Marriage and parenthood brought women new
responsibilities. If they had done so before, most women no
longer worked outside the home. A few women (mostly located
in towns and cities) retained their jobs or acquired new
ones, but only if necessary to support their families.
Otherwise, they were expected to raise their children and
perform most of the household chores. In the early 20th
century, simple chores were a lot more involved. Clothing
was washed by hand and usually had to be ironed. Most foods
were prepared from scratch and might require milking the
household cow or collecting eggs from the chicken coop.
Wood-burning ovens required constant attention to maintain
the right temperature.
Even when new household appliances became available,
families were reluctant to purchase these labour-saving
devices. As Nellie McClung observed in her 1919 book, In
Times Like These, farm families were more likely to
buy steam tractors or binders than washing machines. The
former mechanized equipment helped to raise farms'
productivity as well as alleviate the burden of backbreaking
labour on men. Despite technological advances, most families
were reluctant to invest in washing machines and women
continued to wash their families' clothes using washboards.
In addition to their housework, in most cases, mothers
were also responsible for caring for their children. This
included bathing and feeding, consoling and disciplining,
and in remote areas, mothers taught their children to read
and write. As they grew older, children could be given
certain chores, especially on farms. Girls were responsible
for cleaning up after supper, and generally did more inside
the house than their brothers. This type of division
introduced at such an early age suggested that women's place was in the
home. More outspoken girls and those who grew up in more
progressive homes, including the Famous 5, were not so
easily indoctrinated and more likely to challenge such
beliefs when they grew older.