History - Housework


The shape of housework has changed tremendously since the early 1900's. the introduction of various machines into the home has made the actual performance of household chores considerably easier and faster. Housework was such that it kept you going from morning to night, and the woman in the households of Kippens were no exception.

Families were larger than they are now; it was not uncommon for one family to have ten or twelve members, and it was usually the woman of the house who took on the responsibilities of housekeeping and child-rearing. There were chores, which had to be performed both summer and winter, but winter brought its unique set of problems and situations. For example, many people remember having to break the ice out of the water-barrel in the porch in order to get a drink of water. The first thing to be done was start the fire, then get water from the well and heat it on the wood burning (or coal burning) stove. Clothes were washed on a wash board, in a tub of water. Sunlight soap was generally used to wash clothes. The clothes were washed by hand, rinsed by hand, and then rinsed again. They were hung on a clothesline to dry, and this usually took all day since the clothes were dripping wet. In the wintertime, clothes were usually hung on a line, which was inside the house.

Floors were scrubbed with a scrub brush and lye soap. The lye soap was made from animal fat, and the mixture was boiled on the stove. Once it reached the right consistency, it was cut into blocks. The floors were just the bare wood, and they would be scrubbed regularly with the homemade lye soap. Many people covered their floors with mats that they had hooked themselves.

In the morning, the cows had to be milked. The milk would be strained and poured into bowls or bottles. The cream would be skimmed off the top of the milk and placed in a bowl until there was enough cream to make butter. The butter was made in a wooden churn, which was round in shape and had a long handle with a flat, round paddle, which was used to beat the cream. Making butter usually took quite awhile since the cream had to be beat until it reached the consistency of butter. The liquid that was left in the churn after the butter was made was called buttermilk, and this would either be drank or used in baking.

Most households had two or three small irons, and these were heated on top of the stove. When the irons were hot enough to press clothes, they would be used to iron. When one iron cooled off, it would be put back on the stove to heat up again, and a hot iron would be used in its place.

Store-bought clothes were a rarity, and most clothes were handmade. People would sometimes take the Robin Hood flour bay (from a 100-pound bag of flour), bleach it, and use the cloth to make pieces of clothing. If someone had a loom, they could weave their own cloth to make clothes. People also kept sheep, and the wool would be sheared, cleaned, carded, and spun, and eventually would be knit into socks, mittens, and sweaters, among other things. Cowhides were used to make shoes and boots for the wintertime.

No one had refrigerators or freezers, and if a family killed a cow or sheep, they would share the meat with the rest of the community. The next time someone killed a farm animal, it would be shared out again. There was no point in keeping all the meat for your self, because it would go bad.

At nighttime, the only lights used were kerosene lamps. The glass globes for these would have to be regularly cleaned.

Add all the regular tasks to the tasks of feeding the farm animals and tending to the garden in the summer, and you had sixteen and eighteen hour workdays, all year around.