America Butler's Diary
Tuesday May 17, 2005
By Dawna Curler
Welcome to As It Was: Tales from the State of Jefferson
Women today often work outside the home while still managing a household - cooking, cleaning, and keeping up with the laundry. The advent of electricity and modern appliances has made it possible to juggle both occupations. For the nineteenth century homemaker, however, labor-intensive housekeeping was a full-time job, and no one knew that better than America Butler.
America and her husband pioneered to Southern Oregon's unsettled Rogue Valley in 1853. In a diary she expressed her feelings about household chores. "I am maid of all trades-sweeping, dusting, churning, ironing, baking bread and pies, dishwashing, etcetera."
Perhaps Mrs. Butler hated nothing more than doing laundry. One Friday morning she wrote, "Today Oh! Horrors, how shall I express it; is the dreaded washing day…" another time she penned, "This is the dreaded washing day… I finish by noon then scrub in the afternoon - feeling quite tired."
We learn through her writings that she often cooked and did her duties while feeling poorly, but at least once, she was caught neglecting responsibilities. "…Mrs. Miller comes in about 10 o'clock, finds my breakfast dishes on the table and me reading a novel."
The realistic portrayal of pioneer life presented in Mrs. Butler's diary defines differences, yet underscores commonalities women today share with their sisters of the past.
Today's episode of As It Was was written by Dawna Curler, the program engineer is Raymond Scully. I'm Shirley Patton. As It was is a co-production of JPR and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. To Share stories or learn more about the series visit asitwas - dot- org
Winther, Oscar Osburn andRose Dodge Galey, eds. "Mrs. Butler's 1853 Diary of Rogue River Valley," Oregon Historical Quarterly, VolumeXLI, No. 4, December 1940. pp.337-366.