▪ The 85-hour work week of female homesteaders

Wash Day on the Plains, by Minerva Teichert, 1938

MOST PIONEER WOMEN worked almost continuously from dawn to bedtime. Their tasks included baking bread, baking pies, churning butter, canning green beans, butchering hogs, sweeping floors, giving birth, tending children, tending chickens, tending cows, making lye soap, making candles, stitching quilts, braiding rugs, spinning yarn, knitting mittens, sewing trousers, darning socks, planting corn, weeding potatoes, carrying water, milking a cow, and whatever else needed doing that day.

Painting by Utah artist James Taylor Harwood (1860 -1940)

“I’ve been a hard worker all my life, but ’most all my work has been the kind that perishes with the using, as the Bible says. That’s the discouraging thing about a woman’s work … if a woman was to see all the dishes that she had to wash before she died, piled up before her in one pile, she’d lie down and die right then and there.”   

(Memory of “Aunt Jane” of Kentucky, 19th century)

The Gleaners, by Utah artist James T. Harwood (1860-1940)

Housewife’s Lament

… There’s too much of worriment goes into a bonnet,
There’s too much of ironing goes into a shirt.
There’s nothing that’s worth all the time you spend on it,
There’s nothing that lasts us but trouble and dirt. …

It’s sweeping at six and it’s dusting at seven,
It’s vittles at eight and it’s dishes at nine.
It’s potting and panning from ten till eleven,
We scarce break our fast till we plan how to dine. …

(From the diary of Sara Price)