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Tag Archives: Ecclesiastes

Our First American Woman Poet

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Her family’s good status helped her in having a good raising and education. In her growing up years, Anne was taught history, several languages, and literature. Anne had been well tutored in literature and history. She learned Greek, Latin, French, Hebrew, as well as English. She was married to Simon Bradstreet at the age of sixteen and had eight children.

Image result for governor bradstreet Simon Bradstreet

Though 17th century American poet Anne Bradstreet once called her poems “homespun,” her words sore above her dreary and dire life in early New England. Leaving England for the New World in 1630, with her husband and parents, she met a world an ocean away comprised of unknown fevers, malnutrition, poor food, and Indian attacks.

Image result for governor bradstreet

The voyage to America on the “Arbella” with John Winthrop took three months and was quite difficult, with several people dying from the experience. Life was rough and cold, quite a change from the beautiful estate with its well-stocked library where Anne spent many hours. As Anne tells her children in her memoirs, “I found a new world and new manners at which my heart rose [up in protest.].”

Image result for john winthrop John Winthrop

Her conflict with the Puritan faith and love for her husband inundated her verse. When I taught her poetry in American literature classes, students were astonished with the depth of her writing. She had no formal education, was home schooled by her literary father, and described her world with realism. She was the first American woman poet to be published.

Image result for governor bradstreet

 

More often, her poems and meditations consist of drawing moral lessons from her domestic activities–house cleaning, baking, preserving, caring for her children–or from her observations of nature. And she observed deeply those personal experiences, allowing them to speak to her.

Spring is my favorite season, and I welcomed it early this year. A variety of birds have found our bird feeder and have started their nest building under John’s workshop with their lattice protection. Even the days are finally longer.

“Spring flew swiftly by, and summer came; and if the village had been beautiful at first, it was now in the full glow and luxuriance of its richness. The great trees, which had looked shrunken and bare in the earlier months, had now burst into strong life and health; and stretching forth their green arms over the thirsty ground, converted open and naked spots into choice nooks, where was a deep and pleasant shade from which to look upon the wide prospect, steeped in sunshine, which lay stretched out beyond. The earth had donned her mantle of brightest green; and shed her richest perfumes abroad. It was the prime and vigour of the year; all things were glad and flourishing,” said Charles Dickens.

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant,” wrote Anne Bradstreet. Whether it is the weather or our circumstances, we can count on this change of seasons.

“Contemplations” is considered by many as her best poem.

Then higher on the glistering Sun I gaz’d

Whose beams was shaded by the leavie Tree,

The more I look’d, the more I grew amaz’d

And softly said, what glory’s like to thee?

Soul of this world, this Universes Eye,

No wonder, some made thee a Deity:

Had I not better known, (alas) the same had I

The wisest man to ever live, King Solomon affirmed this truth in Ecclesiastes 3:1. “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens….” I am so grateful for spring.

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Flour Sack Dresses

Until I started researching about the lives of Appalachian women who worked in the cotton mills, I had never heard of flour sack dresses.

We tend to think that recycling as a new thing, but Solomon tells us plainly that, “What has been will be again; what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9

During the Great Depression, all had to be salvaged; scrimping and saving was a way of life. It was not an option. Clothing for growing children was, of course, a necessity, and cloth was expensive.

Going to buy one of their staples, flour, at a mill’s Company Store created a new market for the flour sacks. Mothers made dresses, shirts, pillow cases, curtains, and kitchen towels out of empty sacks.

flour sack dresses, depression dresses, feed sack dresses, depression fashion, great depression fashion

Manufacturers weren’t slow on picking up on this, so they packaged their flour in printed bags of cotton. Even animal feed sacks followed suit to help their consumers out. Notice the variety of patterns in the Sun Bonnet Sue Flower below.

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During World War II, there was a shortage of cotton fabric for the civilian population, and the recycling of bags became a necessity, encouraged by the government. The military was using cotton for their uniforms.  Using feed sacks for sewing was considered patriotic, and women still enjoyed finding attractive prints on feed sacks  One feed sack could have easily made a child’s dress or shirt, and three identical sacks to make a woman’s dress. One study said that over three and half million women and children were wearing clothes created from feed and flour sacks.

Flower Sack Dresses From the Flour Mills

Looking at these old patterns, it is obvious that manufacturers aimed to please a variety of tastes in their consumers. They are bright, beautiful, and useful.  It was a great marketing ploy as women picked out flour, sugar, beans, rice, cornmeal and even the feed and fertilizer for the family farm based on which fabrics they desired.  Some sacks displayed lovely border prints for pillowcases.  Scenic prints were also popular.  Manufacturers even made preprinted patterns for dolls, stuffed animals, appliqué and quilt blocks. Rodkey’s Best Flour sold a bag with Alice in Wonderland characters printed on it.

One of the vignettes at the Textile Museum in Englewood, Tennessee, includes this quote, “I washed five feed sacks and made me a bedspread.”

I have several flour sack kitchen towels that were my Nanna’s. Even after all these years, they are the best drying cloths I own. And if you want some similar ones, try the Vermont Country Store. You won’t have to buy flour with these!

The 1930’s Flour Sack 
by Colleen B. HubertIn that long ago time when things were saved, 
when roads were graveled and barrels were staved
and there were no plastic wrap or bags, 
and the well and the pump were way out back, 
a versatile item, was the flour sack.

Pillsbury’s best, mother’s and gold medal, too
stamped their names proudly in purple and blue. 
The string sewn on top was pulled and kept
the flour emptied and spills were swept. 
The bag was folded and stored in a sack
That durable, practical flour sack.

The sack could be filled with feathers and down, 
for a pillow, or t’would make a nice sleeping gown.
it could carry a book and be a school bag, 
or become a mail sack slung over a nag.
It made a very convenient pack,
That adaptable, cotton flour sack.

Bleached and sewn, it was dutifully worn
as bibs, diapers, or kerchief adorned.
It was made into skirts, blouses and slips.
And mom braided rugs from one hundred strips
she made ruffled curtains for the house or shack,
from that humble but treasured flour sack!

As a strainer for milk or apple juice,
to wave men in, it was a very good use,
as a sling for a sprained wrist or a break,
to help mother roll up a jelly cake,
as a window shade or to stuff a crack,
we used a sturdy, common flour sack!

As dish towels, embroidered or not,
they covered up dough, helped pass pans so hot,
tied up dishes for neighbors in need,
and for men out in the field to seed.
They dried dishes from pan, not rack
that absorbent, handy flour sack!

We polished and cleaned stove and table,
scoured and scrubbed from cellar to gable,
we dusted the bureau and oak bed post,
made costumes for October (a scary ghost)
and a parachute for a cat named jack.
From that lowly, useful old flour sack!

So now my friends, when they ask you
As curious youngsters often do,
“before plastic wrap, elmers glue
and paper towels, what did you do?”
tell them loudly and with pride don’t lack,
“grandmother had that wonderful flour sack!”

Flour sack dress from the 1930's

There’s something “that long time ago” that we shouldn’t forget.