The Girl’s Own Paper – Jan 1916 (part three)
by Victoria Madden
All scanned material copyright The Lutterworth Press.
The household section at the back of each issue of The Girl’s Own Paper and Woman’s Magazine, to me one of the most fascinating parts, begins in January 1916 with an article entitled Dishes for the January Parties – How to obtain good Effects from Simple Means by Kate Radnor. This describes recipes suitable for ‘a small friendly evening gathering or young people’s party supper’ that are ‘more effective than heavy joints of meat or stiff uncut poultry’. There’s some interesting social points intermingled with the recipes: supper is always served cold, which means no vegetables (?) but if Christmas pudding is served ‘(and it is quite correct to do so)’ – an amusing example of etiquette as social division rather than etiquette as courteous good manners – this must be hot. Cream is thinner in winter, cooking is done on fires and involves extremely long cooking times, and everything has to be left until the next day to set. Particular dishes, or even the whole supper, are often ordered in from a confectioners to save trouble. The point of the article is that these often don’t taste any better than home produced but are ‘superior in style and effect’, something which can easily be imitated.
The savoury recipes are Beef Galantine, Rolled Ox Tongue, Rabbit Cake, Chaufroid of Fowl, Lobster Cutlets in Aspic, Mutton Cutlets in Aspic, and Chaufroid without Aspic; and the ‘Simple Sweet Dishes’: Cherry Cream, Winter Strawberries and Cream, Orange Snow, Banana and Orange Custard, Apricot Eggs, A Simple Trifle, Ginger Cream, and Mixed Fruits.
There’s some very pretty illustrations of a couple arriving in evening dress for a party and then departing afterwards. The etiquette manuals of the time lay down that social occasions are generally female centred and the man is there primarily as the woman’s escort: performing small services such as fetching drinks and collecting cloaks; and protecting her from unwelcome attentions from other male guests and potential hazards. When going upstairs the man goes second, when going downstairs the man goes first – should the woman trip, a likely occurrence with the long dresses of the period, the man is able to break her fall in both situations. The ‘departure’ picture, a charming pose of a young woman looking back and upwards towards a young man as they descend a staircase together, would seem to owe something to artistic licence.
A Little Lesson in Porridge Making – boil for half an hour, one hour is better – seems quite amusing for us two-and-a-half-minutes-in-the-microwave moderns but it also makes you realise just how much cooking in 1916 was a full-time job. An interesting nutritional sidelight for the period: oats contain more fat (?) than any other cereal, so are good for keeping warm in winter.
Things Needing Attention in the Home suggests that by adding one or two additional tasks each day to your general housework routine you can easily keep on top of things and outlines suitable things to do. I found this a fascinating insight into the details of the homes of the period and the various jobs involved in maintaining them:
Jan. 31, Monday. – Clean brass window rods.
Though these get dusted when the room is done, they are sometimes left unpolished for months at a time unless the mistress sees to it that they are attended to. Bright and fresh window appointments make all the difference to the look of a house – especially from the outside.
The 1916 home is heated by coal fires in separate rooms, lighted generally by gas, though electric light is mentioned, and the cooking done on a coal burning range, which all produces a lot of dust, a lot of carbon dioxide, and a lot of work for the housewife and the assistants she has to have if she is to have any time at all to herself. (The G. O. P.’ mistress of the house’ has only one or two servants, whom she has to supervise, undertaking many of the lighter tasks herself.)
Dust is therefore a major theme, with various days allotted to shaking and beating carpets, curtains, cushions and clothes in wardrobes – there are no powerful vacuum cleaners of the type we take for granted, to quickly run round a room in a few minutes.
The importance of ventilation at this time of year is stressed, particularly where living rooms are lit by gas: bedroom chimneys shouldn’t be closed up ‘to keep out fog’; all windows should be opened, at the top, first thing in the morning (inexperienced servants open at the bottom); all gas burners should be checked and all gas and electric light globes cleaned. The living room chimney and kitchen flue should also be swept. As much fresh air as possible should be allowed through the house whenever there is a day of sunshine as this is ‘better than any medicine’.
The lack of today’s central heating, that warms the entire house, means that a ‘small lamp or oil stove in the bathroom’ placed near the water pipes is advocated in particularly cold weather, while summer clothes that have been put away need to be aired and lime put in saucers to counteract the effect of damp cellars. Flat irons need keeping in a dry place and examining for rust periodically while fenders and fire irons in spare/unused rooms must also be checked.
There’s a lot of ‘making do and mending’, too, which rather puts us to shame in this world of throw-away, cheap, third world sweat-shop produced articles: ‘shabby serviettes and the good portions of old tablecloths’ become pudding cloths; ‘worn out stockings and vests’ become house flannels; dust sheets are repaired; doilies and tray cloths, and even ‘torn music’, are likewise mended.
Next, an advert for the Quarterly Needlework Supplement entitled ”Stitchery’ No 14 is a ‘Flower’ Number’ describes ‘exquisite floral designs’ that ‘will appeal to all workers’. These come with full directions and a black and white diagram and include designs for Filet Crotchet, Irish Crotchet, Crochet and Hardanger Work and Crotchet Braid on Filet Crotchet. Knitters have ‘a variety of comforts for yourself and your friends’ to make, including items for the troops and baby.
A Knitted Set for the Eight Year Old is a short wool jacket with two patch pockets and a bobble hat, that surely must have been pushing it in terms of sartorial suitability even then. I’d say up to three years old, maximum.
This is followed by another advert for ‘Stitchery‘, a full page illustrating some of the designs which I’ve scanned below (though not quite straight):
Underwear Patterns for Girls is very useful for those interested in historical costume. Only with the correct foundation will you get the correct fit for period clothes, something most general costume books ignore, so I’ve also scanned this (below). The modern woman, used to close fitting knickers, may find the general ‘breeziness’ involved in some of the garments a little odd.
A Dress and a Wrapper from One Pattern solves something that’s always puzzled me – a ‘wrapper’ is referred to in a number of early twentieth century novels, particularly American/Canadian ones, and I always wondered what it was, thinking it was some sort of dressing gown/pashmina type thing. From the illustration in the article it seems to be some sort of socially acceptable thing to wear casually about the house, perhaps a precursor to the ballet cardigan inspired ‘wrap dress’ of the Seventies and Eighties.
Although a pattern is required I thought the illustration, together with some of the details described, gave enough clues to the skilled clothes maker who might want to have a go at making a 1916 dress, so I’ve scanned in the pages, below.
Looking after One’s Wardrobe in January by Norma May Hanshew is another fascinating article that discusses the clothes required for the 1916 woman and how she can obtain them as cheaply as possible or make them herself. This made so many interesting points that I eventually decided to scan the whole thing. This article ends the January issue.