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Monday, August 8, 2011

127

The Ladies of the 17th Century Were Way More Hardcore Than You

I'm a “historical interpreter” at Plimoth Plantation, which is living history museum — think Colonial Williamsburg, but in Massachusetts — that represents the lives of the people we now affectionately call the Pilgrims (Plymouth Rock, buckle hats, turkey and stuffing not included). Among other things, the museum offers reproductions of the Mayflower named (surprise!) Mayflower II and the village built by the Pilgrims, New Plimoth. By wearing reproduction clothing and speaking in a particular dialect; cooking, cleaning, and gardening in the fashion of the 17th century; and, most importantly, learning about the life and taking on the role of a particular woman who lived in the actual New Plimoth, I must convince museum visitors they really, really, really just walked into the 1600s.

So anyway, this is where I “live” (above).

And by trying to live in the 1600s I've learned that 17th-century women were badasses. The 17-century Martha Stewart and male author of The English Housewife, Gervase Markham, claimed the “complete woman” had “skill in physic, surgery, cookery, extraction of oils, banqueting stuff, ordering of great feasts, preserving of all sorts of wines…distillations, perfumes, ordering of wool, hemp and flax: making cloth and dying; the knowledge of dairies: office of malting; of oats…of brewing, baking, and all other things belonging to a household.”

That’s a lot to know, and the Real Housewives of New Plimoth could throw it down. But just in case you aren’t convinced, here are five ways 17th-century Massachusetts housewives were more badass than you.

From Gabriel Metsu, A Woman Reading A Letter; photo courtesy Michael French

The Clothes: Even in the 1600s there were a multitude of ways to dress, but here's the routine I go through every morning, regardless of whether the heat index is 115: First I put on a smock (like a long-sleeved linen nightgown), next comes my bodies (a precursor to the corset), followed by woolen petticoats, knee high stockings held up by garters (elastic is a great invention, you guys), a little jacket called a waistcoat, and it’s all topped off by a head covering of some sort, usually a coif (a white linen cap). There are other accoutrements, too, which might include a wide-brimmed hat, apron, girdle (belt), pocket (separate from clothing!), and even a knife.

Clara Peeters, Still Life With Cheeses, Artichoke and Cherries; photo courtesy Don Rothemich

The Cooking: Seventeenth-century cooking usually involves some combination of fire, hot coals, clay pots, heavy cast iron implements, and strange ingredients, and it’s my job to recreate ye olde timey recipes following ye olde timey methods. I’ve singed clothing, burnt my fingers on a cast iron frying pan, smelled like fish for three days after I scaled and gutted some herring, covered my body in ash, bled from thorns while picking gooseberries, and gotten so much smoke in my eyes that I looked like a meth addict. The upside is that cooking food for hours over a fire in well-seasoned cast iron pots and pans makes it taste great.


From Pieter de Hooch, A Woman and Child in a Bleaching Ground; photo courtesy Michael French

The Laundry: One night last summer my roommate and I had to call the fire department because our washer was smoking mysteriously, the consequences of which were that we had two handsome firefighters in our house at 11 p.m. and that we had to use the local laundromat for a few months. The latter was annoying. Or so I thought, until I did laundry Pilgrim-style. There are a few ways a New Plimoth housewife might have done laundry, depending on what materials were available and even the time of year, but the method I’ve done is known by the absolutely delightful phrase of “laying the buck.” Laying the buck (stop giggling) means you layer dirty linens with ash and hot water, the combination of which makes lye, in a wooden container called a bucking tub. You then reheat the lye water that's formed — careful! It’s caustic! My coworker burnt her fingers this way recently! — and do this whole layering process two or three more times if necessary. But wait, the fun continues! Next you beat the dirty clothes with something called a battledore, which looks like a square ping pong paddle, to make sure the lye really, really gets in there. Then the laundry is rinsed and laid out on the grass to be bleached and dried. By the time it’s all over I kind of want to make out with the Maytag Man.


