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Thursday, May 18, 2017

My Own Piece of Victorian History

This is one of my great great grandmother's irons. She had two irons that I know of. I always wondered why she would need two irons, after all, my own mother had just one iron and that was completely satisfactory.

Watching Victorian Slum House this week filled in the blanks for me. My great great grandmother had two irons, so that on ironing day, she could keep one on the stove at all times, and have a hot one to work with for afternoon without wasting time waiting for an iron to heat up.

Words of wisdom from one of the children in the Slum House, "every penny counts when you're in Victorian times because it could be the one penny that gets you your meal." This child was telling jokes on a street corner in London, for a penny a joke. She described the work as embarrassing, but she was willing to do this for the benefit of her family.

We're obviously far removed from needing to take on humiliating or back-breaking work to feed our families, or request any of this of our children. So, it is difficult to imagine this life.

If there is a lesson to be learned from this show, for me personally, it is to work hard whenever there is opportunity, plan for tomorrow, because one never knows what difficulties may lie around the corner, to appreciate the blessings that I have today, and to be compassionate with someone who has less than myself.

How about you? What have been your thoughts on this show, if you've been following? And I'm guessing that I'm not the only one who owns one of these old irons. I see them in vintage and antique shops frequently, so there must be many of them out there. Do you have one, too? What do you use yours for? Mine is a book end for some of my cookbooks.


  1. I wonder at what point they started to put a point on the end of the iron?

    1. Hi live and learn,
      my sister has the other iron from our family and hers has more of a point to the end than mine does. Ironing day for a family of 10 must have been a challenge.
      I hope that your day is off to a great start, live and learn!

  2. Yes, we're watching it with interest. The history part of it is informative. We'll keep watching unless we forget which we have tendencies to do!

    I don't own one of those irons and probably won't go looking for one. My house is too small and it is filled to the brim.


    1. Hi Alice,
      The history is very interesting, isn't it? I wonder how much of US history parallels Britain's history. The US had it's own share of an influx of immigrants in the late 1800s. I wonder if cities like New York had similar class divisions to London's. Food for thought.

      Have a great day, Alice.

  3. Well dumb me thought it was on at 9:00 p.m. not 8:00 p.m. so tonight I will watch the video on PBS. Can't wait to see it. Cheryl

    1. Hi Cheryl,
      Oh no! At least you have the opportunity to watch online if you want. That is how I watch TV, now. I think it's a lot more convenient. Hope you enjoy it!

  4. I do have one of those irons! It was my great, great grandmother's too. It is just sitting collecting dust in the basement as I had no use for it. But now, thanks to your blog, I will use it as a book end as well. Brilliant idea! Thank you.

    1. Hi Jayne,
      Well, I'm glad you'll have a use for it now! My mom used one of ours as a door stop, to hold the door open in a spot where gravity or a breeze might pull the door shut too easily. A book end works for me, and looks appropriate in the kitchen, with my cookbooks.
      Have a great day, Jayne!

  5. I agree with you on the life lessons you can learn from this program. It certainly is eye-opening! I have read about slum living, doss houses, etc., but to get a visual of the living conditions (and I'm sure they are sanitized from how it really was) brings a whole new understanding for me.

    How nice that you have a tangible reminder of your great great grandmother. Good observation on the need for two irons! I bet the need for a pointier iron was for dressier clothing with more details.

    My daughter and I went with friends to a "tea and fashion" event over the weekend and the speaker was great with her historical details--put me in mind of the Victorian program, although her clothing examples were from an upper class standpoint. Seems that the outer layers were rarely, if ever, laundered--that was for the under layers, which could add 20-30 pounds of weight! Ack! Hard to imagine wearing all of that in our hot and humid summers. Not to mention dealing with feminine cycles ....

    1. Hi Kris,
      I agree that the television version is probably cleaned up a bit. We haven't seen rats scurrying about, which I would guess would have been around in numbers, back then.

      Oh my goodness, I can't imagine not washing the outer layers. They might not get as sweaty, but they would get filthy from living conditions, the sooty air, muddy streets, etc. The event that you and your daughter attended sounds like it was a lot of fun!

      Have a great day, Kris!

    2. The presenter has been at re-enactment events where she lived wearing the outfits worn back in those times. She said that most women would have only had one, maybe two sets of undergarments, even in the uppr classes. She had to put on undergarments worn the day before which were still damp from sweat. Can you imagine? Yuck! The upper classes started "training" girls for corsets at age 8. You were only allowed to loosen your corset in the privacy of your bedroom--that's where the term "loose woman" comes from, an un-corseted woman. SO many good things about living in modern times, even with all our troubles. It can be easy to romanticize history. Not sure I would want to live the reality of it.

  6. I've not seen this show, but I will put it on my to watch list. I recently just watched the first 3 seasons of Downton Abby and have enjoyed them all over again.

    1. Hi Belinda,
      I've enjoyed this show so far. Downton Abbey was a wonderful one, too. I loved the costuming. That's wonderful that you can enjoy it again.
      Have a great evening, Belinda!

  7. We started watching too! Thanks for the tip. Watching the show gives another dimension to Charles Dickens' novels.
    I came home from work the other day... the school is hot (no AC) and the kids are hot and I was just beat. Then I watched VSH and I stopped felling sorry for myself pretty quick!

    1. Hi Jen,
      Oh yes, that show puts modern life into perspective, demonstrating just how wealthy we all really are.
      Have a wonderful evening, Jen!


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