Women's Work in Hopkins County, Texas


Away back in the early settlement of Hopkins County some of the hardest work that women and girls had to do was washing and ironing the clothing in which men did such hard work as had to be done in that day. This washing was a weekly task for the women of every household. There were no steam laundries then. There was not even a washing machine or a wringer of any kind. The washing place for a whole neighborhood was a well-shaded spot on the bank of some creek where a clean hole of water could be had. Every girl in the whole neighborhood spent at least one day in each week at the washing place.

Sometimes the young men would call around and have a lover's chat with his best girl. This occurrence grew to be common and there was comfort to the heart of every true but modest lover in the thought that she will see her sweetheart on that day. The boys who were too small to work in the field had to help the girls with the washing. The pounding or battling together with their cheerful and merry songs could be heard for a great distance. One old pioneer citizen said to the other: "I often look back to the days I spent with my sisters and my sweetheart under mammoth oak trees in balmy spring, sultry summer and melancholy autumn as among the happiest of my life." It was the work of the small boy to keep the kettles filled with water, brought from the hole in the creek over the steep and slippery banks, carry wood and keep up the fires and do most of the battling while the mother or sister stood over the tub and did the rubbing. No doubt but that the girls often bent over the wash tub with a new joy at their hearts, a flush on their cheeks, a quiver in their breath and unshed tears of delight and happiness in their eyes because of the sight of the approach of their lover.

Every housewife manufactured her own soap. There was not a pound of soap in the whole country except that which the women made. All, the bones from the bacon, beef, pork, deer, bear used by the family during the year, scraps of every kind were carefully saved for soap grease. All this made more work and drudgery for the women. The alkali used in making soap. Soft soap was obtained from the ashes which accumulated in those large, old-time fireplaces during the cold season. An "ash-hopper" was an indispensable article of outdoor furniture in every home. The ashes were put into the hopper as they accumulated in the fireplace during the cold season. When the time came to make soap in the early spring, water had to be hauled from the creeks or holes in the creek, however distant the water. The girls who did the washing, ironing and soap making are the mothers of some of the most honored, esteemed and respected citizens of Hopkins County, having imbibed the industrious habits of their mothers they became useful men in the county.

The influence of a mother upon her offspring is as lasting as life. By her example and precept homes are made happy or miserable, hence the fearful responsibility that hangs over the mother. The quiltings of long ago deserves a place in these reminiscences. They were simply feminine accomplishments of house raisings and sometimes log rollings. When the men and boys were gathered together to raise a house there the women and girls would be also engaged in a quilting. When the house was raised and the quilting was done the young men and young ladies joined in a midnight revel, dancing, songs and plays common to that day and generation, such as "How lonely is the turtle dove," "Hog drovers we are, etc.," was sung in a hilarious and merry manner. Kissing was a part of all these plays, which was always performed in the presence of the players and singers and not under cover of darkness. The best element of citizens engaged in these pastimes for amusement. Notwithstanding these plays and songs, innocent in their performance, were endorsed by the parents.

Religion was far more universally respected than now. In fact everybody believed in it. The author does not remember of hearing of a skeptic or infidel in the whole county as far back as forty-five years ago. Everybody who could get religion was a member of some church, and those who could not get it rarely ceased to try, and never seemed to doubt the reality of heaven and hell, the existence of God and the inspiration of the Bible. In regard to this honest, sincere dealings and actions of the people in that day, we quote the following mental food for the thoughtful reader to ponder over and to digest: "The ecclesiastic history of the world, as well as the plain words of the Savior, seems to indicate rather that the kingdom of heaven cometh not with observation. The ages of spiritual decadence in the history of the church have always been characterized by immense revenues, large endowments, costly houses of worship and glittering paraphernalia.

All reformations in religion have succeeded by the personal zeal of poor, penniless advocates against the fat or plethoric purses of richly endowed churches. When religious people depend more upon money than upon morality, more upon collections than upon consecration, more upon policy than upon prayer, more upon vanity than upon virtue, more upon looks than love and more upon fine houses than upon firm faith and pure hearts, the time of their dissolution as a religious body is at hand. Strong churches, fine brick and stone houses and plenty of money, all these may be very well in their way, but without charity they are but "sounding brass or tinkling cymbal."

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