Sunday, January 19, 2014

Quote of the Day: Mary Brooks Picken

"Never try to sew with a sink full of dirty dishes or beds unmade.When there are urgent housekeeping chores, do these first so your mind is free to enjoy your sewing." 

Oh, Mary Brooks Picken! You're so domestic and painfully dug deep into the trenches of early 20th century gender roles!

Do quotes like these come off as being more dated or sexist? I'm always torn when I find books and pamphlets placing women in the kitchen and men in the workplace, but there is something about the writings of Mary Brooks Picken that occasionally makes me think she was on the right track.

Still, once you get past the blatant assignment of gender roles, I think this quote has a lot to offer. Too often in modern times we divide our attentions among activities. We clutter our brains and our lives with tasks and plans and rarely do we fully devote ourselves to the task at hand. So whether it's cleaning the dishes or changing the oil in your truck, I believe if you really want to excel at a craft you have to be willing to set aside those complications. Tidy up your to-do list, so you can approach a project with a clear mind. 

Anyway, back to the gender roles... Mary Brooks Picken started the Inspiration magazine, as well as the correspondence courses through the Woman's Institute for Domestic Arts and Sciences in the early 20th century and through these two highly influential publications were geared toward "womanly" activities, yes, but they always seemed to encourage women to use their domestic skills professionally. 

Sure, she talked as much as every other contemporary female columnist about women pleasing her "men-folk" (not sexually, folks – by maintaining a tidy house and a gentlewomanly manner) and reading some of the articles in her magazines is enough to make me physically ill with irritation at the brazen sexism, but there are also these strange little gems in her publications on women starting their own shops and businesses, improving and marketing their skills and even building successful careers as independent women. 

xoxo Emily