Monday, October 31, 2016

Nina Elliott School Teacher

Are you ready for another chapter?  Good, so am I. 

Not all women in the 1930s were stay at home housewives.  The Malaga quilt makers were teachers, bookkeepers, fruit packers, factory workers, a milliner and farmers.

Nina Elliott ~ Dresden Plate

Nina May Elliott was a school teacher when she made her Dresden Plate quilt block.  Nina was single of course - married women didn't teach school.  Nina had a three year college degree, probably from a teachers' college.  Teaching and nursing were two areas in which women were encouraged to participate.  Nina taught at a number of schools and shared a house with another female teacher.

Nina's mother Mildred Love Elliott was also a teacher.  Mildred's mother and stepfather took the family to stake a homestead claim in Del Rio, Washington.  In the 1900 census Mildred was 18 years old and teaching, most likely in a one room school.  No tertiary qualifications were needed for Mildred, she would have gone straight into a teaching job after finishing school - some of her students would be almost as old as she was.  The school opened one term at a time when the parents could afford the teacher's salary.  Miss Love might have boarded with a school family or may have had her own teacher's residence.

School teacher’s cabin in Marlboro, Alberta, Canada, 1930.
Photo legacy of Helen A. Dineen, Wikimedia Commons

Nina Elliott left the teaching profession at the age of 28 to marry Merton Love, her mother Mildred's cousin.  Merton was a hardware salesman, twenty years Nina's senior and had been widowed for five years.  Nina became stepmother to Merton's two teenage children and had two more children of her own.  Nina didn't enjoy good health and died in 1953 at the age of 41.

Mildred Elliott survived her daughter Nina.  Mildred resumed teaching while here children were at high school.  Mildred must have returned to study; in the 1940 census she has completer five years of tertiary education - perhaps she had her master's degree in education?  Mildred outlived her daughter Nina by 28 years and survived to celebrate her 100th birthday.

Postscript: Most of the women from the Malaga quilt were born in the USA but their parents were immigrants.  Nina Elliott is an exception, at least on her mother's side of the family.  Nina's g-g-g-g-grandfather Robert Love enlisted with the Rhode Island troops as a sergeant in 1777.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Meet the Album Family

Maude Laughlin chose the pattern Album Block for her contribution to the Malaga quilt.

In "The Romance of the Patchwork Quilt" Carrie Hall calls this Album Patch.
The original idea of the Album quilt was a gift for a bride-to-be.  A group of friends would get together and each would piece a block and embroider her name upon it.

Carrie Hall's Album block, Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas

Other names for this block are Arbor Window, Courthouse Square, The Crosspatch and Odd Fellow's Block.  Barbara Brackman's blog post has a good collection of Album block quilts.

It's a simple block to make but a challenge to get to the finished size that you require.  I had to make a few to get a 9 inch and a 6 inch block I was happy with.  The difficulty is the points at the seam allowance - you don't want to lose them when the blocks go together.

1880's orphan - points finish right at the edge

For a 9 inch block I cut the squares at 2.5 inches.  The setting triangles are 5 inch squares cut diagonally twice, and the corner triangles are 3.5 inch square cut diagonally once.

 Assemble the pieces in rows including the setting triangles, then add the corner triangles.  Trim to 9.5 inches and the squares should all keep their points.

This similar block is Nine Patch Checkerboard (Checkerboard, Old Mail, The Queen's Favorite).  I don't like cutting 7/8th or 15/16th, I like more sensible fractions, so I made the squares smaller and the setting triangles larger.  For a finished 6 inch block, the squares are 1.75 inches, the setting triangles are 4 inch squares cut diagonally twice and the corner triangles are 3 inch square cut diagonally once.  The block will have a wide margin and I think that suits the 1930s look.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Housewife Maude and the Electric Farm

Maude Laughlin was a farmer’s wife – although it took her a long time to find her farmer.

Maude was 54 when she made her block for the quilt.  In 1937 Maude and farmer husband George had only been married a few years.  Both George and Maude had been married before; Maude’s first husband was killed by a freight train as he was walking along the railroad tracks.  George was a widower; neither George not Maude had any children.

In the 1940 census George Laughlin’s occupation was listed as ‘farmer’ and the number of hours worked in the previous week was 60.  Maude Laughlin’s occupation was ‘housework’; hours worked was left blank on the form.  I wonder if Maude was amused or dismayed by the lack of significance of her labour compared to that of her spouse. 

In the late 1930s 25% of American farms were connected to the electricity grid.  Power poles ran alongside main transport routes so connection depended on proximity to main roads.  If the Laughlin’s farm did not have a grid connection they would have other sources of power.  Windmills, gasoline engines and sets of batteries were standard power sources.  Kerosene lamps were used for lighting and the cellar or icebox would keep food cold. 

Connecting the farm to the electricity network was actively promoted in the 1930s especially for dairy farmers.  The modern farmer needed pumps for automatic watering systems for cows to drink from; milking machines; motorised cream separators; and of course refrigeration instead of ice.  Electricity saved labor and farm costs and thus boosted profits.

When the electricity arrived in the farmhouse the first use was for lighting.  Next were electric irons and vacuum cleaners.  Kitchen refrigerators remained very expensive for years and the uptake was slow.  

In 1937 the thrifty housewife could trade in her old vacuum cleaner and purchase a new one for $21, ten days free trial.  An electric washing machine with wringer was $29.95, although the modern gasoline motor washing machine was still a best seller.  She could even buy an electric kitchen range from the mail order catalogue with

 …inside oven light, a sensational new feature.  Lights up automatically as the oven door is opened, illuminating every corner of the oven.”

Contrary to advertising electricity did not lessen the housewife’s workload.  Social expectations changed with the new power source.  Meals had to be better with more variety, houses needed to be cleaner and wardrobes of clothes were more varied and laundered more often.  Housewives in 1940 worked about 60 hours per week on the housework – just the same as their farming husbands.

“Orange Juice – This mixer is appearing in a new finish of chrome and white to fit the color scheme of the bride’s new kitchen.  It beats, and mixes, and mashes, too.  It has more strength than a dozen brides.”