Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Fear of Freezing in the Dark with my Chianti

There's a cold snap in Quebec, so old-fashioned of the weather man, and Hydro Quebec says that the draw on its lines is at record levels.

"Lower the heat," they suggest... but I am not one of those who wants to walk around the house in a sweater and thick socks to save money.. I like it cozy.  And so do my animals. So I won't do any washing or cooking at peak hours.

And my husband got the fireplace downstairs ready for a blaze in case of a power failure. He's at work until late.

I also went to the SAQ for some Chianti to keep me warm and the salesman there joked "There are no mosquitos outside." "And no more wild turkeys walking about in the fields," I added. I guess it is RIP for all those turkeys that have proliferated due to the warm winters we've been having.

We are so reliant on the electric grid here in Canada - and not just for our Internet.

Anyway back in 1913, 100 years ago, the Nicholson Family of Richmond, Quebec got wired, but just for light.

Keeping the house warm in winter was always a worry and a rather big expense as wood cost a lot of money, relatively speaking.

I have all their bills.

I also have hundreds of their letters which I am turning into a trilogy called School Marms and Suffragettes. The first installment, Threshold Girl, is available on Kindle.

It's about Flora Nicholson's year at Macdonald Teachers College in Ste. Anne de Bellevue. That school was training women to be better homemakers or housekeepers, to use more scientific methods to keep a nice sanitary home.

I based my story on the letters from the 1910 era, but I also added subplots involving the textile industry, and the purity movement.

What was the purity movement?  Well, in the 1900-1910 era, PURE was the catchword. And Ivory Soap wasn't the only product claiming to be pure.

This Purity movement of the 1910 era was very suspect. You know the motto Cleanliness is Next to Godliness. Well, that was what exactly what many Protestants believed. And they weren't just referring to bodily cleanliness.

Now, I found two articles in the 1911 era Canadian Home Journal, a woman's magazine, that are very interesting with respect to the Purity Movement.

One article is by a scientist and he seems perplexed by all the 'hysteria' over pure foods.

He says "We have passed from a sane state of mind in matters of health and happiness to a mental condition which discloses in our conduct the symptoms of a mania or hysteria... This is no exaggeration, witness the marked vogue today of pure food fads and witness our solicitude for pure food and water."

Of course he is right, but what he doesn't seem to understand as a scientist that this PURITY movement is not rational, but is about something else... Fear of Immigrants, especially those darker Catholic ones.

Witness this other article in the same magazine around the same time. The Slum Disease.

There's a reason I started off Threshold Girl with a quote from a 1911 Food and Cookery Magazine:

Give us a healthy home full of intellectual activity where the homely virtues prevail. Where complete honesty and frankness have free expression. Where the lungs expand with pure air, and the brain quivers with wholesome aspiration and sincere inquiry. Where souls bask in contentment and the sunshine of purity and peace.

I also touch on the Purity Issue in my other book on Amazon Milk and Water. 

The 1911 Canadian Home Journal also has an article on  Electric Housekeeping. The article applauds the electric iron and the electric sewing machine as great aids to homemakers, but there is some argument about electric cooking over gas cooking. Just like today.

I don't mind electric cooking (who cooks anymore anyway?)  but on days like today I wish I had a gas stove.