At the moment I am researching the museums sampler collections, thinking about straw hats and their manufacture and doing a fantastic project on the Victorian dresses. This is coupled with my usual work and planning a large exhibition on fossils and dinosaurs. Phew. However, it is actually an interesting time and I am enjoying this selection of projects more than I have done for a long time.
Yesterday I found out the history of one of the samplers and managed to look in a bit more detail about the girls life who had made it. It turned out that by the time she was in her fifties she was a publicans wife and she had a servant. A bit more research indicated which pub it was; one of the ones that exists in one of St Albans more expensive addresses. However, at the time there were three classes of pubs and this one was a Beerhouse. Apparently anyone could sell beer for a 2 guinea fee at the time and they were frequented by the less salubrious members of society.
Anyhow, I slightly digress as the purpose of the blog is not to tell you about my work. The reason I mention it is that it got be thinking about who I might have been and what I might have done a hundred or so years ago. We are a fairly affluent family, would we have had servants? Well, as I don’t have a cleaner now, I think perhaps not. I think that I may have been a working woman, and the husband likes beer, so maybe we would have had a beerhouse? I know our family history from this time and my ancestors were working women or mothers looking after children in what I suspect was not the nicest conditions. I like the idea of the dresses at the time, I would have been quite happy dressed up in layers of costume a child buried underneath my crinoline at any moment. Indeed, I am sorely tempted to make myself some bloomers for this winter. I would like to think that we would have been a happy family as we are now. However, I would certainly have had less influence as women at this period were effectively powerless.
The children would have been in a strange position at this level of society. For girls, there is some argument to suggest that in Hertfordshire at least, they would not have become maids which was considered to be a lesser option than a straw hat sewer. So, I suspect Fifi may have aimed at dress-making or straw hat manufacture. As she grew older, given her temperament she may have become involved in the local suffrage movement.
Toddler Boy would have found his options quite limited, although I suspect that his father would have worked and saved to enable him to become apprenticed to a trade. I am unsure what impact his speech difficulties would have had for him, I think this may be interesting to find out.
What do you think you may have been doing 100 years or so ago? What would have been your place in society and what would have been your childrens destiny?