, , , ,

I found something the other day that put the biggest smile on my face. While going through some of my grandma’s old papers, this little gem was hidden away in a dresser drawer.


Issued by the Canadian Department of Pensions and National Health, this “How to Manage Housework in Canada” booklet was published in 1933.

*sighs* I was in love.

I am nearly every female stereotype combined. And probably could be considered by some to be an anti-feminist. Much of what feminists call “degrading” and “misogynistic”, I think actually empowered us. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a woman being a housewife, any more than there’s something wrong with a woman being a doctor. I don’t think that being the housewife makes you any less of a woman, or less important, than being the doctor. And I don’t like to see the “traditional” role of women being looked down upon today. If there had been no traditional women in the past, there would be no people today.

I always enjoy vintage “stereotypical” advertisements. Like this great old Tide ad!

Why this is considered sexist is beyond me.

I love housework. I love to cook, I love to clean. I detest clutter and disorganization. I’m punctual, efficient, and diligent, and I’m damn good when it comes to budgeting. So as you can imagine, every page in this little booklet just sang to my very soul. Beginning with this beautiful little poem in the front cover.

A Prayer for the Kitchen Wall
Nancy Byrd Turner

My labour make me glad!
May I have eyes to see
Beauty in this plain room
Where I am called to be:
The scent of clear blue smoke,
The old pans polished bright,
The kettle’s chuckling joke,
The red flame’s lovely light,
May I have wit to take
The joy that round me lies
Whether I brew or bake,
My labour make me wise!

My labour leave me sweet!
When twilight folds the earth,
May I have grace to smile
And count the day’s good worth,
An old song in my soul
And quiet in my breast,
To Welcome Tranquility
The night’s old gift of rest,
And gather strength to face
Tomorrow’s busy strife.
Here in this humble place,
My labour bless my life!

The book breaks down all the different aspects of “housework”, from dusting to dish washing, to meal preparation and how to effectively manage your time and even how to delegate work to the rest of your family.


And that really tickled me. When you hear people talk about how women were expected to do all the work “back then” and never got a break and were just slaves in their own home…? Well, not according to Health Canada, apparently! The complainers were the minority, not the majority, as is usually the case with that sort of whining.


And I really liked this quote from Mrs. Ellen H. Richards.

The twentieth-century household demands of its managers, first of all, a scientific understanding of the sanitary requirements of a human habitation; second, a knowledge of the values, absolute and relative, of the various articles which are used in the house, including food; third, a system of account keeping that shall make possible a close watch upon expenses; fourth, an ability to secure from others the best they have to give, and to maintain a high standard for honest work.


The book’s opening paragraph is truly inspiring. At least to me! Words to live by, I’m telling you.


I’m sitting here with a grin that goes from ear to ear. In case you were wondering. It doesn’t take much to make me happy sometimes. I mean, this picture alone just makes my heart glad, you know?


One of my favourite sections is Mr. Harrington Emerson’s Twelve Principles of Scientific Management. Oh, you thought that we super-orderly, ultra-organized people just happen to come by our efficiency by happenstance? Oh, no. No, there is science behind good housekeeping! Thought, effort, organization!!! *takes a deep breath* (There has got to be something wrong with me that this sort of thing makes me so damn giddy. :-/)

Twelve Principles of Scientific Management
1. Ideals — What do you want to do in your Housework?
2. Common Sense — How are you going to do it?
3. Competent Counsel — Are you going to get good advice and follow it?
4. Discipline — Are you going to manage yourself first, keeping to your plan and your ideals and helping others to do the same?
5. The Fair Deal — Live and let live. All for each and each for all.
6. Records — Reliable, immediate, accurate and accessible, covering working-time, money, information.
7. Planning and Dispatching, What, Why, How — Studying the best and easiest way to do things. Working under the best conditions as to light, air, height of table, tools and instruction.
8. Standards and Schedules — Quality of work. Skill. Doing work according to instructions or schedule.
9. Standardized Conditions — Making the house and all in it convenient for work and comfort.
10. Standardized Operations — How to do things. Action and movement to get best results.
11. Written Standard — Keep records of your instructions and practice.
12. Efficiency, Reward — Appreciate the improvements that you and others have made. Enjoy them. Reward them. Note their benefits to yourself.

