capable of data. More particularly is it difficult to define what her future condition in a business capacity will be. Man will have much to do with it, but woman more. I know of no work giving a true history of woman’s condition in a business capacity. Socially, morally, mentally, and religiously, she is written about; but not as a working, every-day reality, in any other capacity than that pertaining to home life. It has been to me a matter of surprise that some one has not presented the subject in a practical way, that would serve as an index to the opening of new occupations, and present feasibility of women engaging in many from which they are now debarred….

The work of a single woman has never been very clearly defined. Those that are without means are often without any to guide them; and the limited avenues of employment open to women, and the fear of becoming a burden on others, have poised some of their best hours and paralyzed some of the strongest powers. There is a large amount of female talent in the United States laying dormant for the want of cultivation, and there has been a large amount cultivated that is not brought into exercise for the want of definite plans and opportunities of making it available. It exist like an icicle, and requires the warmth of energy, thought, and independence to render it useful. It shrinks from forcing itself into notice, like the sensitive plant, and may live and die unseen and unknown. Widen, then, the theatre of action and enterprise to woman. Throw open productive fields of labor, and let her enter.


While I would like to continue on with Penny’s preface to her work, I will instead tell you she details 516 specific employments open to women and also includes articles on employments for the blind, deaf and disabled (lame in her words) as well as topics related to women’s employment. In each of her detailed articles, she addresses the statistics for the employment such as the numbers of women employed and where, the wages paid, hours worked, expected skills and instruction if available.

The Employments of Women: A Cylcopedia of Woman’s Work, by Virginia Penny (Boston: 1863)

Published in: on February 12, 2014 at 1:31 am  Comments (1)  
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Fabric Swatch Exchange

I’ve been meaning to write about this fabric swatch exchange I’ve had floating in my head for some time. Now that a local friend has brought up fabric examples, it has floated to the surface. Here is a rough version.

I have this mental picture of each of the members of a group exchanging swatch cards with carefully researched period correct fabrics attached. Each member would cut enough swatches and fill out enough cards for each member of the group. I picture the cards being printed on card-stock. It would be perfectly okay to fill out one card and copy it onto the same/similar cardstock. The cards can then nicely fit into the smaller 9″x6″ three ring binders.

I’ve developed two new swatch cards. The first is for  modern fabrics. This card has space for you to note the current name of the fabric, information on the print/weave/etc, the colors, fiber, appropriate uses, similar original garments and notes.

The second is for swatches from original garments. This card has space to note the source (collection) the sample is from, information on the fiber, weave, print, colors, etc. I envision this card having a photo of the swatch applied to the card. This could be inserted or paste onto the card in the computer or after it is printed. (I also have my previous swatch cards from a few years ago, swatchcards2.)

There are some locations online with original swatchbooks:

I have an electronic swatch exchange in mind as well. In this case, a couple things can happen. At a physical meeting, participants have their swatch cards with swatches layed out on a table so that each one can be photographed with a camera phone or camera. The photos can go into an electronic file to be browsed through. These files can then be shared between friends or groups.

Published in: on February 3, 2014 at 4:00 pm  Comments (1)  

Cold Weather Prep – ReBlogs

For today’s “Reblog”, I’m continuing with the cold weather theme and combining two previous post on prepping for the cold weather. Both are from 2011, which, as you can tell, was a year when the weather turned much earlier than this year. Right now, we have chilly mornings in the upper 30s and low 40s with “warmer” afternoons in the upper 60s or low 70s even. But, with the trees almost at peek, we know the cold, cold weather isn’t far behind.

Are You Ready for Your Cold Weather Events?

For those of us in the northern states of the country we usually see the onset of fall as the ‘end of the season’. But, many of us have cold weather activities ahead of us. This could be ceremonies for Veteran’s Day and Rememberance Day, Yuletide and Christmas events for our living history sites or even festive caroling in our communities.

For each of these events, the weather can get down-right Cold!


Keep in mind – Layers are the Key to Warmth. This means your 1) Underpinnings 2) Dress 3) Outerwear and 4) Accessories.

Here is a list of items that can help you keep warm:

For your dress, consider:

For outerwear, think beyond the cape that will let cold air in and encumber you arms. Consider:

Accessories help keep your hands and head warm. Consider these:

An Evening Chill in the Air

Have you noticed the chill in the air as evening sets in? I know it is still August. But, it is definitely there. While it may feel refreshing to fall asleep in this fresh cool air after many hot and humid nights, we all know this means even colder nights aren’t far behind. I’ll admit, this year I am particularly not looking forward to the colder weather coming in since I don’t exactly have my own home with my own favorite creature comforts. I am big, really big on my creature comforts, most of which come from what I’ve learned about how people kept warm in the 19th century. But, I digress.

