A Poem For Your Day

Here’s a little poem for you.


Grandmother, on a winter’s day, milked the cows,

slopped the hogs, and got the children off to school;

did a washing, mopped the floors,

washed the windows, and did some chores;

cooked a dish of home-dried fruit,

pressed her husband’s Sunday suit,

swept the parlor, made the bed,

baked a dozen loaves of bread,

split some firewood and lugged it in,

enough to fill the kitchen bin;

cleaned the lamps and put in oil,

stewed some apples she thought would spoil

churned the butter, baked a cake,

then exclaimed, “For goodness’ sake,

the calves have got out of the pen,”

and went out and chased them in again;

gathered the eggs and locked the stable,

back to the house and set the table,

cooked a supper that was delicious,

and afterward washed up all the dishes;

fed the cat and sprinkled the clothes,

mended a basketful of hose;

then opened the organ and began to play

“When you come to the end of a perfect day.”


A writer on the site where I found this poem (snopes.com) points out that this is a nostalgic view of life in the “good old days.”   Reality was much harsher—poverty, disease, loss and backbreaking toil were just a few of the burdens women had to face.  In many states they couldn’t vote or own property.  They bore their children under some of the worst conditions imaginable. 


I’m thinking of this in terms of the historical romances we write.  Is there a place for this rosy view of the olden days, or are we obligated to deal with life as it really was.  I would love hearing some opinions on this.


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16 thoughts on “A Poem For Your Day”

  1. Great question, Elizabeth. I think, because romance technically means an optimistic viewpoint, we tend to write rosier. I myself don’t like to read really sad stuff. I hate thinking of the awful smells. I’m so spoiled, I can’t imagine life without disposable diapers, sanitary products, antiperspirants, a culture that didn’t bathe much…no clothes driers so you had to wear clothes dirtier than we would. And giving birth I. The wild west has my hair stand on end…

    My gramma had so much work to do in the depression years, and she had little health care. She died at just turning 79 yet many of her children are living into their nineties…

    Good post!

  2. Thanks, Goldie. My grandma did all those things, too.

    Does anybody remember the song mentioned in the poem? I do. In fact I loved it so much that I had it sung at my father’s funeral. It was perfect for him. But I was amazed at how few people in the family were familiar with it.

  3. I think a little of both. I think it’s easier on the soul to remember the past as better than it really was. But there is that saying about history repeating itself if it isn’t remembered. You don’t want to dwell on the bad parts, but it does need to never be forgotten.

  4. Thanks for your very insightful comments, Tanya. Yes, in writing romance we can and do gloss over the grittier aspects of life in the Old West. It must’ve been pretty tough, especially for women.

  5. I think that the women of that time were just raised to know that that was your job. My grandmother also was jailer for any women that my grandfather arrested because the town didn’t have but two cells. They were locked in the wash house and made to help with laundry day. She was a strong lady that lived to her 90’s. I remember all of that because my grandparents still had the icehouse and icebox and she used arm power for laundry. I’m too soft, I think.

  6. There’s a reason why those photos show careworn women who probably were only in their late 20s and looked like they were 60… and their lifespans were very short… I would have never made it in those early days..

  7. Your grandma must have been one tough lady, Connie. She’d make a great story character (I can see it now, the heroine gets arrested and has to help this woman with the wash…)

  8. Just reading that poem made me tired. However, I have done a lot of those things in my younger days. Before all the modern conveniences. I have heard the song mentioned, but not for a very long time. As I mentioned, I have done some of the things and it wasn’t too long ago—1950’s. Lived on the California/Nevada border with no electricity. And yes, I am writing it up…

  9. You sound like a real pioneer, Mary J. I’m glad somebody recognized that song. It’s such a beautiful old song, I’m tempted to blog about it.
    Also glad you’re writing up your experiences. Go for it!

  10. Elizabeth,
    My mom lived this kind of life–she was born in 1922, lived through the Dustbowl days of the Great Depression here in Oklahoma, and graduated from a class of 12 seniors, total. Although she left her little town and she and my dad moved around the state of Oklahoma a lot (he worked in the oilfield)and progressed financially, etc. she still loved to remember “the good old days” (which really weren’t so good at all). But to her, those days were painted with a rosy tint, and time and distance colored them into something that was pleasurable to remember rather than drudgery. They were romanticized in her mind. So…I guess there is a place for both views in romance writing, right? LOL This was a really interesting post. Made me think.
    Cheryl P.

  11. She may consider it a nostalgic view, but the poor woman was working her fingers to the bone. If she chose to do it with a smile rather than a frown, good for her. It made the days work easier.
    I like the fiction I read to be pretty accurate. No reason to downplay how difficult life was. You don’t have to stress the negative, that would sink your story, but finding love while struggling through this sort of life makes it all the more sweet.

  12. Sorry for not responding to your wonderful comments last night ladies (after getting her book in the mail, this grandmother was done in, to say nothing of chopping wood and chasing calves).
    Good point, Cheryl. The past tend to look rosier when we look back on it.

    And you said it all, Patricia. The point of this poem is that the grandmother went about her work choosing to smile and not complain. This comment is so good I want to frame it. Thanks for stopping by.

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