Life skills taught to daughters and sons - 100+ years ago

"Before any daughter has left our home for one of her own, she has been taught all I know of cleanliness about a house, cookery, sewing, tending the sick, bathing and dressing the new born. She has to bake bread, pie, cake, and cook any meat or vegetable we have. She has had her bolt of muslin to make as she chose for her bedding, and linen for her underclothing. The quilts she pieced and the blankets she wove have been hers. All of them have been as well provided for as we could afford. They can knit, darn, patch, tuck, hem, and embroider, set a hen and plant a garden. I go on a vacation and leave each of them to keep house for her father a month, before she enters a home of her own.  They are strong, healthy girls; I hope all of them are making a good showing at being useful women, and I know they are happy, so far at least."

"Wonderful!" said Mr. Pryor.

"Father takes the boys in hand and they must graduate in a straight furrow, an even fence, planting and tending crops, trimming and grafting trees, caring for stock, and handling plane, auger and chisel. Each one must select his wood, cure, fashion, and fit his own ax with a handle, grind and swing it properly, as well as cradle, scythe and sickle. They must be able to select good seed grain, boil sap, and cure meat. They must know animals, their diseases and treatment, and when they have mastered  all he can teach them, and done each thing properly, they may go for their term at college, and make their choice of a profession."

- From Laddie by Gene Stratton Porter

Though this book was published in 1913, it is set in the time just after the Civil War, and gives a beautiful glimpse of rural Hoosier life of the period. It's on my all-time favorite book list.

Rome City in northern Indiana showcases "The Cabin at Wildflower Woods", former home of Mrs. Stratton-Porter, one of Indiana's best-loved authors. (Girl of the Limberlost, Laddie, The Harvester, Freckles, and more.)


Jessica said…
Hello Anne,

I have a question about this book. I picked up a copy today for $1.00, but now I am wondering if I should read it to the children (10 and 11)? The summary on the back describes it as a poor boy/rich girl romance.

Please let me know if you think it is appropriate for all ages.

Anne said…
Hi Jessica,

That's a good question! I first read the book to myself, and enjoyed it so much that some time later I did read it to the family (all ages - not sure their spans back then) when we were studying Indiana history. My youngest, 8 and 10 year old boys, would like parts, but not all, and I don't plan on reading it to them any time soon, if ever. On the other hand, I'm considering making it a selection for my youngest girls (13 and 14) to read for our girl talk time. I think there is a fair amount to be learned about marriage, family life, farm life,and education from this book. (Even if there might be some points we would approach differently, though that leads to good discussion, too.)

There is a romance/courtship in Laddie, but in my mind that takes a backseat to the rich description of the Stanton family life, led by a godly mother and father. *Laddie* is every bit or more about the relationship between "Little Sister" and older brother Laddie as it is between Laddie and the Princess. And, as with all of Gene Stratton Porter's books, you'll see a wonderful love of nature. (The poems frequently quoted from McGuffey readers are fun, too.)

You might check out the reviews at GoodReads about the book:

Also, I'd suggest reading it yourself before you read it to your children. Bear with it a bit before deciding whether you like it or not, as it starts a slowly.

Oh - just looked it up in Jan Bloom's Who Should We Then Read?, a wonderful collection of book lists by author. Mrs. Bloom suggests Gene Stratton Porter's books for younger teens on up.

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