Aug 8, 2012

What is a housewife?

house·wife/ˈhousˌwīf/
Noun: 
  1. A married woman whose main occupation is caring for her family, managing household affairs, and doing housework. 
  2. A small case for needles, thread, and other small sewing items.
The Old Bailey in London reported the theft in 1731 of:
"a Snuff Box, value 10 s., a Silk Housewife, and six Shillings in Money"
Between October 1768 and April 1769 The Virginia Gazette lists
"housewives for ladies with instruments"
In the Nov. 1770 Virginia Gazette there is an advertisement for
"neat pincushion housewives with looking-glasses"
General Orders, Headquarters. Dist. Of Southern California, No. 3. J Los Angeles, February 11, 1862 wrote:
"Each soldier will carry one greatcoat, one blanket, one forage cap, one woolen shirt, one pair of drawers, one pair stockings, one towel, two handkerchiefs, one line and one coarse comb, one sewing kit, one piece of soap, one toothbrush..." 
On 1 September 1864, The Reformed Presbyterian magazine wrote:
"I suppose you all know what a housewife is? It is a long piece of cloth with a number of small pockets sewed along one side, and made to fold up like a pocket-book, having separate places for buttons, thread, needles, pins, &c., such as some of you may have seen your mothers or grandmothers use."
The New York Observer, Sept. 29, 1898, wrote:
"...a housewife which Helaine's uncle had carried all through the Civil War. The outside was made of oilcloth, and this was lined with silk. The pockets were also of silk, and bits of black flannel formed leaves for the needles. The edge was bound with narrow black silk, and it all rolled up into a compact case, which was fastened with a rubber band." 
A Sewing case
American, Late 18th century
Sewing Roll, 1803

Civil War kit belonging to Augustus Jones, Co. I, 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry.
Gettysburg National Military Park, GETT 31096


Sample sewing roll made by Aylwen

Sample sewing roll made by Aylwen

2 comments:

Angela said...

Awesome. Thanks for sharing that. I have been wanting to make a sewing carry all so when I go to friends house to do tea and stitch I have a light weight organizer for my handsewing tools. Thank you.

Lady D said...

Interesting seeing the different types. And how each one is unique to the owner and what they need to carry in it.
I've just made myself one.

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