Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wanna buy a hat? A BIG one?

Above: Flo in 1908, likely at a Boston Beach.

(I am a bit FRUSTRATED this morning as it took me 30 minutes to scan the above picture from the Tighsolas 1900 photo album. It should have taken me 2 minutes. In the "good old days" it would have. But, have you noticed, the more advanced computers and their operating systems get,the harder it is to do the simplest things? My husband, Blair's answer. "I guess you need to get a new computer." My answer: "Leave well enough alone. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" Upgrading just screws things up..... (Got THAT out of my system.)

"The girls in those days were more at home in a kitchen than in a drawing room. They did better execution at a tub than at a spinet; could handle a rolling pin better than a sketchbook. At a pinch they could even use a rake or fork to good purpose in a field or barn. Their finishing education was received at the country school along with their brothers. Of fashion books and milliners, few of them had experience." from Country Life in the 30's. Caniff Haight from Elementary English Composition.

I am working on Chapter 1. 1908. Just a Change of Colour for my book Flo in the City adapted from my Tighsolas website. I am focusing on this bit of text because I feel it would be good to start my novel by having Flora contemplate the historical past herself. HUGE changes happened between 1830 and 1910 just as HUGE changes have happened between 1910 and 2010. For one, the home went from being a center of 'production' to a center of 'consumption' - so girls were left without as much to do. (Still running a home in 1910 was a lot more complicated than running a house today.)

Well, what a great paragraph for Flo to ponder. Flo was never intended for finishing school; she was destined to be a teacher, the destiny of many a middle class woman with 'iffy' marriage prospects.

She did work around the house, for the Nicholsons had no maids. But it was her mother, Margaret, who had all the homely skills, baking and sewing and craftswork. Flo stoked the fire (an important thing to do -usually done by men, it seems) and ironed her dresses. That white dress Marion is wearing in the last blog, well, Flora had one as well and it took her two days to wash and iron it. I have one of the Tighsolas flat irons. I use it as a doorstop. I could use it as an exercise weight. It weighs about seven pounds. Think of it. This 'frail' little woman spent a day wielding that cumbersome hot iron over the wood stove!

Millinery? It was the 'glam' job for women in 1910. (The motion picture industry was only getting under way and it wasn't considered a good thing for a woman to work within that industry.) Millinery was the custom design of hats for individual wear. Milliner's working in the city at high end department stores could earn as much as 1000 a year! The starting salary for a female teacher with diploma was $500 in city schools.

But, wait, to be a milliner a girl had to endure a long upaid apprenticeship. So I will have Flo (who is failing school, remember) contemplating going down to Miss Eugenie Hudon's shop on Main Road to ask to work as an apprentice. Just in case she fails at school. Either that or she'll join the suffragettes!!