Of the many free services provided by Google, one of my favorite pastimes is perusing old magazines and old books. Google Books makes this easy and I can usually read what I find from multiple devices. Of course, some of the books are scanned in, making reading only bearable via computer, but readable nevertheless. No other topic is as fascinating to me as to read about the ladies of yesteryear, how they lived, and their expectations. From early entries of Good Housekeeping to books full of receipts (recipes!), there are so many books to be found.
Now, in the free and older books, there are many, many things that no longer exist today. Numerous things have gone the way of the wind, either due to modern innovation or simply to an increase in knowledge. No longer do we have the same appliances that they once slaved over, rather, we have technology. We’ve swapped one thing for another, and we still have to make a way to keep things moving forward, working efficiently, and behaving effectively.
My favorite of all of the categories is that of housekeeping. Now, I don’t have a maid, nor do I have the same type of stove that they tend to mention. However, I still have laundry, and still do my best to cook a well-rounded and healthy meal. Of the many books out there, here are six that jump out.
1) The home and its management: A Handbook in homemaking with three hundred inexpensive cooking receipts
(1918) Breaks down each area of the home, plus various activities such as things to look for when buying a home, cooking, preserving fruit, and the care of children.
Every woman or girl who studies homemaking does it because she knows that some day from the bricks or stone or wood that go to make a house she must create a home.
The house has become largely the woman’s affair and it is reasonable to feel that she must be taught how to select it and how to manage it just as any scientific worker is taught his profession The home is really the most important factor in the nation’s life.
2) Homemaking: A Textbook for Young Housekeepers
(1914) More of a lesson book, but details clear steps for keeping house and maintaining a schedule.
The nurse and the doctor are skilled laborers trained to relieve physical suffering and to cure disease The homemaker is to be a skilled worker trained to rear children and prevent disease She is to create centers of order health and happiness She must realize that the way the dishes are washed the beds aired the food cooked may save or ruin the important business of making a home The skilled housekeeper does even the smallest duty perfectly she plans carefully and executes her plans in the manner best calculated to save time energy and money Out of the very smallest house she can create a home.
3) Practical helps for housewives
(1896) Contains useful (even today) tips on stains, cleaning, and preserving.
THE GOOD HOUSEKEEPER
“How can we tell her?
By her cellar,
Cleanly shelves and whitened walls;
I can guess her
By her dresser,
By the back-stair case and hall,
And with pleasure
Take her measure,
By the way she keeps her brooms
Or the peeping
At the keeping
Of her back and unseen rooms.
By her kitchen’s air of neatness,
And its general completeness,
Where in cleanliness and sweetness
The rose of order blooms
4) The New Housekeeping
A moderate income two babies and constant demands on my time was the situation that faced me several years ago. I liked housework and was especially fond of cooking but the deadening point about the whole situation was that I never seemed to finish my work, never seemed to get anywhere, and that I almost never had any leisure time to myself.
(1912) Sound familiar?
This book is about making your house much more efficient, including why putting your drainboard on the left might be a better idea than the right. This isn’t a routine book like the others but helps with giving you a guideline into figuring out how to make those routine things go quicker and smoother. Of course, you’ll need to translate most of this into modern times.
5) The Domestic Service Guide
(1865) Ah, the woes of the modern woman’s household. And, to think, we don’t have all of the servants mentioned in this book! Most women I know take on all of the chores (or majority of) those listed in the book, without much help. However, these are guidelines that were given over a hundred years ago — some of which may still be useful in household management today.
6) Beeton’s The Book of Household Management
(1861) I’d be remiss not to mention one of the most popular household management books of, well, ever. This book, printed in 1861 for the beautiful houses of Victorian Britain, is still well sought after and still being published today. That says a lot since many of the 19th and early 20th centrury homemaking books are well obsolete. However, this isn’t one of my favorite of the housekeeping books since it focuses much more on cooking, rather than keeping home.