With cold weather imminent, now is the time to make sure you are ready. After all, you don’t want to be left out in the cold without your cold weather wear.

Layers are the Key to Warmth. This means your 1) Underpinnings 2) Dress 3) Outerwear and 4) Accessories.

For your underpinnings, consider these:

For your dress, consider:

For outerwear, think beyond the cape that will let cold air in and encumber you arms. Consider:

Accessories help keep your hands and head warm. Consider these:

Published in: on October 11, 2013 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fabric Swatch Swap – An Idea for Group Meetings

As I started receiving my envelops of fabric during our recent FanU Fabric Swap, I couldn’t help but think swapping would be a great way to build or expand a swatch reference. The more I thought about it, I realized a swatch swap in person would be fun for reenacting groups to do at a meeting.

Here is my thought process. (You are welcome to steal this idea.)

  • Each person attending chooses a fabric s/he has documentation for. This could include the dating, type of print, colors, an example of how/where a similar fabric was worn, etc. The fabric may or may not be an actual reproduction.
  • Each person brings several (according to the size of the group) 3″ swatches of the fabric. The size of the fabric swatch depends on what the group decides with guidance from the fabric. (Smaller groups of people may wish to have each person bring more than one sample of fabric.)
  • Each swatch should be accompanied by the documentation. This can be pre-printed on a cards to which the fabric swatch is pinned or a single larger card from which people can copy the information. (determined by the group.)
  • The members of the group exchange swatches and documentation.
  • This will start a swatch reference book for each of the members.

*Note – Tech friendly groups could try a digital approach for those swatches not requiring feel. Each member brings a larger sample, say 10″x10″ and a large print card with the documentation. The fabrics are all layed out in a well lighted with their card sitting on the fabric in the lower right corner. Members then use the cameras or phones to take photos of the swatches with cards creating a digital swatch.

Swatch Cards and Books

There are several ways you can approach your swatch book.

  1. A pre-bound book can be used for handwritten notes. This format allows the keeper the freedom to write whatever she wants about a particular fabric. The fabrics can be pinned or handstitched onto the pages. The downside is pages can not be rearranged or sections added to.
  2. Three ring binder as those which are half-size can nicely hold punched swatch cards. Cards can be pre-formatted with fill-in areas about the fabric. These lines work well as prompts to remind the keeper to include particular information. (This can be helpful for those just starting.) Swatches can be pinned or sewn to the cards. Loose cards can be sewn through a sewing machine. Cards can easily be rearranged as catagory needs change.
  3. Card boxes are another way of holding cards. An advantage is the cards can easily be pulled out and looked at in different groups.

Each person will want different information on their swatch cards. Here are the swatch cards I did a few years back. For new swatch cards, I would want to include information on the print (block, roller, etc), colors/dye, finish and dating as well as how a fabric might be used. That could look more like 2013 Swatch Card.

Published in: on July 29, 2013 at 5:11 pm  Comments (1)  

How to Pack – A Trunk

I found this buried in my drafts folder….. From Eliza Leslie’s House Book, (Philadelphia, 1844)

To Fold a Dress for Packing – spread the dress, right side out, on a bed; and, taking it by the hem, make the bottom exactly even all round. Next, double the skirt lengthways in half, then fold it lengthways in four, turn up crossways about one-third of the folded lower part of the skirt; then give the remainder of the skirt a fold backwards, terminating at the gathers at the waist. Next, turn the body backwards, with the front uppermost, and the back resting on the folded skirt beneath. Lastly, spread out the sleeves; vie each of them a fold forward at the shoulders, and a fold backward at the elbows, and lay them across each other evenly on the fore-body.

Fold the pelerine right-side out. First, double it in half, beginning down the middle of the back. Next, give the doubled pelerine a fold backwards, then a fold forwards, and then another fold so as to leave the corners uppermost.

A belt-ribbon, for packing, should be rolled on a block, and fastened with two pins.

A lady’s travelling dress should be made to fasten at the side or in front, pelisse-fashion; that, during her journey, she may be able to dress herself without assistance.

It may be well to have a camphor-bag sewed to each of her night-gowns, that she may be less liable to attacks from insects when sleeping in such beds as are frequently met with in travelling.

