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Training Our Daughters in Homemaking Skills: The View from 1941

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 29, 2013

The Present-day Need for Training Our Daughters in Homemaking Skills

Leda T. Jensen
Relief Society Board Member

All members of a family living together in a home should be interested in that home as more than a place in which to eat and sleep and to which they may go when there is no other place to go.

The wise mother, interested in the welfare of her children, does not carry the full responsibility of the home no matter how heavy or light the load may be. she enlists the help and cooperation of every member of her family. She trains each one to accept in the spirit of fair play his share of responsibility and activity.

No matter what other interests a girl has in life, what line of academic learning she desires to pursue, what service she chooses to render in the world, every normal girl expects some day to marry and have a home. Such being the case, regardless of the training she may acquire in other fields, she should be trained in the art and skill of homemaking. Girls cannot fully enjoy their homes and families unless they have learned proper values relative to homemaking activities.

Heads of dormitories, mothers in mission homes, matrons in nurses’ homes and elsewhere where girls come together to live in groups, report that many girls show little evidence of having been trained in the arts and skills of the home. Many are untidy; they do not clean and repair their clothing; they cannot properly make a bed, set a table, or wash dishes, and they lack managerial ability. Because of lack of training, they have poor habits which are difficult to overcome; they do not enter with zest into required duties, and it takes them longer to perform a given task. A lesser degree of happiness is the result.

Homemaking experiences include clothing purchase, production, and care, food purchase and preparation, home improvement activities, infant care, guidance of children, home management, consumer buying as well as experience in family and social relationships and personal care and improvement.

The more we know about any subject, and the more skillful we are at performing any task, the more satisfaction we derive therefrom.

The girl who does not know the easy and effective means of housekeeping, how to purchase and wisely conserve household furnishings, clothing, and food supplies, how to prepare balanced meals, how to care for the baby, how to make her home livable and attractive, may substitute confusion, conflict and distaste for home and its problems, which is frequently the reaction of the girl who lacks training, for the joy that comes from being prepared.

Mothers want their daughters to find their greatest peace, joy, and happiness in their homes. They also want them to have time outside of their homemaking activities for intellectual development, social and religious activities. This will be possible if girls have acquired managerial ability and a working knowledge of homemaking skills.

Girls should be taught to share the activities of the home as soon as they are able to assume responsibility. Certain inescapable duties should be theirs. Their attitude toward these duties should be, “This is my home; I am a member of the family; I must contribute to the well-being of the family in order to deal fairly with other members.” If all members of a family could grow up with this philosophy of home life, much unpleasantness and conflict would be avoided, and harmony would prevail.

Much of the training in homemaking skills should be given in the early, formative years of a child’s life, before the schools and society demand a great deal of time for specialization in other lines of activity which are remotely, if at all, connected with the home.

It is unfortunate that many mothers lack the necessary training themselves, and often they also lack the time to properly train their daughters. For these reasons, we should appreciate what our schools are doing to supplement the home. No matter what other courses a girl desires to study in high school or college, she should, by all means, avail herself of at least the general courses offered in homemaking subjects. Young girls should be impressed with the importance of this type of training, so that popular opinion, lack of interest, what the crowd does, or other factors will not keep her out of homemaking classes.

Today the world needs young people who are prepared to render definite kinds of service. The better prepared one is, the less difficulty he has in finding a place to be of service, and the easier it is for him to adjust to life’s problems, and to find peace and happiness.

Homemaking skills have definite values. In these days of economic stress and strain, with indications of darker days ahead, the economic values attached to the ability to sew, to plan wisely the food requirements of the family, to cook well, and to purchase wisely is very apparent to those who actually work with time and figures to determine economic values.

No girl should grow up to say, “I’ve never taken a stitch in my life; I can’t use a thimble; I’ve never helped with the family laundry; I can’t bake a cake; I’ve never mended my clothes or darned my hose.” No one girl is apt to become an expert in all lines of homemaking, but there is no reason for her not knowing the fundamentals in all lines in case a need for this knowledge arises.

The family income may be large enough to relieve her of the necessity of home production in order to conserve and stretch the buying power of the family dollars, but one cannot see all the problems that lie ahead, and there is no greater asset to any individual than to be prepared. If she is prepared, she can meet her problems, whatever they may be; and better still, she will find numerous avenues for service to others. Only when selfishness ceases to rule our lives, when we learn that only those things endure which we give to or share with others, will we be on the way to peace on earth and the Christian way of life.

There are other important values attached to the acquiring of homemaking skills apart from the economic values involved.

People who work together understand one another and have sympathy for one another. If mothers and daughters plan together, and work together to carry out their plans, a closer companionship grows up between them than is possible when mothers make all the plans in the home and execute them themselves while daughter goes her way with her interests all outside the home. Mothers need to get close to their daughters and enjoy confidential companionship with them.

Today the home is losing much of its influence in the lives of children, because the movies and other outside interests have taken the place of activities in the home. There is little challenge to our personal development to sit leisurely back in a comfortable seat watching a movie or listening to many of the programs offered for entertainment today. While there is value in much of our commercial entertainment when taken in moderation and with careful attention to the type, in the lives of too many people today it occupies too much of their leisure time in proportion to the benefits derived from it.

Many thinking men and women who are trying to analyze the problems of today say that great changes are ahead for us in our thinking and in our habits and way of life. Many artificial standards have been built up in our great democracy. Too many people, old and young, want to be on the move all the time, going places, being entertained, spending money, living a life of excess; otherwise, they are restless and bored with life. We must return to an appreciation of simple things – entertainment and other family activities in the home, good books, et cetera; frugality, high moral standards, and other worthwhile virtues must be restored to their positions of importance. In harmony with this trend of thinking, a third value is to be found in the mastery of homemaking skills – the satisfaction and joy that comes to one through working with one’s hands to create and achieve. To make an article of wearing apparel, to crochet an interesting pattern, to knit a sweater, to bake a cake, to plant and raise to maturity a flower garden, to decorate one’s room, to mend and darn skillfully, are all creative experiences, which, if entered into with enthusiasm and carried to completion, will bring satisfaction and joy not experienced by those whose hands lie idle.

Not all girls will find interest in the same form of creative art. Many people do not sew or do handwork because of a nervous or irritable reaction to it. Allowances, of course, must be made in such cases, but girls who can learn to do these things without these unpleasant reactions should be given the opportunity. They usually experience great joy from this type of activity.

We cannot properly train our daughters in homemaking skills and creative arts unless we have mastered them ourselves. None of us are too old to learn if we are converted to the need for learning and are determined to become accomplished. By watching others do things who are skilled and enthusiastic about what they are doing, and by soliciting their help, which they are generally willing to give, we too should be able to achieve.

Well-direct conversation about current literature, current events, improved methods of housekeeping, newer findings in the field of nutrition, beauty hints, and numberless other subjects add to our pleasure and profit while knitting, crocheting, doing needlepoint or embroidery, or piecing quilt blocks.

Who does the quilting in Relief society today? too often a few of the older women in the wards who are masters of the art. Unless we interest the younger members in learning the art of quilting, it will be relegated to the past, and one of the fine traditions of Relief Society will be lost.

For the amount of money spent, nothing can take the place of a homemade quilt, neither for comfort nor appearance, whether it be made of lengths of fabric or pieced blocks. There is romance and interest in a pieced quilt. One scrap of material will recall a certain dress and the important occasion upon which it was worn; another will recall how adorable the baby looked in a certain dress, or what a gay shirt or play suit brother had, made from this material. If one sews the family clothing at home, many scraps left from the articles made can be put to use as attractive quilt blocks. Quilting is an outlet for expression and is a creative art that has not lost its power to give satisfaction.

As mothers, let us take an inventory of our own sense of values and the degree of success we have reached as well-rounded homemakers. If we find ourselves wanting, let us plan and order our lives to include some of the important values we have neglected. Then let us strive to help our daughters recognize true values.

Many people travel through life managing, in some way or other, to get along without knowing the joy that comes from living according to high standards. It is our privilege to choose whether we will travel on the high road or the low. When we climb to a high level and experience the satisfaction that comes from so doing, we wonder how we could have found happiness on the lower road.

Home is the cradle of progress and civilization. Here foundations for happy lives are laid. We should sense our responsibility in doing all we can to help our daughters prepare themselves to be wise, helpful wives and mothers when they assume those roles in homes of their own.

The need today for training our daughters in homemaking skills is apparent. As mothers in Israel we should resolve to rally to our responsibility and to discharge it with enthusiasm and efficiency.



5 Comments »

  1. “Many people do not sew or do handwork because of a nervous or irritable reaction to it.”

    eh?

    But many people use handwork to relieve stress and anxiety. There’s guy on my bus who knits. I don’t think he’s mentally/emotionally ill because he knits, I think he does it probably to relieve nervousness, anxieties, etc. He seems a bit odd, but then so do most bus riders, yours truly included – oh, and the bus drivers too. I guess I’m straying from topic. I may take up knitting unless I’m allergic.

    Comment by Grant — August 29, 2013 @ 8:39 am

  2. My grandmother used to knit until she developed an allergic reaction to wool. True story.

    Comment by Gary Bergera — August 29, 2013 @ 8:56 am

  3. I think this is a really good attitude: “ ‘This is my home; I am a member of the family; I must contribute to the well-being of the family in order to deal fairly with other members.’ ”

    I’m intrigued by the thesis that people don’t like homemaking because they’re bad at it. On the one hand, I do think that you are more likely to enjoy something if you’re good at it. On the other hand, some of us just hate cooking, ok?

    Also I think the author must really like quilts. They get a lot of ink…

    Comment by E. Wallace — August 29, 2013 @ 9:32 am

  4. I really like a lot of this, except that of course girls AND boys should learn all these things.

    But in today’s world, I know so many people who end up paying a lot of money because they do not know these skills.

    Last week I complemented a colleague on her suit, and noted that she wears skirts with her suits. She explained that she chooses the skirt option because she can’t afford the tailoring to have pants hemmed.

    Another colleague does not cook at all. She eats out most meals, and keeps a few microwave dinners in the freezer. I cannot fathom what her food budget must be.

    So I think we do need to teach these skills even going into 2041.

    Comment by Naismith — August 29, 2013 @ 11:12 am

  5. Agreed, that much of this is good advice for boys and girls. And I like the attitude of taking responsibility because you are part of the family.

    Maybe the author likes quilts so much, because as she says “there is romance in a pieced quilt…” Or somewhere in the vicinity, I venture.

    Comment by kevinf — August 29, 2013 @ 3:49 pm

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