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Families in History - Chores

Chores are routines that keep daily life running smoothly. A constant family need is clothing and a great deal of household times was traditionally spent making cloth by spinning and weaving, using wool, cotton, or other fibers. Vintage clothes were then hand-made by sewing or knitting. Scraps were saved to make other hand-crafted items such as quilts.

Childrearing was and is a central family activity. Historical pictures of children helping with chores often show families working together on the frontier, whereas well-to-do urban families employed governesses or nannies to look after infants and small children. In vintage family life, older children also helped by taking care of younger children because parents had so many other tasks to get done.

In historical pictures of family life, cooking was a never-ending duty. Many kinds of foods could be stewed or roasted all day so the housewife could attend to other duties. Historical pictures of vintage kitchens show this room as the center of home life, not only for meals but for laundry, making soap or candles, and other household activities. Keeping the home-fires burning was an important duty, whether in a fire-pit, an outdoor fireplace, indoor hearth, or a stove. Food shopping was a household chore for families who didn't grow or hunt their own food.

Native American families' household chores included gathering wild rice and other plants, preserving meat, getting water, and curing hides for clothing, in addition to raising children, cooking, gathering firewood and other family duties shown in historical pictures.

Farm chores were historically just as necessary as household chores. As vintage images show, caring for livestock, clearing fields, and building and repairing fences and barns took up most of every day. Harvest was always a busy time when all family members often participated in bringing in crops.

Wealthy families had household servants or slaves to carry out daily chores going back to life in ancient cities. Historical pictures show that wealth also enabled families to buy what they needed instead of having to make everything, leading to the development of merchants and skilled tradesmen such as bakers.


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