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April 1, 2014: Clarissa F. Dillon, Ph.D.

Women’s Work in the Eighteenth Century

Clarissa F. Dillon’s educational and surprising show-and-tell drew a packed house at Washington Memorial Chapel on Tuesday, April 1. Dr. Dillon, a respected authority and national consultant on eighteenth-century domestic living, is also a popular speaker and noted author.

Clarissa F. Dillon

Some information Dr. Dillon shared in her fascinating, well-researched presentation:

  • Eighteenth-century women spent spring, summer, and fall in the kitchen gardens.
  • A wife in a wealthy family had servants to help with the garden. A poorer woman cared for the kitchen garden herself, with her daughters.
  • Size of the kitchen gardens ranged from 1/3 of an acre to 3 acres.
  • Everything in the kitchen garden had to be useful.
  • Most plants in the kitchen garden had multiple purposes.
  • Preserving and pickling were important. Ever try pickled radish pods? Gooseberries were preserved in sugar.
  • Meals were prepared in one pot, from what was available in the garden.
  • Little girls helped with household chores as soon as they could walk.
  • Eggs, when rubbed with suet or lard, keep for two years.
  • To preserve butter, use sugar, salt, and saltpeter.
  • Women learned domestic skills from their mothers, grandmothers, and neighbors.
  • Small beer was a common drink for men, women, and children.
  • Rhubarb was grown in colonial times for medicinal purposes. It’s an effective purge.
  • Women made clothing for the family in the winter when they did not care for the garden.
  • Women in the eighteenth-century were constantly busy with household affairs.