Timeline Tuesday: Fuel and Water — The Housewife’s Needs

Four women stand in a kitchen setting, date and place unknown

Four women stand in a kitchen setting, date and place unknown. RG2343.18

 

By the late 1800s, new household conveniences were available to lighten some of a homemaker’s manual tasks. Examples are the sewing machine, first patented in the 1850s, and the carpet sweeper, which came into vogue during the 1880s. However, chores that involved the use of water and fuel-usually wood-were particularly demanding. Living standards and the general level of health for late nineteenth and early twentieth century Nebraska farm wives depended heavily upon the availability of wood and water for household needs. “A water supply and fuel are two things which enter prominently into the domestic economy of every home,” said the Western Rancher and Brand Recorder (Ainsworth) on February 1, 1905, “for water and fire every house-wife must have, whether she presides over a shanty or a mansion. In lieu of providing these two essentials in domestic economy some very heavy and unless [useless] burdens are often placed upon wives and mothers, who have enough to do even when these essentials are made as convenient as possible. “We know of well-to-do farmers who have gone to a great deal of expense and trouble to pipe the water from their well to their barns, so that a water supply may be handy for their use by just turning a faucet, who indifferently permit their wives to get the supply of water for the home as best they may from a well located ten rods from the house, men who will have their barns guttered and leave their wives to depend upon an old board and a rain water barrel for a supply of soft water. “There are a few things which every farmer’s wife has a right to demand. They are a hardwood floor for the kitchen or at least a lineolum [linoleum] cover for it, a good cistern, accessible by a pump in the kitchen sink; a supply of hard, or well water, under pressure where there is a windmill on the premises, and a convenient and ample supply of fuel, conveniently located. This making a woman lug water and split wood or hunt for fuel is a relic of barbarism. A young lady with a farmer on the string as a prospective husband will do well to have these things settled right before the parson gets in his work.” By the 1920s many Nebraskans enjoyed new household conveniences, including hot and cold running water, gas stoves, automatic washing machines, refrigerators, and vacuum cleaners. In 1927 Mrs. Will Minear, president of the Nebraska Federation of Women’s Clubs, noted that “electricity, gas and the telephone have made great Progress in our state because of the interest of the menfolk.” In an article reprinted from the Omaha Bee by the Rushville Recorder on February 11, 1927, she still urged that “energy-saving and health conserving home conveniences” that directly benefited women, be given an equally high priority.

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

The Huskers wore blue jerseys for Memorial Stadium’s first game

The Huskers wore blue jerseys for Memorial Stadium’s first game

Recent Archeological Work at Ft. Atkinson

Recent Archeological Work at Ft. Atkinson

Willie Nelson FarmAid Concert

Willie Nelson FarmAid Concert

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.
Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.