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What Girls Were Expected to Know

When I was a young girl in the 1950's and 1960's, our mothers started us out early in life learning the skills to become a competent homemaker.
When I was a young girl in the 1950's and 1960's, our mothers started us out early in life learning the skills to become a competent homemaker. By the age of about eighteen, you could run a household if it was necessary. Even though my mother urged us to get a college education, which we did, she knew it was important for my sister and me to have these life skills.

Probably the first bit of "housework" I learned to perform was setting the table. At the age of five or six, my mother gently taught us how to put the plates, silverware, cups, and napkins correctly on the table. I think this was a skill that kindergarten teachers even suggested that we have before entering school.

Later, I was taught to cook and prepare simple foods under her supervision. By the time I was in high school, I could plan and prepare a complete, nutritious meal. This was especially enhanced when I took a course in home economics during my senior year.

Our housework was on a very predictable schedule. This is something that is missing from many homes today because of the extremely busy lifestyle. Our house was cleaned every Saturday morning. My sister and I would each clean our own room. Then we, along with my mother, split up the rest of the house. One would take the living room, one the dining room, kitchen, bathroom, hall, and stairway. It was nice, because by lunchtime we were done and the house was sparkling clean and fresh smelling. Then we could get together with friends or plan a date for Saturday night with a clear conscience.

Our nightly chores mostly consisted of washing and drying the dishes. Back then, we didn't have a dishwasher. After supper, my sister and I cleared off the table, put food away, and did the dishes. We took turns washing and drying. Of course we argued over it, and insisted that the other wasn't keeping up, or was too slow! But it's fun to look back on it now.

My mother was an excellent seamstress, and believed that we needed to learn to sew. Again, we were taught this at a young age. I can remember being about eight years old and learning to sew doll clothes. Not being a patient person, I got frustrated and started stapling them instead! We still laugh over this.

We learned to sew on buttons, hem pants and skirts, and mend. As a young teen, we were taught to use patterns and make our own clothes. It was helpful, because we could create pretty clothes at a fraction of the cost.

Another skill was ironing. Mother started us out on Dad's handkerchiefs and other easy things. This way if they were scorched, it wouldn't matter too much. Eventually, we learned to iron everything, from sleeves to ruffles. Back then, there weren't quite as many permanent press clothes, and almost everything had to be ironed.

My mother worked outside of the home, too. So in the summertime, she would leave us a little list on the kitchen table of chores that needed to be done. We knew that they had to be completed before she got home from work. The list was usually brief, but we hurried to finish it so we could go to the swimming pool.

Having these chores and responsibilities helped us in many ways. We not only learned the skills necessary to be homemakers, but developed a good work ethic. We realized that work had to be done before play, and developed self-discipline in the process.

About the Author
Inez Haythorn is a Christian wife, mother, elementary school teacher, pianist, and freelance writer. Her main writing interests are Christian writing, and writing about lifestyles and memoirs of the past. She is the publisher of Christian Family Treasures, Heirloom Memories, and Cherished Collections. Her goal is to glorify and honor God, and bless and help others. Copyright 2003. All rights reserved.

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