Frans Snyders, Still Life With Fruits and Vegetables; photo courtesy Michael French

The Garden: While not every 17th-century woman kept a full garden, in New Plimoth they were necessary for producing English plants not found in the New World. These gardens provided not only foodstuffs like cucumbers and beans, but also the ingredients for medicines and remedies. According to Markham, “one of the principal virtues” of the English housewife is her “knowledge of physick,” or, in other words, “the preservation and care of the family touching their health and soundness of body.” From what seeds to plant, to when to plant them and just what the heck each plant is and does, it’s a ridiculous amount to know. Take for instance the many uses of beet (what we call Swiss Chard): Its cold, wet quality could help balance someone with a hot, colicky disposition, a broth of beet could clean away dandruff and lice, and the cool feeling of the leaf meant it made a perfect refrigerator — that is, a leaf you put on your head when feeling hot to make an old-school ice pack. (Did it last week. Looks ridiculous but totally works.)

Willem van de Velde the Younger, Ships on the Roadstead; photo of Mayflower II courtesy Plimoth Plantation

The Travel: One of the most iconic images we have of the Pilgrims is the journey of the Mayflower, a roughly two-month voyage during which, according to eventual Plimoth governor William Bradford, “many were afflicted with seasickness,” and “they were encountered many times with cross winds and met with many fierce storms with which the ship was shroudly shaken, and her upper works made very leaky.” And if that weren't enough, we know at least three women were pregnant on the Mayflower, and one of them, Elizabeth Hopkins, gave birth while the ship was still at sea. But wait, what’s that? The stewardess ran out of Diet Coke before she got to your row? That bottle of shampoo you brought exceeds three ounces? Your train is running an hour behind schedule? Sorry to hear it. But did you give birth on a leaky wooden ship in the middle of the ocean while about a hundred other people puked their guts up around you? Oh, you did? Hm.

Alexandra Cervenak spent her academic career studying English and history and other things useless in the real world, so she now spends her time pretending to have time-traveled to a different world.



127 Comments / Post A Comment

insouciantlover

Alexandra, question that's always bothered me and a lot of people: Mayflower, combined with Philadelphia - a no-brainer, right? Cause this is where the Mayflower landed. Not so. It turns out Columbus actually set foot somewhere down in the West Indies. Little known fact.

boyofdestiny

@insouciantlover Hmm?

Lucienne

@insouciantlover Excuse me if this off the subject a little bit, but just take a guess at how much I can bench press. Come on, what do you think? Take a guess. 315 pounds, at the top of my game, maxing out at 500!

brit12690

@insouciantlover Columbus has nothing to do with the Mayflower. His ships were the Pinta, the Nina, and the Santa Maria and landed somewhere in the Bahamas in 1497 I think. The Mayflower came over around 1620 full of English Separatists. Very different voyages.

cherrispryte

@insouciantlover All of a sudden it's feeling awfully Relationshapesy in here.

boyofdestiny

@cherrispryte Ice cream has no bones.

musicello11

@insouciantlover It's been awhile since American history, but Columbus came over WAY WAY WAY earlier than the Mayflower. As far as I remember he wasn't even English, or was working for Spain.

@insouciantlover Um, No.

The Mayflower brought over the pilgrims (a group of Puritans), and they settled in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Philly is involved in absolutely no way.

Columbus landed in the West Indies in 1492 on 3 entirely different ships over a century before the pilgrims ventured over.

tammy littlenut

@insouciantlover ...slow clap...

Brunhilde

@brit1260

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.

He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.

A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.

Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.

Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.

Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.

October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!

"Indians! Indians!" Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.

But "India" the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.

The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.

Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he'd been told.

He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.

