"HOW YOU GONNA KEEP 'EM DOWN ON THE FARM" may have been written about the Doughboys of World War I ... but combine Model T Fords, F.W. Woolworth's Five and Tens, and forward-thinking magazines like Good Housekeeping, and a whole new generation of American life was coming of age in the 1920's.
Kate Stephens' words, "The old phase of the New England woman is passing," were written in 1905 about the woman-wife-mother who spun wool, dipped candles, grew and bottled every morsel of food fed to her family, while she also tended to their moral, religious, educational and recreational needs. The article truly spoke of an early 1900's Puritanical (albeit historically necessary) version of Martha Stewart. In Stephens' article, published in the Atlantic Monthly under the title "Up-To-Date Misogyny" (and re-published as "The New England Woman" in KanColl's American Thumbprints), she spoke of evolution in the core of American life: a woman and her family. Stephens, and many like her, clearly anticipated the depth to which life would be altered in the coming years.
Between 1905, the year of Kate Stephens' proclamation, and 1922, when Good Housekeeping, self-established magazine "For The Advancement Of The American Home," wrote about child psychology and the Business and Professional Woman, it became apparent to everyone that a shift in the amount of time women spent on chores lessened for some. The mid-section of the United States underwent a staggering change in the way families, and women in particular, carried out day-to-day life.
There are a multitude of answers: some of this change was shaped by suffrage, the establishment of the Military Nurse Corps, and the more than 13,000 women enlisting in the Navy and the Marines; Prohibition, Flappers, bathtub gin, and jazz also played a part. And changes in the old country store, automobiles (one in five Americans owned a car in the mid-1920's), improvement of roads across the USA, and Rural Free Delivery contributed more than their fair share to change:
Those stores that didn't go the way of the quick stop market possibly became "Fancy Groceries." These stores were smaller versions, perhaps more personalized, of the supermarket. They stocked items not found in the larger supermarkets. They were primarily a reaction to a combination of "chain stores" and the way foodstuffs were being sold to the public. An increasing amount of comestibles were no longer sold in bulk to the store owner and parceled out to the consumer. Items were pre-packaged in a variety of shapes and sizes. The grocery patron could choose an product off the shelf and carry it to the grocer to be purchased.
Pre-packaged items and self-service ... it was to change the way we shopped for everything!
(There is a somewhat infamous story about the early days of this practice. One of the first stores to offer this service, a Johnson Market, was proud to offer numerous cellophane wrapped packages of Old Trusty Dog Biscuits, shaped like a dog bone, under a small sign that read "2 lbs for 25 cents." Quite a few of the packages were purchased the first day the bones were displayed. Early in the morning of the second day of the new dog bone display, an irritated woman marched into the market, clutching an open bag of biscuits. As she thumped her package onto the counter she stated, "My family couldn't eat these cookies. They are stale. They won't even dissolve in hot coffee!" Minutes later, a small sign replaced the original. It read, "Dog Biscuits 2 lbs for 25 cents.")
The automobile and better roads made everyone more mobile. Sunday drives became a common occurrence, although instead of hitching up a matched pair of horses, everyone piled into the car and went into town for ice cream or to see aunts and uncles and cousins that ... in the not too distant past ... had been overnight trips. But individual mobility, though it presented a freedom not known previously, wasn't as big a change as RFD.
Rural Free Delivery. It's amazing what those three little words accomplished in the way of changing the manner in which Americans purchased goods. RFD created the ease by which treasure filled catalogs from Sears-Roebuck and "Monkey Ward" could be transported to every nook and cranny of the country. And, in natural progression, that goods from these wonderful books could be purchased through the mail and then delivered!
Everything under the sun could be found in the catalogs ... complete suites of furniture, tools of every shape and description and an incomparable mixture of clothing. One could order the most sophisticated, not to mention the latest, fashions for every member of the family, including hats, shoes, belts, coats, dresses, knickers, lingerie, and silk stockings. By contrast, the books also offered overalls, suspenders, long underwear, rubber boots, snow suits, hip-waders, pitchforks, rabbit hutches, ice boxes, bedding, teapots and almost anything else that could be imagined.
If a woman didn't want to order her clothing ready-made, the catalogs also included an inventory of items to create and sew her own clothing. Paper dress-making patterns, invented by Ebenezer Butterick in 1864, had been available for some time, but mail-order and an increased demand, there was a wide a variety of fabric, notions and sewing machines. Many women now sewed for pleasure, in addition to necessity.
Times, they were a changin'! "Our boys" had gone half-way around the world to see death and destruction the likes of which no one could have foretold. A woman on an RFD Route in Coffeyville could wake up one morning and decide to order a whole houseful of furniture without leaving her kitchen table. And the country store needed signs to identify pre-packaged dog biscuits. It was a new world.
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cups oatmeal
1/2 cups cornmeal
1/4 cups liver powder
2 tablespoons brewer's yeast and garlic powder
1/4 cup bone meal powder
3 tablespoons powdered milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons wheat germ oil or vegetable oil)
1/2 cups water
Preheat oven to 325. In a large bowl or in a food processor, combine the flour, oatmeal, cornmeal, liver powder, brewer's yeast nad garlic, bone meal and powdered milk.
Stir in the eggs, oil and water and mix thoroughly.
The dough will be very stiff and dry. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface or pastry cloth. Roll or pat it into a rectangle 1/4 to 1/2" thick. Cut into bone-shaped biscuits with a small knife, or use a cookie cutter. Reroll the leftover scraps of dough and reshape, until all the dough is used. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 40-50 minutes until brown and dried through. Cool on a rack.
Yield: about 12 large bones or 24 small bones.
Store in airtight container.
4 quarts sliced cucumbers (40-45)
1/2 cup salt
2 Quarts sliced onions
1 quart vinegar
4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon celery seeds
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)
Layer the sliced cucumbers with the salt. Cover with ice cubes and let stand 2-3 hours until the cucumbers are cold and crisp. Add more ice cubes as it melts. When the cucumbers are cold all the way through, drain.
Combine remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, quickly. Let boil 10 minutes.
Add cucumber and onion slices and bring just to the boiling point.
Pack, at once, in sterilized, hot jars and process in a boiling water (212 degrees) for 30 minutes.
Remove from water and complete sealing process. Makes 8 pints.