Dutiful women and needlework

NormaFrableMy mother, as a young nurse.

The post I wrote about basics,  practice and self-discipline brought to mind many things.  First, I’d like to explain that Rose Wilder Lane was a self-made woman.  She was the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder and it was through Lane’s very successful journalism career, that the Little House books were published.  Rose Wilder Lane grew up in poverty, where her parents moved several times as their farms failed.  Lane taught herself several languages and journalism.  She became one of the highest paid journalists in the 1920s and was also a successful editor and novelist.

When Rose Wilder Lane was younger she dabbled in supporting Communist ideology, which was common among journalists and the American left when the Russian revolution was thought to be the advent of great freedom for the Russian people.  Lane later rejected Communism and became a prominent figure in the American libertarian movement.  Regardless of your political views, Rose Wilder Lane is one of the most fascinating women of the 20th century – a truly remarkable woman.   Her needlework book I mentioned is a very interesting read.  Woman’s Day commissioned her to write their Book of American Needlework, because not only was Lane a famous journalist, novelist and historical writer, she was an expert needlewoman.  Her book, The Discovery of Freedom, is another truly amazing read too, no matter where you fall on the political scale.  The Mises Institute offers it free: Here.

I love counted cross-stitch and various types of decorative needlework.  Thinking about needlework basics made me think of my mother.  My parents had 7 children and my older brother died in infancy several years before I was born in 1960.  My father did road construction and my mother was a registered nurse, who always worked.

My mother grew up in poverty too.

My mother kept our house immaculate and was a superb cook and baker.  We had a garden and my mother canned a lot of vegetables in the summer.

In previous posts, I mentioned that my mother was very good at fixing things and she was good at electrical wiring too.  My mother loved crewel embroidery and she did lovely beadwork on satin for several ringbearer pillows that she did for people. However, I only recall a few crewel pieces that my mother did, because although my mother loved decorative needlework, she had six kids and she dedicated many hours to and was an expert at mending our clothes.  She also was an expert at stain-removal and laundry.  Every piece of clothes she washed was folded neatly and put away.  She ironed a lot of stuff, then taught us how to iron.  I loved doing laundry, especially hanging the clothes outside on the line and I loved ironing as a kid.

I took time to myself and did decorative needlework, despite having four kids and being a stay-at-home Mom.  I also hate mending clothes and did very little of it.  When my mother would come visit, she would gather up all my kids’ clothes that needed mending and patiently sit and repair it.  The reason I am not good at “finishes”, turning finished cross-stitch pieces into decorative pillows and wallhangings, etc., is finishes require other stitching and I never took the time to learn practical stitches, unless I felt like it.  So, I now need practice at simple stuff, like ladder-stitch, because when I was younger I would have just whip-stitched small stuff closed.  I was only interested in decorative stitches.

My mother also assigned chores that my brothers and sisters and I had to do.  When I had children, my mother constantly told me that I needed to make my kids help clean and do more around the house.  I was very lenient with them on chores or even cleaning their rooms.  I also am not as disciplined as my mother was in running a well-ordered home.

My mother was the hardest working woman I have ever known.  We would tell her to get more rest, because often she would work the 3pm to 11 pm shift at the hospital and then come home and spend most of the night doing housework.  Without fail, she would be up early in the morning and work in the house until it was time to go to the hospital at 3pm.  One of her favorite sayings was, “I’ll have plenty of time to sleep when I’m dead.”

My mother wore an old red sweater in the winter time to shovel snow or carry the ash buckets outside from the cellar. Our house had a coal furnace that required manual labor to shovel coal into it and my mother shoveled a lot of coal to keep our house warm in the winter and to heat hot water year-round.  She mended that red sweater over and over through the years.

When my mother passed away, my sisters in PA, took her old red sweater to the funeral home and had it placed in the corner of her casket.  My mother never bought a lot of clothes, but she kept everything she owned in pristine condition. Whenever I sit and do needlework, I think about my mother’s old red sweater and now that I am getting older, I think about how I didn’t even take the time to mend my kids’ clothes, because I hate mending clothes.

Mending clothes reflects a virtue – it is a belief that you should not be wasteful and that you should take care of your clothing and keep it serviceable for as long as possible.  We became a disposable culture and it shows in how we do everything, not just in regards to how we care for our clothing.  We became an “I” culture, fixated on self-indulgence above all else.  This buying more and more “stuff”, without even using most of the “stuff” we already have is another symptom of this wasteful culture.  It is corrupting the moral fiber of the American people.  We are the most wasteful and self-indulgent people on earth.

Most of the needlework I have done has been for gifts,  although there are a few pieces I’ve kept for myself.  I’m trying to learn to finish small pieces, so I can give nicer gifts to my friends and family.

Someday, I hope that I might develop as selfless and good of character as my mother, who put other people before herself, at home and at work, always, but I doubt that I can be as dutiful to caring for others as my mother was.

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Filed under American Character, General Interest

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