The first American? No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.

frigwiggin

@insouciantlover Tell me, do you know the difference between a rectal thermometer and a tongue depressor?

rootmarm

@S. Elizabeth oh my God, do not start sentences with um. and read this:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0218839/quotes

Patrices Pieces

@insouciantlover This made my afternoon. Also, I feel so lucky to be raised amongst catalogs.

melis

Mmm. Soy. Because of the lactose. You're lactose intolerant now.

insouciantlover

@ballbiscuit I forgot that I even wrote this comment (Mondays, amirite???), but the responses are making my afternoon.

insouciantlover

@melis And you used to get the grande espresso. I thought that was sexy.

melis

Oh, get the kidneys. I'll handle the membranes.

frigwiggin

What Shih Tzus need rescuing anyway? You don't see Shih Tzus straggling around the streets in an old coat: "Help, alms for the poor..."

melis

Like the Little Match Girl.

Cavendish

@melis Oh, I get it now.

Lucienne

@melis We're gonna be in Philadelphia for 48 hours, how many tea services can you do?

insouciantlover

@Lucienne So one more? *tosses kimono into overstuffed suitcase*

science is sexy@twitter

@insouciantlover I saw Ms. Nibs here, having his way with a borzoi.

Slapfight

@insouciantlover You OBVIOUSLY don't know my dog.

Matthew Lawrence@twitter

Oh, Lord, New Plimoth. Soooooo many field trips. Or, okay, like three. At least one of which involved my friend crying--crying!--because he couldn't convince me that the re-enactors kept TVs hidden in their houses.

becky@twitter

@Matthew Lawrence@twitter there, and to slater mills. ugh.

Jean-Daniel Cathèll-Williams@facebook

@Matthew Lawrence@twitter

I used to work at Plimoth Plantation, and I assure you there are no hidden televisions. What is hidden are first aid kits, fire extinguishers, personal cell phones, and I always had a stash of Sour Patch Kids in the cupboards.

leonstj

@Matthew Lawrence@twitter @becky@twitter wait you guys, is this place anywhere near regular Plymouth? I know nothing of Mass., (other than that people from there are my mortal enemies), but I am going to spend ALL WEEK next week on the beach in Plymouth, and I could totally check out some historical shit potentially if it was close! Or I'll just grill and drink on the beach.

becky@twitter

@leon.saintjean yup! http://www.plimoth.org/

Aquifoliaceae

@Jean-Daniel Cathèll-Williams@facebook Jon, are you stalking me? You're totally stalking me. Incidentally, and you will find this is indeed relevant, holly trees are in the family Aquifoliaceae. For everyone else who is confused: we went to high school together and have both spent more time on field trips to Plymouth Rock than is anywhere near necessary.

boyofdestiny

Old Sturbridge Village or gtfo

cherrispryte

@boyofdestiny Old Bethpage Village Restoration scoffs at you.

NeenerNeener

@boyofdestiny: Based purely on the Plymouthian membership to which I ascribe, I'm Ging TFO.

becky@twitter

@boyofdestiny broommakers!

franceschances

@boyofdestiny Old Sturbridge Village, so much you can do! A time machine made for you!

Don't Panic

@cherrispryte: My Grandpa worked at Old Bethpage!! He would dress up as Peter Cooper. And one year, my sister and my cousin and I did the kids summer program which was rad. There were piglets! And we made pickles! But I learned that colonial school girl outfits are a) extremely hot and b) not the best look on chubby 5th graders.
To sum up, Old Bethpage for the win!

major disaster

@boyofdestiny Old Sturbridge Village was my favorite place ever. I desperately wished I was born in olden times and wanted to do my school lessons on a slate.

emla

@Don't Panic I also did the kids summer program at Old Bethpage! That was super fun and I got to wear earl 90s granny booties to "complete my look" (I was very serious about this) and play with the hoop thingie game, which was really fun.

Pound of Salt

@boyofdestiny A family member worked at Sturbridge to get out of Vietnam! I'm going to assume that was a good choice? We won't know until there's a a historical Vietnamese village in CT or something.

TwoBit

@boyofdestiny Mystic Seaport for the win

KatnotCat

What about Microsoft Office suite proficiency, Gervase, hmm? What about that?

purefog

@KatnotCat Office Schmoffice. They probably didn't even know how to Tweet.

