Friday, July 12, 2013

Overworked Mothers

I was reading about women on the frontier of Manitoba last night.

After 1870, when Manitoba became a province, families who homesteaded in the area had three years to clear the land and establish a home.  That meant a lot of hard work. Women participated in this work alongside the men.

Women were involved in clearing the land and putting up the log or sod homes. It was apparently mostly the women who worked with mud to fill in the cracks of these new homes. There was no cessation from their other domestic duties. In addition to helping their husbands with clearing the land and building a home, they bore children and fed and clothed their families.

The author of Making Ends Meet, Charlotte van de Vorst interviewed the descendents of people who were homesteaders at this time, and their recollections are fascinating. We think we were frazzled mothers? I am glad I was not homesteading in Manitoba in the 1870's:
Women cleared, dug, and built, in addition to their numerous ongoing domestic responsibilities. Even child-bearing did not stop the flow of chores that had to be done. During the interview with Helen she remarked that "women, they were pregnant and they were helping to clear the land - they just had to get home in time to have a baby." Likewise, Ruth recalled how her mother, who was heavy with child, loaded cordwood onto a cart and took it into town by oxen. During childbirth, she said, older children in the family carried on the chores for a while but "mother did not get much rest after childbirth." She remembered another incident when a neighbouring woman went out into the bush to get the cows and came home with a son in her apron.
This is such a contrast to what life was like for me as a young mother. These amazing women contributed to the building of this country.  They amaze me.