Domestic Work in the Nineteenth Century

Women’s work on a farm didn’t change much in the late nineteenth century. Basic tasks such as preparing food, cleaning, and washing clothes were time consuming and required a great deal of labor. In these videos, participants in the Junior Reenactor program and staff of Duke Homestead State Historic Site in Durham, North Carolina, demonstrate some of the work involved in maintaining a household in the 1870s.

play videoAn open fire is the oldest means of cooking! Here, reenactors make hoe cakes — small corn cakes small enough to be baked on the back of a farmer’s hoe, as they originally were.

play videoThe cast-iron cookstove was fairly new technology in the 1870s. In this video, reenactors show how it worked.

play videoWashing a family’s clothes and linens was an all-day job — and ironing was another.