NeenerNeener

I did my growing up in Plymouth. My highway exit was for Plimoth Plantation Highway. We didn't take field trips there because it was assumed everyone had been (especially since Plymouth residents get in free).
...I have never been.

NeenerNeener

I also do not envy this woman her job, not for all the hard work she describes, but for the fact that there are a quite a few people that seek entertainment in the form of trying to eff with the Plantation villagers. That's gotta get old really quick.

Crantastical

@NeenerNeener I grew up in Plymouth too! Exit 5. But we went to Plymouth Congregational Church, right behind the plantation. I used to sneak in all the time even though it was free back then. Plymouth residents don't get in for free anymore :-(

NeenerNeener

@Crantastical: Kids do the strangest things...
Also, growing up Plymouth was pretty great.

omgkitties

For a grade school assignment we were given a small printout of the Mayflower and had to draw 100+ stick people inside of it. I knew I was not as tough as those people when my hand started cramping up and I wanted to watch tv instead.

boyofdestiny

@dearheart What an excellent assignment.

omgkitties

@boyofdestiny The real genius was in assigning it to kids young enough to believe that the teacher would know, by teacher magic, if our numbers were lacking. Cue obsessive drawing, counting, drawing, recounting.

Lucienne

And repressed memories from grade school in 3 ... 2 ...

NeenerNeener

Also, also! (The Mayflower didn't actually land in Plymouth! Shhhh.)

boyofdestiny

@NeenerNeener Choke on your lies!

NeenerNeener

@boyofdestiny: I didn't mean to disenchant you. You may continue to subsist on YOUR LIES!

Crantastical

@NeenerNeener It originally landed in Provincetown but they decided to keep going.

Ham Snadwich

@NeenerNeener Plymouth landed on us! (wait, that's something different)

NeenerNeener

@Ham_Snadwich: De ja vu, had the same conversation the other day.

feuilletoniste

I am so jealous of professional time-travellers.

jinxed

@feuilletoniste same! i want to have a job like this some day! i won't pretend i'd want to do it forever, but maybe a summer or something. especially if i can bring a secret stash of aleve so my period doesn't incapacitate me for a quarter of the trip, and migraine meds just in case. if that's ok, we're golden!

BethH

Conner Prairie represent! Williamsburg sucks ass!

Brunhilde

One of those pregnant ladies was my 12th great grandmother. I can't imagine having morning sickness and sea sickness at the same time.

mockingbird

@Brunhilde My ancestor had tickets for the Mayflower, but his teenage wife was pregnant and he didn't want to risk the trip so they went on the next boat.

Ten Thousand Buckets

@mockingbird My great grandfather had tickets for the Titanic but overslept or something and missed the boat.

Whenever my great grandmother was mad at him (which was most of the time) she'd curse his oversleeping (or whatever) and tell him she wished he'd been on board.

Tulletilsynet

I was the first member of my family ever to travel by water.

theharpoon

@mockingbird Damn teenagers.

Feminist Killjoy

Ahhhh we went on a field trip to "pioneer farm" in third grade. I had read all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books so I was preeeettttttty pumped but on the drive there I got food poisoning or carsick or something and puked all over some parent chaperone's mini van and myself. For the rest of the day I felt horrible and had to wear some boy's ugly karate pants that his mom had in her trunk. It was scarring and I cried.

jacqueline
jacqueline

I went to Plimoth Plantation once! Some guy asked if he could take a picture and the 17th century lady answered "Yes- uhhhh, I know not of what you speak, but you may do as you wish."

BUSTED

Stevie

Ok, this is obviously a rude question, but how much do you suppose one earns doing this sort of re-enactment work? Is it an hourly wage? Does she live on-site or off? So many questions about the logistics, mostly because it sounds like a really awesome job.

brista128

@Stevie Living there would get old really quick!

