Motherhood in the 1800’s at OSV

Historical Look at Motherhood at Old Sturbridge Village on Mother’s Day

With so much cooking done at hearthside, fire was the number one danger for children in early New England households. No doubt one of the earliest words children learned was ‘Hot!’

Moms get free admission to Old Sturbridge Village on Mother’s Day, Sunday May 9th, and family events are planned throughout the weekend. Children can meet the baby animals on the farm, and enjoy indoor crafts, including making block printed note cards for a Mother’s Day gift. Moms can gain insights on childbirth, raising children and running a frugal household from OSV costumed historians portraying Midwife Lucy Tucker and 19th century author Lydia Maria Child, who wrote The Mother’s Book. OSV horticulturists will present “The Family Nurse’s Tour of the Herb Garden” and a special Mother’s Day Brunch will be served in the Oliver Wight Tavern.

Although Mother’s Day is a modern invention, OSV historians note that by the 1830s, a “cult of domesticity” began to glorify the home and women’s role in it. Home was viewed as a sanctuary and refuge from the increasingly bustling and depersonalized outside world.

Despite this trend to glorify home and hearth, “being a mom in the 1830s was a very rigorous job,” notes Deb Friedman, director of public program at Old Sturbridge Village. “Women typically had five or six children and they worked straight through their pregnancies – handling all the endless chores necessary in running a household.

Unlike today, there were no ready-made strollers, swings, porta-cribs and playpens,” Friedman says. “Moms made do with what they had. For baby walkers, they simply placed ladder-backed chairs flat on the floor so babies could push the chair and toddle behind. Antique chairs were often worn flat on the back from generations of children learning to walk.”

With so much cooking done at hearthside, fire was the number one danger for children in early New England households. “No doubt one of the earliest words children learned was ‘Hot!’ ” Friedman says.

ABOUT OSV

Old Sturbridge Village celebrates New England life in the 1830s and is open daily 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. seven days a week. Admission: $20; seniors $18; children 3-17, $7; children under 3, free. For information: www.osv.org or call 1-800-733-1830.

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