In the book I am reading, Making Ends Meet, I was reading about how women found ways to make household expenses less onerous. A couple of the things they did was to rely less on professional medical help, and use home remedies. They also often relied on their own dental procedures. I don't know many women today who have to remove their own teeth. I didn't even like to have to help my kids pull their baby teeth out.
Doctor bills were generally not an expense someone wanted. I read an account of one woman who was sorry she called the doctor to deliver her baby:
[We] sent for [a doctor] and they was three hours late and I had everything done, had the baby dressed and myself washed and the afterbirth taken out and put into the heater. And then he came and felt my pulse and said, "Well you're just as nature led you. That's forty-five dollars, please." Yes, that was it and he'd only come six miles ... But I had sent for him and naturally I had to pay him. So after that when I was in the family way I never sought for any doctor. I had all twelve of them without any doctor ...Here in Canada, when I went to have all three of my children (including one C-section), I left the hospital after a comfortable stay which was entirely covered by my provincial health insurance. I don't know what year the woman paid the $45 for her doctor visit, but even as recent as 1920, that would have been a very large sum of money.
This kind of historical reading is something I don't think a lot of women are interested in. Hearing about how women banded together to gain the vote and win the right to own property or to have wage equality? Now, that's something we want to hear. To be reminded that we have a very soft, cushy life? Well, that may not be so scintillating. I find it compelling.
We are so quick to bemoan our circumstances, but we have it so easy. Another part of this book discussed how women often made clothing from flour sacks because they couldn't afford to buy fabric. Some Sundays when I get ready for church and I think, "Oh, I have nothing to wear," I really reveal my pettiness. We get so caught up with conspicuous consumption; it can be rather subtle. I occasionally wonder what it would be like if there was some sort of natural disaster that so seriously damaged the infrastructure of where I live that I would be forced to live like those women back then; I don't know how I'd manage.
Reading history like this helps foster gratitude; gratitude for what I have on a day to day basis compared to the women who lived before me, and gratitude for those women and what they endured. The next time I feel the urge to complain about something minor, I'm going to think of these women.