Catharine, like most girls in the late 1800s, kept scrapbooks of clipping, pictures and poetry. She lived from 1858 to 1923 in Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska and finally Washington, gradually moving West as the country opened and people saw the new opportunities there.
I’m often drawn back to her collection of clippings and each time they mean more to me as I understand them in the context of her life as it’s revealed. One thing I know: we’re spoiled and pampered in this day and age. We have so many material things, so many conveniences that we don’t need – no wonder we’re drowning in “stuff.”
I had a chuckle over one clipping entitled, “Sanitary,” that will give you an idea of how difficult it was to even clean the house:
“DISINFECTING LIQUID — The following is a substitute for chloride of line, which has the effect of being soon exhausted” Take two tablespoonfuls of kitchen salt (chloride of sodium), two teaspoonfuls of red led (deutoxide of led), a large wineglassful of sulphuric acid and water. Introduce the solid substances into a bottle with some water, then add the sulphuric acid gradually, gently shaking the bottle at intervals. A portion of the sulphuric acid combines with the red lead, forming a sulphate, which is precipitated; another portions attacks the sodium of the salt, and sets the chlorine at liberty, which is at once dissolved in the water. In order to use the latter, pour it into a saucer offering a sufficiently large surface for the evaporation; the chlorine will then be gradually evolved, and disinfect the apartment.” (c. 1875)
The fact that I’ll bet you barely had the patience or chemistry background says something about the downhill slide of our education and might elevate your opinion of rote memorization and one-room school houses!
Infection and disease were killers, though, so much less now than then. She’d lost her mother and older sister from consumption when she was only eight years old. Then her husband died young, leaving her with four young boys, two of whom died three years later of diphtheria.
Thus, her clippings are full of sad poetry of losing one’s loves and the beauty of motherhood. One such poem is so haunting that I have to share it – if nothing else, it should help us all keep our priorities straight.
I wonder so that mothers ever fret
At little children clinging to their gown;
Or that the footprints when the days are wet
Are ever black enough to make them frown.
If I could find a little muddy boot,
Or cap or jacket on my chamber floor;
If I could kiss a rosy, restless foot,
If I could mend a broken cart today,
She was more blissfully content than I.
But ah! the dainty pillow next my own
Is never rumpled by a shining head;
My singing birdling from its nest is flown;
The little boy I used to kiss is dead!
I think it so important to love and hug your children, spend quality time with them, and always be so grateful that you have been given the privilege of having them.
We need to protect their health while they’re in our care, because the habits of their youth will always be with them
– By the way … aren’t you happy that it’s easier to clean your house than to mix noxious chemicals together to “disinfect the apartment.”