Day 6: Imagine a typical day for a female ancestor. What time did she wake up, and what did she do throughout the day?
Mornings are a pretty hectic time for most of us, I can’t imagine it was much different in the early 1900’s. What is much different are the how and why. In 1911 my Great grandmother, Theresa Eich Pfundstein had 13 children to get up and ready for the day. Just let that one sink in for a moment. I have 3 and lose my mind most mornings.
Theresa days were filled with hard work . She would be up before the rest of the family to start breakfast. She would need to get the stove heated and begin to warm water for cooking and cleaning. The Coffee would be started. Breakfast could have been any number of things from eggs to homemade cereals – porridge, oatmeal, etc. In 1911 her children ranged in age from 21 to a newborn. All of them were still living at home. With a family that large, everyone would be expected to pitch in to get the day started. I can’t even imagine what the daily rush to get out the door would have been like – shoes, coats, lunch buckets
Once breakfast was finished and the older children were out the door, Theresa would have begun the first clean up of the day. Dishes, dusting, floors etc. The amount of laundry must have been impressive. Even taking into consideration the family only owned a few outfits each. Theresa sent her laundry out to be done. This is how my grandparents met – my grandfather’s mother was the who did the laundry.
The next part of the day would have been spent shopping for any necessary items. Many ingredients for meals would be purchased fresh the day they were to be used. Theresa lived in Brooklyn and had access to many different types of food. She would have easy access to fresh meat from the butcher, fresh seafood and any seasonal fruits and vegetables. Most of the family’s food would be made from scratch, commercial items such as crackers and biscuits were just becoming readily available. She likely cooked many German dishes that she learned to make from her own mother. Most of her shopping would have been done in her German neighborhood but living in Brooklyn they could sample food from all over the world.
Much of her day would have been taken up with cooking and cleaning as well as mending. Theresa would have prepared a main meal midday and a dinner for the entire family in the evening. The cycle of cleaning and preparing for the next meal would continue as soon as one meal ended.
The older children helped with the younger ones and they all found ways to entertain themselves.
Raising a family and caring for a family in 1911 was hard, back breaking work. While some aspects of it are easier today it is still a tough job.
There are many things that we worry about today that didn’t exist then – but it works both ways. I am especially grateful for modern medicine…and vacuums, washing machines, and crockpots!