Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Clean Apron

 Image from http://www.la-fontaine-ch-thierry.net/

One memory I have from the 1940s is how European working class women spent their days. In the morning, they started by tending to the garden and collect the vegetables for the meals of the day. Cooking would take all morning long on a slow burning coal stove.
In the north of France, if you were lucky enough to have coffee, it would  cook and boil, then stay on the stove all day: it gave a special smell to the kitchen!
Late in the afternoon, before the men came back from work, the women would change their apron into the prettiest one and go on the porch for a chat with the neighbors.
As a kid, I often wondered about that clean apron: it did not have any use.
You see, many women born before 1900 had a strict Victorian education: they were not supposed to have fun and should always appear as if they were working. On the other end, you would not show up on the porch with the soiled apron you had been wearing while working in the yard. The clean apron was a symbol that you were hardworking, keeping up a good house and that you were not losing time. A woman with no apron at all would have appeared to be lazy or lewd, or both.
After the war, more women got a job: ladies staying home did not want an apron any more, at least not outside.

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