Hot Doom

@Stevie I used to work at Plimoth Plantation in their education department, and it is a really awesome job, as far as learning neat things about the colonists and the Wampanoag people and their ways of life. I wasn't an interpreter there, so I can't speak directly to what it's like to be interacting with the public all the time. However, when I was there, about 5 years ago, interpreters got hourly wages (don't know what the rate is now) and lived off-site. That said, I was able to spend the night in one of the village houses (interpreters could do the same as part of training) and aside from all the things Alexandra describes, staying just one night in the house (hay mattress with a rope-suspension bed-frame = no sleep) and doing chores is hard-ass work. I give major props to the interpreters who are true experts on their person and stay in character. Hollaback to the Plant!

Feminist Killjoy

WAIT but remember that reality show on PBS, I think it was called Pioneer Life or something, where these families had to live like actual pioneer people, and all the kids ended up almost starving and stuff and these two girls would sneak way to use shampoo and watch MTV, and the whole time you wondered why they didn't just stay "fuck it" and go home cause I seriously doubt they were getting paid at all and it was clearly not worth it? DO YOU????

Stevie

@Rosemary I do! I watched it and yelled at my TV a lot -- they were so frustrating because they SIGNED UP FOR IT and then would NOT stop bitching. But I wanted to be on it. Huge nerd, I am.

NeenerNeener

@Rosemary: Wasn't this a Simpson episode? I could be making this up.

cannonball

@Rosemary
I remember that show! I actually worked with this couple years ago, and a while later, saw that show and they were on it!! They were the couple who got married in the show, and had an actual pioneer wedding instead of a normal one. They were the coolest and nicest people I've ever met.

@cannonball I remember a show called "1800s House" or something like that, and one of the major issues that they had was the producer not letting one of the women use a tampon until she absolutely insisted (and probably threatened to leave and ruin their show).

c.
c.

@Rosemary Frontier House. my friend recently sent me a pirated copy. it's also on netflix and totally worth re-watching.

Dani

@Rosemary 1800s house was the best because the people who signed up for it thinking they were going to be landed gentry and wound up being servants were SO BITTER.

gfrancie

@Rosemary I remember that PBS did "Colonial House" and they lived like the pilgrims. There was a great deal of whining, no one made an effort to actually farm and at one point another guy had to come in and get things together.
Oh and there was one woman who was trying to make it so that her husband took over as leader. A regular Lady MacBeth.
The 17th century women would have put these people to shame.

Sella Turcica

I remember both 1800 House set in Great Britain and Frontier House set in the US. I remember Frontier House being kind of badass and in 1800 House, the one woman having all this guilt over hiring a maid to do the work she simply couldn't do by herself, but then being kind of a juicebox to the girl she hired.
I always thought it would be fun to do a Victory House- living like it was 1942 with gas and butter rationing and having victory garden and no TV. Then I realized, I kind of do that now.

heb
heb

@Rosemary There was a 1940's House! It was British produced though, which was different and stuff.

atipofthehat

To the Honour'd Court of Oyer and Terminer, Whereas the spectre of ye Maide Edith did visit me and with her servant Tituba did appeare in Some shape & me command to inscript a commentary in ye Devill's book with a hot Hair-pinne....

jenergy

@atipofthehat Awesome.

michael whittier@twitter

@atipofthehat: I saw Tituba consorting with the Devil!

Ham Snadwich

I saw Choire Sicha consorting with the Devil.

Mingus_Thurber

I remember reading somewhere as a kid that the Mayflower would've fit on a modern tennis court. That left me with nightmares of overcrowded, rocking, dark spaces for years.

Patrices Pieces

I just came back from a camping trip where the amenities included daily on-site trash pick up and Showtime. Is it possible someone from the distant future will think I am badass?

BethH

You forgot to mention that most of the ladies made their badass clothes themselves (and also their husband & childrens)--in 17th century, this probably meant also making the fabric. oh, and all sheets/towels/curtains etc. and the candles so you could see while you sew. and you know, everything else...

cosmia

The only thing I remember about Toronto's version of this place is that if you peeked behind some bushes you could see the university rugby fields, and rugby boys whipping their sweaty jerseys off. It was hard to concentrate on pioneer villages.

