During the late fall and winter months, I don’t see the sun for days at a time. I arrive at the hospital before sunrise, stand for twelve hours in a windowless operating room, and then I drive home in darkness. Wash, rinse, repeat. Household chores often pile up during these work marathons — the dishes go unwashed, the floors remain unswept, and the laundry doesn’t get folded.
A visit to the Oaks is a reprieve from this chaotic mundaneness, a chance to restore my senses. Sunlight streaming through the windows, the wind swirling fallen oak leaves around the yard, the sawing and hammering of the restoration crew as they work to return what time has eroded, and the sound of the caretaker clacking away at his keyboard in the next room.
On this day I ran up the spiral staircase two steps at a time with anticipation and turned the corner into the office. What will I find today. Open that box. Look under this pile. What to do, what to do. Just pick a project and focus. My eyes and my hands moved aimlessly around the room. Paper and dust everywhere. My fingertips started to turn black, and my frustration level grew.
“THIS PLACE IS SUCH AN IRREVERENT MESS!” I sputtered.
. . . and of course, that is when irony interjected itself, and I picked up a folder marked “Girl Homemakers 1927.”
There were just a few things inside, and the newspaper clipping on top brought a smile to my face:
An antiquated headline like that would have garnered a snicker in my younger day, but on this day I saw the value. This had nothing to do with outdated gender roles and everything to do with remembering the timeless sanctity of home. I realized the “irreverent mess” was not in the Oaks, but in my own life, and it had followed me up that staircase. I picked up a letter and continued to read:
“Dear Madam Regent:
May I have a heart-to-heart talk with you about instruction in Home Making for our girls?
How better may we honor the memory of our Revolutionary Grandmothers than by doing all in our power to impress upon young girlhood that a good home maker (note that I lay stress upon the word home rather than simply to be a good house keeper) will emphasize the sweetness in the word “Home?” What more fitting and appropriate a work could the Daughters of the American Revolution carry on than that of doing their part in making America a country of better homes, preserving the ideals of the homes of long ago?
It is not only the girl of foreign birth who needs the training, but also the girl who has been born here, and is so often overlooked as in no need of any particular instruction to become a good home maker some day. So few of our girls have any real knowledge how to run a home successfully. They become engaged, and after preparing an attractive trousseau and household linens, they feel satisfied that all is planned for their happy future. Shall we not do our bit to have them realize further training is well?
The Girl Home Makers Committee need the support of every Chapter, and we feel confident that you Massachusetts Daughters will not depart from your usual custom of putting your energy to work in anything which is asked of you by the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
All we ask of you, Madam Regent, is to give us a fighting chance and appoint a Chapter Chairman, who is interested in girls, and have her get in touch with me. Let us feel we have your support back of us to make the Girl Home Makers Committee as nearly 100% perfect as is possible, thus carrying out the request of our State Regent.
The Girl Home Makers Committee stands ready to help you in your work by giving advice and suggestions as to what could be done in your own community. Material such as amateur plays written by girls; Club pin, songs, Club colors and motto, as well as instruction along different lines.
The National Chairman of the Girl Home Makers Committee, Mrs. B.G.W. Cushman, greatly desires each Regent would read to her Chapter the 1926 Report of the Girl Home Makers Committee, which may be found on page 187 of the “Proceedings of the 35th Continental Congress.” I call your special attention to the paragraph pertaining to Massachusetts. Let us all strive to be the Banner State the coming year.
The National Committee suggests the following outline:
First: Classes in home economics, marketing, and shopping
Second: Classes in home-keeping, where house work may be taught in an interesting way, so that its drudgery may be minimized, and the joy of accomplishment emphasized.
Third: Classes in sewing.
Fourth: Classes in arts and crafts where the value of artistic home making is stressed.
Fifth: Classes in personal hygiene.
Sixth: Form young mothers’ clubs, teaching and mothercraft.
Seventh: Encourage school attendance, stressing evening schools for those engaged in industrial pursuits.
Shall we not try to perpetuate the high standard of home making, our heritage from Patriot ancestors, by passing on our knowledge to future generations?
Mary Montgomery Smith
I smoothed out the letter with gentle affection and tucked it neatly into an archive sheet. The frustration of my earlier outburst had dissipated. I was reminded that as I continue to find my balance amongst the many demanding facets of my 21st century life, a life so different from my Grandmother’s, that one thing remains unchanged. Home. It welcomes me, protects me, restores me. The floors may still go unswept and the laundry may pile up from time to time, but I will honor home.