When I visited Kline Creek Farm in West Chicago for an “Easy Outing” this summer, I was lucky enough to get a personal tour from the farm’s heritage interpreter, Kate Garrett. The site is a living-history farm meant to show visitors what life was like not only at Kline Creek but also on hundreds of similar farms in northern Illinois in the 1890s. Personally, I could not get over how much “work” went into housework in the late 19th century.
Giving your children a bath entailed fetching water from the well, bringing it inside and then heating it on the wood-fired stove. Of course all meals were cooked from scratch, and you better preserve those fruits and vegetables from the garden if you wanted any variety in your family’s diet over the winter. And don’t even get me started on how they did laundry.
Of course these women had help from their children and husbands, and maybe some hired help, too. But as I peppered Garrett with questions about women’s lives – they were expected to serve five meals a day? – she said something that made a huge impression on me.