These are all modern and progressive principles and have been proven useful. Mother lived before the “discovery” of these twelve principles, but she really used them all in her daily work in her home. If you do your work this way, you will always feel, as Mother did, that she could do the work she had to do. It helps. It gives you a quiet and serene spirit. There is no such word as “fail” or “fear”.

This is all good, sound advice. Take it from someone who already implements much of this in her day to day activities. I find it so fascinating to get a glimpse of life in the 1930s and to see how it really doesn’t differ too terribly from today. Yes, this was a time when very few houses even had indoor toilets let alone a washing machine or a vacuum cleaner. In the book you can find recipes for making your own soap out of lye and animal fat! But the principles of organization and cleanliness are always relevant. If the women of the ’30s could keep a tidy, upstanding household without all of the conveniences and perks we modern women enjoy today, then surely we can too!

For me, one of the greatest joys is a clean house. Everything in its place. Neat, tidy, clutter-free. Things planned ahead and done on time. No need to panic when visitors show up unannounced… *sighs happily* I’m in heaven. And as the book describes, you can achieve amazing results with minimal effort, and with plenty of leisure time left over.

When it is Afternoon
All housework, except the evening meal, should be over, if possible, when mid-day dinner is finished and cleared away, and the house tidy. Mother and her helpers need leisure in the afternoon. There must be a personal reserve in time every day. If all the family are allowed to devour Mother’s own time, they will not appreciate her as they should nor as they will if it is a family tradition that when Mother sits down with a book, newspaper or magazine in her own room, or in her own Rest Corner in the kitchen, she is no more to be disturbed than Father when he reads his newspaper at night.

When the house is tidy the mistress goes off to her own room and shuts the door–I hope she takes off her apron and dress and has a little rest and perhaps a nap. It keeps her young and strong. Then she washes her face and hands and brushes her hair, puts on her afternoon dress, and sits down for a few minutes to read, by and by to sew, or to oversee the tea, for by this time some of the children will be home from school and ready to help.

I love when it talks about timing yourself as a means of making a dreary task more enjoyable AND to grow more efficient in whatever you’re doing. This is just a treasure trove of ways to make better use of your time and how to get the most out of your efforts. And who wouldn’t benefit from more leisure time and less work?

Finally, this wonderful little 48-page booklet concludes with a section of “Hints”. Here are some of my favourites:

No Clutter.
Clear up as you go.
Have a Baking Morning.
Learn something every day about “Your Job”.
Don’t use to-morrow’s strength for to-day’s work.
Keep next month’s income for next month’s expenses.
(YES. And don’t spend money that you don’t have, or that’s been set aside specifically to pay a necessity!)
The best-managed house seems to manage itself. It goes like clockwork.
The floor is not the place to keep anything except furniture.
Think before you start a thing–Can you go on and finish it?
Don’t make a slave of yourself. Slavery is not allowed under the Union Jack. (This one just makes me laugh!)
Enter your expenses in your account book every day. It’s the only way.
Can you put your finger instantly on soap, pencil, pen, ink, paper, string, sugar, scissors and everything else in the house?


And there you go. Now you know how to manage housework in Canada in 1933! I know, like that was something that you all desperately needed to read about today. Sorry if I’m the only one who enjoyed a book about HOUSEWORK, but hey, anyone who is acquainted with me personally would know that this little treasure was MADE for me and I simply had to share.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention why I’m publishing this particular post today — it’s my blog anniversary! Seeker of Truth turns 3 years old today. I kicked off this grand blogging adventure on April 28, 2012 with “To Blog, or Not to Blog… The Modern Day Question“, and this will be post #82! A heartfelt thank you to all my faithful readers for your likes and comments. I hope you’ll all stick around to see what comes next for the Seeker of Truth.

And if you’ll now excuse me, my dears, to celebrate this milestone, I think I’ll go wash my windows. Because believe it or not, this particular chore is probably the one I enjoy the most! Not joking either. :)

Gal Friday 2