New Netherland

The Life of a Day,
page 3 of 7

What fishing was to the goodman of the house, knitting was to the goodwife, — a soothing, monotonous occupation, ever at hand, ever welcome, ever useful. Why, the family could scarce be clothed in comfort without these clicking needles! A goodly supply of well-knit, carefully dyed stockings was the housekeeper’s pride; and well they might be, for little were they hidden. The full knee-breeches of father and son displayed above the buckled shoes a long expanse of sturdy hosiery, and the short petticoats of mother and daughter did not hide the scarlet clocks of their own making. From the moment when the farmer gave the fleece of the sheep into the hands of his women-kind, every step of its transformation into stockings (except the knitting) was so tiresome and tedious that it is wearying even to read of it, — cleaning, washing, dyeing, carding, greasing, rolling, spinning, winding, rinsing, knotting, — truly might the light, tidy, easy knitting seem a pastime.

The endless round of “domesticall kind of drudgeries that women are put to,” as Howell says, would prove a very full list when made out from the life of one of these colonial housewives. It seems to us, of modern labor-saved and drudgery-void days, a truly overwhelming list; but the Dutch huysvrouw did not stagger under the burden, nor shrink from it, nor, indeed, did she deem any of her daily work drudgery. The sense of thrift, of plenty, of capability, of satisfaction, was so strong as to overcome the distaste to the labor of production.

She had as a recreation, a delight, the care of

                    “A garden through whose latticed gates
                    The imprisoned pinks and tulips gazed,”

a trim, stiff little garden, which often graced the narrow front dooryard; a garden perhaps of a single flower-bed surrounded by aromatic herbs for medicinal and culinary use, but homelike and beloved as such gardens ever are, and specially beloved as such gardens are by the Dutch. Many were the tulip bulbs and “coronation” pink roots that had been brought or sent over from Holland, and were affectionately cherished as reminders of the far-away Fatherland. The enthusiastic traveller Van der Donck wrote that by 1653 Netherlanders had already blooming in their American garden-borders “white and red


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