To Pack a Large Trunk – Have all the things laid out ready, the light things divided from the heavy ones; and keep at hand a quire of soft wrapping paper. Spread a clean thick towel over the bottom of the trunk, and place on it the hard flat things, such as portfolios, music-books, a writing desk, boxes, books for reading, &c,; taking care to fit them well together, so as to be even at the top; and filling up the crevices with small articles that will not be injured by compressment, each of them, however, wrapped in paper, to prevent their scraping of defacing the other things. Never use newspaper for packing, as the printing ink will not fail to rub off and soil whatever it touches. You may stick in a pair of shoes here and there, each laid together as flat as possible, and tied round with their own strings. Some persons have shoe bags made of flannel or cloth, and stitched into compartments, each division containing a pair of shoes. Over the layer of hard flat things in the bottom of the trunk, spread a towel; and on this lay your flannels, linen, &c., filling up the interstices with stockings and gloves. Then cover them with another towel, and put your dresses, the muslin ones uppermost; filling in the corners with pocket handkerchiefs. On the top of your dresses lay your pelerines, collars, and caps, (if you have no other way of carrying them,) &c., finishing with a thin towel over the whole.

No trunk should be packed so full as to strain the hinges. If your trunk has a false top, you can fill that with any articles that may be rolled up tightly. Shoes should on no account be packed without covers, as the colour (particularly, if black)will rub off, and disfigure any white things that may be near them. Avoid putting any eatable articles in a trunk of box that contains things which cannot be washed, as they may be much injured by grease or stains. On no consideration, carry ink, even though locked up in a writing desk. You can always at the place which you are going, buy yourself six cent worth of ink in a small square bottle, which will also serve for an inkstand. It is well, however, to take with you a few sheets of good writing paper folded in the form of letters, each with a wafer stuck on one edge, to be ready, in case you have occasion to write before you reach your journey’s end, or immediately after. It is well to have read tapes nailed across the inside of the lid of your trunk, for the purpose of slipping letters and papers between them.

There are traveling trunks with a sort of movable tray fitting in near the top. This tray can be lifted in and out, and is for the purpose of containing pelerines, collars, scarfs, ribbons, laces, &c. Some very large trunks have a partition at one end, to hold a bonnet or other millinery.

It is best, however, to have a proper bonnet-box, either of painted wood or leather. To keep the bonnet steady, sew to it in convenient places under the trimming, pieces of tape, the other ends of which should be secured with tack-nails to the floor and sides of the box. In the corners, you may lay a few caps, &c., as light as possible.

Leather trunks generally have brass plates on which is engraved the name of the owner. It is now very customary to have the name painted on both ends of the trunk, and also on the bonnet boxes. Besides which, if you are travelling with several articles of baggage, it is well to have them all designated by a piece of red tape or something of the sort tied round the handles of each. A lady, before setting out on a journey, should be provided with a card or paper, on which she has written a list and description of her trunk, box, carpet-bag, &c. Previous to the hour before starting, she should give this list to the gentleman under whose escort she is to travel and it will save him much trouble in finding out and taking care of her baggage.

The best paper for wrapping light articles that are to be packed in trunks, is the thin, soft sheets of light blue, buff, gray, and other colours, that are retailed at six cents per quire. It is well to keep a supply of it always in the house.

For heavier articles, (books, &c.,) the nankeen paper will be preferable to any other, as it is both smooth and strong.

In putting a paper parcel to go any distance over twenty miles, it is better to secure it only with sealing-wax, (putting always a wafer under the seal,) than to tie it round with twine, as in the course of transportation, the twine is very apt to rub and cut through the paper.

When putting up a newspaper or any other printed sheet to go by mail, always leave the cover open at one end.

Recommended Blog

Civil War reenacting friends, if you haven’t discovered it yet, I highly recommend checking out Civilian War Time. This blog transcribes letters and diary/journal entries each day. On the right hand side of the blog is a subscribe space. Enter your email to receive the posts daily.

Published in: on May 20, 2013 at 8:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Don’t Stress the Stress Lines

After a long winter and rainy spring, how many of us are trying on our dresses with hesitation?

Will it fit? Won’t it fit?

Will the bodice hook?

Will a button fly off?

This time of year, how many of us stress over those horizontal wrinkles that show up around the midriff of our bodices? How many of us stress over those stress lines? I have, year after year. Frankly, it is inevitable through the years as our bodies just change, hibernating winter or not.

Deep breath. I say “Don’t stress the stress lines.” Why? Take a look at some of these original images:

Waist 2 Waist 1 waist

A few more of various ages: Link 1 Link 2 Link 3

Now, this isn’t a set of stress lines, but I am curious as to why she chose this particular look. I don’t know that it was a fashion choice. I also don’t promote recreating it. LINK

Published in: on May 17, 2013 at 12:21 pm  Leave a Comment