Monday, March 28, 2011

Letter 83: No Gentleman, He.

The Hills and their car and likely their home.
Residency 22,
May 8th, 1912
Dear Margaret,

It gave me great pleasure to read your letters and, as its said you have to read letter three times to get the substance of it. Iwas worried you were sick.

You mentioned in your letter about Clayton saying you never worked!

Well, I think he better say that about himself as I've never seen him work. Not even wash himself. And besides if he was a Gentleman he wouldn't say such a thing about any lady.

But what can you expect from such trash.

Do not let that bother you. I am satisfied with your work and am sorry you have to work as hard as you do.

You will always have me upholding what you do as I am satisfied that you always do for the best.

About the garden, put in anything you like but see you do not work in it yourself, try and get someone to do it for you.

I am only sorry that you have the care of it. Try and get someone to roll the lawn and cut if for you.

So Mr. Montgomery is getting a new auto? What has he done with his old one?

W. J. Ewing must be making money to sport with his mother. He will be bigger than ever now, what auto has WJ?

I think I forgot to tell you in my last letter that I wrote Aunt Christina Watters to ask you to make a months visit. I am glad you are going out there, if you will only go.

And if anything should happen to your mother they can phone you. They do not stay with her all the time, why should they ask you?

If you are not getting your dress now, use the money I sent you and when you want some for a dress I will send you some more.

And you will want some to help pay help in the garden and for house cleaning.

Yesterday morning we had about 3 inches of snow here in the morning, but it's all gone today and things are fine and warm today. I supposed you are having fine weather at home now.

Referring to the amount of track laid from Cochran there is 150 miles East and 200 west so you can see that I am 75 miles from the end west there is about 200 miles still to lay to make the connection west - but the grading is mostly done.

Now as I have nothing more to say, I will close. Will enclose you 1.00 in this letter. It will do for X.

This leaves me well. Trusting to hear from you shortly again, with very much love from your affectionate husband

N. Nicholson

....Well, this is all pretty low and I'm sure Norman and Margaret would have burned this letter had she thought about it. In those days, if you wrote something bad in a letter you wrote BURN THIS LETTER at the bottom. I know, because I have two such letters. One where Norman is criticizing Herb and one where Hugh Blair, Marion's husband, is criticizing Edith and Flo for being poor housekeepers!

Accusing a woman of being a poor housekeeper was as low as you could go I guess. Margaret won many prizes for her breadmaking and crafts, so she was, by all accounts, a gifted housekeeper. She raised four children and had only minimal help. In the last two decades of the 1800's she hired girls, usually relatives to help, as it is noted in the account books. That was very typical. Cooking was a major task in those days and you could not cook and watch babies. In 1901, the census showed the Nicholson's had a live in maid, as did many families.

Margaret Nicholson had one laced boot in the Victorian and one in the modern age. In and around 1900, the home became a center of consumption rather than a center of production. A woman's job from 1900 was about being a savvy consumer, not a producer of goods.

Margaret's problem, I suspect, was that she was so good at what she did, no on respected her for it. At the time of these letters, she is sewing dresses for Edith and making breads for her day at home. Everyone loved her breads, and she knew it.

Poor Margaret, she was living a life of terrible stress, yet many of her neighbours saw her as a lazy woman with no man at home to care for and three daughters to help. Damned if she does, damned if she doesn't.

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