I go to this university now, and I have not seen any rugby boys! Sad.

Ten Thousand Buckets

@cosmia They were too anachronistic and had to go.

Megasus

@cosmia I haven't been to the one in Toronto, just Sault Ste Marie Among the Hurons. It is actually in the middle of a marsh, no half naked boys there.

Diana

This year I read Gail Collins's "America's Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates & Heroines" which was WONDERFUL and full of juicy stories. But I think the most interesting perspective check provided by that book was her exploration of attitudes towards the women of Plymouth, etc. Even though I'm probably more interested in history than can possibly be healthy, I'd always assumed "witch burnings, Bible-thumping, death in childbirth: SUCKS, Y'ALL" which is true and all, but it's more nuanced than that. Women were providing literally life-saving services for the community. Without their incredible exertion, there wouldn't have been enough food, the children would all be dead, and nobody would have any of the following: cheese, candles, clothing, soap, butter, preserved or pickled food, and WAY MORE. Because everybody was ACUTELY aware of how absolutely necessary women were to the continued survival of the community, there was a base level of respect shown towards women. Kind of a Lysistrata effect - don't piss them off or they'll take away something vital. As we move into the Victorian age, more of thesse household goods are manufactured outside the home (like candles) and the servant class is beginning to take over more and more of the household duties. Without the moral weight of "I provide these essential services to the household, without which you would be dead. In a field. Naked." attitudes towards women start to get more dismissive/trivial/patronizing. Women get infantilized. I'm oversimplifying this to be sure, but I totally readjusted my understanding of women's position in early settler societies.

atipofthehat

@Diana

Yes, but women's newly learned whale manipulation skills have now taken it to a whole other level.

lovelettersinhell

@Diana So, there are all these ridiculous MRA dudes who are all "We hunted the mamoth for you, you lazy evil women! GRRRRR!" and I kiiiiind of want to force them to read that section of the book now and be like, look. You hunted/plowed. Good for you. Women did EVERYTHING ELSE, ALSO ESSENTIAL. And now, you probably work a boring desk job, just like most of the women you meet. Get over yerself.

E
E

When I was a kid I was REALLY into this book: http://www.amazon.com/Constance-Patricia-Clapp/dp/0688109764

And then we went to Plymouth and one of the people who was a main character in that book was there making bread and answering questions in her tiny house, and it BLEW MY MIND. I knew the book was about real dead people and the place was too, but somehow, the combination of the person who was in a book, also being a real actor, I don't know...reality broke, and I ended up being really shy about talking to the people working there.

Stephanie Dawes@facebook

@E I read that book too and loved it! I actually named my daughter Damaris after the little baby in that book.

DandelionTacy

@E I loved that one, too! That experience would have blown my little mind.
@Stephanie Dawes, Damaris is a gorgeous name!

thenotestaken

@E Oooooookay this may blow some minds but I am one of her direct descendants, and Constance is actually my middle name because of it! She's written down in the ancient family bible that has all the recorded genealogy on my mother's side and everything!

Watts Up?

This article makes me wanna spend Seven Minutes in Heaven with modern times. For serious.

Ham Snadwich

@Watts Up? My dad grew up really, really poor in upstate New York. He's one of the few old dudes I know that doesn't reminisce about the "good old days". In fact he's told me many times that the good old days sucked and things are much much better now. It's pretty refreshing.

Kneetoe

Why am I not finding "giving seriously good head" on that list--at the top of that list--of things all women should know how to do?!?!?!

Rosebudddd

@Kneetoe That's assumed.

Megasus

@Kneetoe I am pretty sure you got burned at the stake for being a witch if you put penises in your mouth in the 17th century.

Kneetoe

@Megan Patterson@facebook: Or maybe the opposite was true?

likethestore

@Kneetoe If you found a 17th century woman who was willing to give head after all the cooking, baking, sewing, cleaning, laundry, birthing and childraising, I applaud you.

atipofthehat

@Kneetoe

Wood-cutts or itt did not Happen.

Kneetoe

@likethestore: If she's born after 1850, I have no interest.

Kneetoe

@atipofthehat: It's carved in stone.

L M
L M

you forgot the part about how you have to sing/read from the Bay Psalm Book every day. EVERY. DAY.

Bittersweet

@Lucia Martinez: Holy crap, that's much worse than wearing 5 layers of wool in 100 degree weather and then scrubbing them with lye.

L M
L M

@Bittersweet yup. it's almost as bad as Sternhold & Hopkins.

keep trying, though.

jo
jo

Great article.
I am a historical interpreter myself, used to work at a 14th century Medieval open air museum in the Netherlands and now have a full time 1930s lifestyle outside of work and have become a Historical Consultant for movies, museums, etc.
I would love to live in a 1930s open air museum but something older would be great as well.
The past is such an amazing place.
It hat its bad sides, of course, but so does the present.
Personally I have a lot of respect for our ancestors and find them indeed a lot more interesting and admire them more then most modern people.
I am sure most modern spoiled people obsessed with appearance and comfort, who scream when their nail breaks or who faint simply having to consider doing some hard manual labour, may not enjoy the old fashioned lifestyle.
But I loved it.
You work hard but it is satisfying, honest, basic, to the point.
Our ancestors were great and managed to live trough things most of us wouldn't survive for a day.
Bravo.

I have seen many of those "1900 house"-like reality living history shows, worked on one as a consultant as well, and love them.
They always show that the people, after a lot of moaning and complaining, suddenly realise that the past had some good sides as well and even notice some things that were better and will miss parts of their experience in modern life.

The more you know about history, the more interesting it becomes.
It helps you put things in perspective.
Something sadly lacking with many people in the modern world.

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Tulletilsynet

What took you so long?

kaynut

Trader to the New World: "HALLLO! You can buy this BEET for CHEEP at discount for ★neighboorsBEET.newworldweb ★"
Pioneer: "No, thank thee, we are ftocked well against thefe winter months."
Trader: "FREE SHIPPING! Accept paypal!"
Pioneer: "No, bless thee..."

*Door slams.*

Pioneer: "Satan has come to thefe lands."

Nutmeg

I went to Plimoth Plantation by myself for my 20th birthday because I had a $10 library pass! I had a great time, but everyone I tell that story to gets kind of sad for me.

jinxed

@Nutmeg i went to the natural history musuem in new york alone for my 21st birthday. nothing wrong with dorky birthday celebrating!

countrylady

Truly excellent article Alexandra! We are long time historical reenactors as well as big fans of Plimoth Plantation---(even bought our wedding bands there, and I am the proud owner of the embroidered coif that was made there, and once displayed there!)
We can certainly identify with the things you say. We were just at an 18thc. reenactment this past weekend (chronicled now on my blog), and cooked, fought battles, etc., in all those layers---shift, stays, underpetticoat, petticoat, robing, cap, apron, hat, kerchief...etc., in the unending heat. Still, we love it, and keep on doing it! Yes, the housewife today is um, well, a pansyass compared to the 17th and 18thc. common women!
Kudos to you~
Mary

http://anhistoricallady.blogspot.com

shannonmkennedy@twitter

Alexandra, you have my life-long dream job. I am so jealous! It's how I ended up doing a PhD (historical archaeology) but I still can't get a job as an interpreter at Plimoth Plantation. I hope you enjoy every minute; I'm going to go cry with envy!

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Joe Clark@twitter

As usual with an Awl-affiliated site, the copy-editing here is poor. What exactly is a “bodies,” and how is it remotely “a precursor to the corset”?

Lemme guess: Is the word “bodice”?

Valley Girl

@Joe Clark@twitter Lemme guess: Is the word pedantic yet hilariously incorrect juicebox?

Oh, sorry, that's several words.

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