Before the Shakers invented the clothes-peg in the 18th Century, freshly washed laundry was draped on bushes or tree limbs to dry. In 1853 the spring clothespin was invented by David M. Smith of Vermont and it revolutionized wash day. The advantage of Smith’s spring clamp was that it could not “be detached from the clothes by the wind as is the case with the common pin and which is a serious evil to washerwomen.”
The Work of Grief
Martha Carter was born in Warren at the turn of the 19th Century. When she was 23 she married Gustavus Rouse and they had 6 children. From the time she was 32 until her death in 1886 she bore the grief of burying her husband and all of her children save one.
While war always bring great technological change, one innovation of the Civil War affected Martha Rouse directly. When her youngest son, Lucien, succumbed to diphtheria while serving the 19th CT Volunteers in Alexandria, VA his body was embalmed so that he could be returned to his family rather than on the battlefield. Lucien’s gravestone in the Old Warren Cemetery really does mark his final resting place.
The inscription on Martha’s only monument reads: “She hath done what she could.”
Mary Wadsworth Carter 1815 – 1893
By mid-century, Mary Wadsworth Carter had been married to Edmund Swift for nine years and they had two daughters. Although being a Carter and married to a Swift, Mary would have enjoyed a higher standard of living that most of her contemporaries, these pair of shoes which she wore at her wedding show that they had not been worn for just one occasion.
Made of fine tan kid leather with a square toe which became fashionable in the late 1820’s, the shoes were made with a straight last without right or left definition and no heel. Heels had fallen from use after the French Revolution. Heelless-ness obviously made the political statement that all people were created equal.
Clarissa Bassett was born in Litchfield in 1801, the daughter of Nathan Bassett and Mehitibel Buel. When she was 28 she married George Pomeroy Tallmadge, the son of John Tallmadge who owned the Warren General Store.
As the wife of a prominent Warren businessman, farmer, postmaster and even legislator, Clarissa had a young woman in service to the household. Nancy Cable was a free person of color who lived with and worked for the Tallmadges. It would have been Nancy who would have churned the butter and used a wooden butter mold such as this.
The theme for the Warren Historical Society for 2019 is Made by Hand in homage to the skills mastered by early Warren residents. Over the next few weeks, and maybe even months, our blog posts will be devoted to the work of women. Each week the life’s work of one woman from Warren will be highlighted.
Rhoda Payne Strong, the first child of European ancestry to be born in Warren, will be introduced first.
Rhoda was born in September of 1739 to Stephen Payne and Sarah Leach. She married Philip Strong at the age of 20 and together they produced a family of 15 children. To say her days were full is an understatement.
Aside from caring for her 15 children, tending the kitchen garden, making and repairing clothes for the household including spinning, weaving, knitting and dyeing, laundering which included fetching water, making soap, boiling the wash and then drying it, cooking, baking, preserving, tending the ill including preparing medications, Rhoda Payne, as a Puritan woman, would have been expected to devote herself to spiritual concerns. She learned to read as a girl so that she could read the Bible. This is a book of sermons which she purchased in November 1796.