The Girl's Own Book

Domestic Skills

eeping house and raising children was the future toward which most little girls in the nineteenth century could reasonably look. Doll stories offered casual training in childcare, but other — mostly nonfiction — books and magazines covered plain sewing, dress making, fancy work, knitting, interior decoration and design, and cookery. The skills were made attractive with promises of future expertise, patterns for pretty things for everyday use, and careful and cheerful instructions.

The Dolls’ Wash, meant for very young readers, introduces the technologies of washing, starching, and ironing clothes, but the real takeaways are that laundry is hard work for the servant and that little girls should take care not to get dirty.
May’s Doll is a short course on fashion textiles, from the production of silk, wool, linen, and cotton, through manufacturing techniques for stockings, shoes, gloves, and lace. It ends with thirty pages of review questions and answers.
Practical books provided opportunities for girls to rehearse domestic arts, and announced the importance of doing so. The Girls’ Own Toy-Maker explains: “This is not only pleasant employment, but it is extremely useful; to be able to make your doll’s clothes you will acquire the knowledge of making your own dresses when you are older.”
The Mary Frances Sewing Book includes both permanent and “flimsy” patterns for doll clothes, working up from handkerchiefs and capes to a wedding dress with a veil.
The growth of home economics as a school subject is reflected in the textbook Food and Home Cookery, written by child welfare reformer Catherine Buckton.

This page has paths:

This page references: