I’m not big on skirting issues here on United so in a nutshell, Texas was a part of the South and, of course, her sons fought for the South during the Civil War. Obviously, that war eventually abolished slavery in this country, and we all thank God for that. There was never a large population of slaves in Comanche County anyway, but the freed women who did live here after the war were often employed to do domestic chores.
Then, in the 1880s the second murder in a decade (commited by African Americans) occured, and a vigilante mob put out the word that black families were no longer welcome in the county. Of course, the majority of the people in the county objected to this action; however, as was often the case in this time period, mob rule prevailed.
When I wanted to describe to you something of the life of the women in the late 19th century, Comanche’s Ruth Adelle Waggoner graciously allowed me to reprint some of the writings of her relative, Mollie Moore Godbold.
After the negroes had been driven away, the matter of obtaining domestic help—–always a problem in the county—–became a greater problem than before, as little or no white help of this kind was to be had. The very few families able financially to employ a servant full time found a solution by bringing in a white girl or white woman from some other county. But there was no solution for the majority of the families.
In these, the women of the household had of necessity done their own work. Help was hired only in times of some emergency, such as sickness. Now, no domestic help was available, no matter how great was the need.
Families were large and the work of the women heavy. It was done with hands and muscles and elbow grease, the labor saving devices so common today being unknown at the time.
In many cases, the work didn’t end with the usual household duties, plus washing, ironing, scrubbing, and making most of the clothes worn by the family. It included sewing carpet rags for rag carpets and rugs, piecing quilts and quilting them, making lye soap, rendering lard, and picking ducks or geese for feather for pillows or feather beds…
…I had the misfortune of being Mother’s little helper at the time when the work in our home was at its heaviest. I still am lopsided from carrying my younger brothers and sisters astride one of my hips. I’ll never get rid of the dishwater hands I had begun to develop before I reached my teens.
More than forty years have passed since I last was in our old home in the flat. If I were to to go into it today, the chances are I’d find one of the walls in the north bedroom shaky from having the ironing board bump against it during the years that I did the ironing. And if I were to look at the floor closely, I shouldn’t wonder if I found a trail worn by my feet on the countless trips I made from ironing board to fireplace and back when exchanging cold irons for hot ones.
I’ve never been able to decide which of the tasks was the harder, washing or ironing. Less time was required to do the washing. But there was the matter of hanging out the clothes. In the summer, Mother and I baked when we hung them out. In the winter we froze. The time we suffered most was the day when a blue norther hit while we were hanging out the wash, and the line broke.
The howling wind would whip the wet clothes back and forth on the ground, and everything—including our hands—would freeze before before we could remove the clothespins and take the icy wash off the line. -MMG