In a completely unrelated preface, I would like to direct all you anti-dreadlock-ers out there to recently added pictures on our family's photo album.
This is an excerpt from an article written by Laura Ingalls Wilder in 1919 for McCall's magazine as a reflection on her last 25 years of marriage as a farm wife. Despite presently only being an *aspiring* farm wife, I can identify with her character as being someone who attempts to do her share of the work in keeping the home, teaching and training children, and even saving money by reusing, making and growing. The "farm wife" can be any industrious homemaker, the ultimate being The Proverbs 31 Woman. I can name quite a few "farm wives" who have no land or livestock of their own. What I appreciate from this article, and what I hope to share with you, is her emphasis on where the wife's skills and talents are best put to use. Where she can nicely complement her husband's work rather than compete against it. She should always be his "business partner", whether he's farming, running a business, or figuring out whether it's quicker to button his shirt from the top or bottom. A housewife's job is what she makes of it. It seems like an endless to-do list of menial, thankless, tasks but it is the enabler of the success of the other souls in the home for which she keeps. The important thing is "whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men."
"There has been a great deal of pity spent on the farmer's wife, and a great deal of condescending effort has been spent to educate her, while, on the other hand, some very pleasant and poetic things have been written about country life. But I have never seen it pointed out that the farm woman's life combines the desires of the "modern woman" with all the advantages and traditions of homekeeping.
On the farm, a woman may have both economic independence and a home life as perfect as she cares to make it. Farm women have always been wage earners and partners in their husband's business. Such a creature as the woman parasite has never been known among us. Perhaps this is one reason why "feminism" has never greatly aroused us.
...It is true that a farmer's wife can never stop contributing her share to the success of the farm without ruining her husband's business as well. Many times when the churning had to be done and the hens fed, I have felt like running away into the woods, "just to walk and to walk and to stun my soul and amaze it - a day with the stone and the sparrow and every marvelous thing." And I have felt that the life of a parasite woman has its attractions. But it lacks certain sturdy virtues that are good for a woman to have.
Women in the cities have tried the parasite life and it appears they do not like it. Yet in the city, conditions inevitably pull married women into economic dependence and partial idleness.
It is not good for any living creature to be idle. A horse that does not work becomes unmanageable and fractious in his stall; he begins eating the wood of the manger, which is not a good thing for a horse to do. Hens, if they are to be kept healthy, must be kept busy, and every good poultry raiser gives them straw to scratch, so that they may earn a part of their food by good, honest toil. I think it is not unreasonable to suppose that women, too, must use their energies to some purpose, good or bad, and no woman can make a success of her marriage if she uses her energies in eating the wood of the manger.
Yet, if, in order to avoid the restlessness and uneasiness that go with idleness, the city woman works outside her home, her business interests and occupations pull away from the home life and from marriage.
A species of business rivalry enters into the relation of herself and her husband, and, if she is successful, she has a pride in her pay envelope which is only equaled by her husband's jealousy of it. A man is perhaps slower to adapt himself to new things than a woman, or it may be that there is some deep, possessive instinct in him that resents any rival in the attention of the woman he loves. Combating this feeling in her husband gives a woman a sense of power, and nothing tears the delicate fabric of intimacy between two persons so surely as this sense of power in one and futile protest in the other.
...The farm wife's economic independence pulls in the direction of making her marriage a success. Her interests and those of her husband are the same; their success is a mutual success of which each may be equally proud. In the event of a threatened failure, their interests still hold them together, instead of pulling them apart, and failure may often be averted because of the simple fact that two heads are better than one.
A farmer's wife may and should - I may almost say must be - her husband's partner in business, and she may be this without detracting from the home life.
Meals on time; the surplus of the garden and orchard preserved; meats properly cured at butchering time; the young creatures on the farm cared for as only a woman has the patience to care for them; work in the dairy and with the poultry contribute very largely to the success of the average farmer.
The farm woman does such work as this at home, without bringing any alien influence to bear upon the home life. A farmer never becomes jealous of his wife's success with the poultry, however large a check it brings in, nor does she feel that it makes her independent of him.
...There is a joy of spirit and a pride of power that come to a farm woman who is fully alive to her opportunities, meeting and solving problems, confronting and overcoming difficulties, refusing to become petty though attending to numberless details, or to be discouraged before threatened disaster. She wins to a valiant courage of the soul, which holds itself above all harassments, serene and unconquered.
Just as the physical labor of a farm exercises and makes strong every part of a woman's body, so the many interests of the farm life, in threads which reach to it from all parts of the world, exercise her mind.
...Altogether aside from the feeling of independence and security that comes to a woman through her position as a farmer's wife, she has a deep satisfaction in knowing that she is not struggling against some one else for advancement; that her success will not be built upon the downfall of others. Her rise to prosperity is not over the broken fortunes or through the suffering or oppression of those weaker than herself.
Instead by the labor of her hands, she is producing food for humanity and is, in the old and delightful sense, a lady, a "bread-giver."
Farm life has its ample compensations for all its hardships, and the greatest of these is a sense and enjoyment of the real values of life.
These are not the modern improvements of which we hear so much, the telephone, the rural free delivery, the automobile, the labor-saving machinery, which are bringing many of the city's advantages to the country. They are not even the beauties of nature, which give so much daily joy and always help over the hard places.
The real values of farm life are simplicity, money honestly earned, difficulties overcome, service lovingly given, respect deserved; in short, the exercise of physical, mental, and spiritual muscles until a rounded, complete, individual character is built."