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Tips for the Victorian Housekeeper

It's easy to imagine that Victorian "housekeeping" chores were left to the servants. However, from the wide variety of how-to articles available in Victorian magazines, it's clear that many Victorian women handled many, if not all, of the basic tasks of running a Victorian home without "help." And even if one did have servants, one still needed to understand the basics of household management, to ensure that one's home ran smoothly and economically.


GENERAL HOUSEKEEPING ADVICE

Domestic Changes of the Last 50 Years (GOP 1887)
"For example, what an immensity of time and toil is saved by the sewing machine, an instrument unknown a few years ago! A whole host of useful things are produced from... indiarubber. Even in so small a matter as striking a light, what a contrast in the safety match to the old tinderbox or phosphorus bottle of fifty years ago!"
Every Man His Own Housekeeper, by James and Nanette Mason (GOP 1900)
Or, "How a Bachelor Tried to Manage for Himself."
The Girl's Own Room, by Gordon Stables, M.D., R.N. ("Medicus") (GOP 1882)
"Many a young girl sows the seeds of future illnesses, which eventually prove fatal, by sleeping for a time in a dusty room."
Higher Thoughts on Housekeeping, by Alice King (GOP 1884)
Hints About Housekeeping, by Gordon Stables, M.D., R.N. ("Medicus") (GOP 1889)
"I want you to find home-cooking a healthful employment, and if you worry yourself you will get nervous, and nervousness spoils both sleep and complexion, and digestion also."
Home Management Month by Month (GOP 1901)
This series covers too many topics to begin to describe adequately -- everything from how to hang game to how to clean marble.
Household Routine (GOP 1895)
"A detailed system adopted by the wife of a London curate for keeping her house in good order."
How to Help in the House, by Dora de Blaquière (GOP 1892)
"There seems to be a very general feeling abroad that, in the present difficulties with our servants, we shall find the best solution in the aid of our own daughters, who will assume the duties now performed by our maidservants, and execute them with the superiority born of education, and higher training, and loving goodwill."
In Mine House, by Lina Orman Cooper (GOP 1899)
In the Houseplace, by Lucy Yates (GOP 1894)
The "houseplace" is the kitchen, the bright heart of the home. The first two installments of this article deal with general kitchen and cleaning topics, and also with enjoying the "houseplace"; the subsequent installments offer a variety of simple recipes.
How We Managed Without Servants, by Mrs. Frank Topham (GOP 1899)
Includes a number of recipes.
A Lady in Her Inglenook (GOP 1895)
London's Future Housewives and Their Teachers (GOP 1899)
A look at a school for housewives.
Order and Disorder, by Louisa Twining (GOP 1885)
How to keep one's home fresh and clean.
The White House Class, by Lina Orman Cooper (GOP 1902)
More instructions upon how to manage a home.
Without a Servant (GOP 1881)
How a family struggled to cope with a servant's brief absence!

SPECIFIC HOUSEKEEPING TASKS & ISSUES

All About Water (GOP 1898)
The differences between, and uses of, hard and soft water.
Cosy Homes for Wintry Weather (GOP 1897)
As I write this, the temperature is below 20 degrees outside, and I'm tempted to take advantage of some of these Victorian solutions myself...
Glue (GOP 1897)
How to Keep Blinds and Carpets in Order (GOP 1894)
How to Sharpen a Knife (GOP 1887)
Household Leaks, by Annie E.D. Thornley (GOP 1896)
How to make the most of heat in cold weather, both in the parlor and in the pantry.
The Linen of the House, by Dora de Blaquière (GOP 1883)
A look at what types of linens were used in the Victorian home, how they were used and cared for, qualities of linens for different purposes, how to distinguish servant linens from household linens, and more.
Linen: Its Sewing and Washing (GOP 1896)
My Dairy and the Work Therein, by Lina Orman Cooper (GOP 1900)
Primarily about the tools needed to make butter.
Old Tins and Their Uses (GOP 1890)
Two Domestic Sanitary Appliances (GOP 1898)
The dustbin and the filter.
The Use of Empties (GOP 1893)
The many things that can be done with empty boxes and crates.
Ventilation and Airing (GOP 1898)

KEEPING IT CLEAN

The Art of Washing, by Dora de Blaquière (GOP 1892)
The Care of Clothing, by Dora de Blaquière (GOP 1883)
This series looks at how to clean, renovate, and care for clothing, including how to deal with spots and stains of various kinds.
Home Duties (GOP 1894)
A variety of home care and cleaning tips.
How to Get Up [Clean] Lace and Chiffon (GOP 1900)
How to Wash and Iron, by Ruth Lamb (GOP 1881)
A Lady and a Spirit, by Lina Orman Cooper (GOP 1902)
On the uses of ammonia.
A Lady in the Laundry (GOP 1894)
My Laundry, and How It Is Furnished, by Lina Orman Cooper (GOP 1900)
Furnishings include a folding board, mangle, indiarubber wringer, and a wire on handles for cutting soap bars to the desired size.
Some Hints on Starching, by Mary Harter (GOP 1901)
"Spring Clean" (GOP 1895)
An amusing letter on the peculiar English "rites" of spring cleaning.

STRUGGLES OF A YOUNG HOUSEKEEPER

During the 1880's, The Girl's Own Paper featured a series of "stories" by Dora Hope that followed the housekeeping adventures of "Margaret Trent." Actually, these stories were detailed lessons on how to keep house, furnish a new home, handle cooking and cleaning chores, and much more. Other authors offered similar series in later years. The series provide a wealth of detail on how to set up and manage a proper Victorian home! (I've listed them chronologically so that one can follow Margaret's progress over time.)

The Difficulties of a Young Housekeeper, and How She Overcame Them, by Dora Hope (GOP 1881)
Margaret Trent, and How She Kept House, by Dora Hope (GOP 1882)
Margaret's Neighbors, by Dora Hope (GOP 1883)
Margaret helps her young neighbors set up and furnish their home.
Graduates in Housekeeping, and How They Qualified, by Dora Hope (GOP 1884)
"She Couldn't Boil a Potato," by Dora Hope (GOP 1887)
Or, "The Ignorant Housekeeper, and How She Acquired Knowledge"
The Brothers' Benefactor, by Dora Hope (GOP 1888)
The Girl-Brides of Hild's Haven, by Lucy Yates (GOP 1896)
In the vein of Dora Hope's "housekeeping" tales, this also presents the art of maintaining a home in the guise of fiction.
Winifred's Home, by Josepha Crane (GOP 1896) (See also Winifred's Wardrobe.)

Copyright © 2017 by
Moira Allen.
All rights reserved.

Magazine Abbreviations:
CFM = Cassell's Family Magazine GOP = Girl's Own Paper ILA = Illustrated London Almanack S = The Strand
AM = Atlantic Monthly C = Century Magazine D = Demorest's Monthly Magazine G = Godey's Lady's Book H = Harper's Monthly
Find out more about the magazines used on this site!
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