Bluestocking Journal

Real history, through the eyes of a fictional person

Tag: encyclopaedia

Sunday, October 6, 1912

Today is Encyclopaedia day, because there is, of course, no paper on Sundays. The next article, “Man As a Domesticated Animal,” was very enlightening. There are many examples of how a woman may domesticate a husband and get him to participate in the running of the household. Here is my favorite selection:

“An excellent way to domesticate a husband is to take a country cottage and have in daily help, who comes at seven in the morning and leaves at perhaps seven in the evening. The couple have to get their own supper, and Edwin soon becomes an adept in garnishing dishes, shredding lettuce for salad, and even in cookery itself. He washes his potatoes cleaner than any hired cook has ever been known to do, and cooks them to a turn, but the worst of his accomplishments is that he requires those at table audibly to appreciate his achievements almost without intermission. He thoroughly enjoys the products of his own skill, and seems resolved that no one else should miss doing so from want of attention being drawn to them.”

I have never seen Papa do any cooking, unless carving a roast counts.

There is also an interesting part about how if a woman has a wonderful idea for improving the home, she must go to great lengths to convince her husband that it is his own idea. This marriage business is more complicated than I ever imagined!


Sunday, September 29, 1912

In Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia there is an entire section devoted to women’s work. The following professions are gone into in some detail: manicurist, baby-linen outfitter (a good choice for widowed mothers or those with infirm husbands), poultry farmer, and hostess for paying guests, which is apparently a fancier version of the operator of a boarding-house.

The section on marriage begins with a discussion of the matchmaking mother, “an abomination” from which all young men flee. Still, the author urges sympathy for such a woman, who is after all only doing her duty. “She looks into the future, and sees that if she cannot get her girls married and suitably provided for there will be nothing for them but hopeless poverty, or, to her, the equally distressing alternative of working for their own living.”

The next section, called “How to Domesticate a Husband,” looks to be more entertaining, but I shall save it for next week. Are men like wild animals who must be tamed by women? What was Papa like before marriage?

Sunday, September 22, 1912

The next section of the Encyclopaedia is entitled LADY OF QUALITY.

An article about the position of wife of the First Lord of the Admiralty begins with several paragraphs about how all British women’s hearts leap upon sighting a sailor goes on to list various notable wives, who appear to be so distinguished primarily based upon the wonderful parties they gave. I found myself dozing and paged through to the next article, “Etiquette for Girls.” The author says that some twenty years ago, “before the opening of so many gates and doors to women,” girls were apt to be shy and brusque, as they rarely left home and had little opportunity for social intercourse. Now, she says, the majority of young women are “forward, bold, and assured.” Some are charming, but others, loud and blunt of manner, are off-putting.

She goes on to describe a trio of girls at Thornburn high school so perfectly that I almost imagine she must have met them! “Some girls wear a chronic smile, which, after a while, becomes absolutely exasperating, and may be classed with the mechanical laugh beginning on exactly the same note and lasting precisely the same period.”

Sunday, September 15, 1912

It is Sunday once again, which means it is time to read Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia. The next article is on how one may construct shades for electric lights and candles. I must confess that I have no interest in this topic, and so I merely paged through it until arriving at the next one, which is about ideas for children’s fancy dress parties. I rather like the idea of dressing up as a Pantomime Fairy. I will show this to Mother, and maybe she can help me construct it in time for Hallowe’en. Curiously, the article makes no mention of that holiday; evidently in Britain, children instead dress up for Christmas.

Sunday, September 8, 1912

Since there is no paper today, I have been reading the Encyclopaedia. The first article is all about how to set up a hall properly. Outer garments must be hidden away from sight. “These most generally belong to the men of the house, who, by some strange unwritten law, are always allowed to take off coats and hats downstairs, and are never expected to take them to their rooms.”

The writer seems really quite peevish about men. In discussing glove boxes in hall cupboards, she writes, “This seems better than the shelf, though whether any but the perfect male—not yet born—would ever be induced to put his gloves each day in a box is not within the scope of this article to decide.”

Following the hall-furnishing discussion is a lot of information about proper heating, and then there are detailed instructions on how to fold several types of table fan out of napkins. This actually looks like fun, and I’m going to surprise my parents when I set the dinner table.

Monday, September 2, 1912

Of course today is Labor Day, and again there is no newspaper! I went back to Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia and found that the section after needlework begins with the sentiment that “the brightest touch is given to home when a wife preserves her own good looks.” It goes on to describe how one may do this for the eyes (bathe them each morning in very cold water for three to five minutes, be certain your lamp has a heliotrope-colored shade when sewing by artificial light, and close the eyes “when engaged in any hard thinking”), the hands (confusingly contradictory advice involving both fresh air and the wearing of gloves, plus the application of glycerin and powder after washing), the hair (including the frightening warning to let down one’s hair twice a day in order to release poisonous hot air!), the complexion (do housework where there is fresh air, and if forced to cook, drink a glass of water before standing before a stove), and the teeth (cooking is evidently terrible for them too, but brushing once a day with salt water and twice with tincture of myrrh is good). Whew! It sounds like a lot of work to preserve one’s looks, especially if there is any cooking involved.

Sunday, September 1, 1912

It was with great delight that I received a package from my dear cousin Elsie in London. She has made me a present of a book entitled Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia. I have decided to begin at its beginning and peruse the articles, but I confess that I have diminished hopes for it upon learning that the first portion seems to be all about needlework, an activity I have always loathed, much to the disappointment of my darling mother, from whose hands issues the most delicate and beautiful embroidery. I am perfectly capable of darning a sock, and of stitching up a dress’s minor tear, which I certainly never acquired climbing a tree in order to rescue any cat. (Why my sweet kitten Benjamin can go up a tree in a flash and yet sits there mewling plaintively, unable to descend, is a true mystery.)

Since the Encyclopaedia may not be as informative as I should like, I intend to read the newspaper every day and write down interesting tidbits in this journal, as I feel that it will be improving. As today is Sunday, there is no newspaper, so I suppose I must engage myself in some other task.

Papa found me with my nose in the Encyclopaedia, and he laughed and called me Bluestocking. I asked him what he meant by that, since I certainly wasn’t wearing blue stockings at the time. He told me it was an old name for ladies who read books. I still don’t understand about the stockings or why he would laugh, but the name fits me well enough, if that’s what it means.