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Museum Displays Why 'Women's Work Is Never Done'

Exhibit runs through Aug. 27.

Men work from sun to sun, but women's work is never done.

The has taken this familiar old saying and turned it into its latest exhibit.

Women's Work is Never Done features a variety of antique appliances and other equipment used by mothers, grandmothers and great-grandmothers to keep the house clean and the home in order.

"Girls nowadays don't know how lucky they are," said Dorothy Boshears, the museum's director.

This is the third year for the women's work exhibit, which features a number of items that are on loan to the museum or part of someone's personal collection. "Each year I bring in two or three things that are new. I'll go to the antique stores in the area and ask if I can borrow something," Boshears said.

The first item you encounter when entering the exhibit is a washtub, which served two functions in the old days. On Mondays women would traditionally use the tub to wash clothes; on Saturdays it was used for the weekly family baths. 

"They made their own soap out of bacon grease or lard, fat from a pig," Boshears said.

Next to the washtub is a 1930s version of the washing machine. "This one has a porcelain tub," Boshears said. "I've never seen one with porcelain before -- most are metal with enamel."

Once the clothes were washed, they needed to be ironed. The exhibit features flat irons from the 1800s, including one with an opening in the side where you would put in hot coals.

Other appliances include a sweeper from the 1920s, a coffee grinder, a large contraption used to separate milk and cream, a spinning wheel, butter churns and a variety of kitchen utensils.

One cabinet displays the old stamp books that women used to use. Stamps would be collected and later turned in for useful items. "I used them to buy my kids a baby car bed that you put in the backseat. You couldn't do it nowadays, you'd get arrested," Boshears said.

There's also sections dedicated to old home remedies, embroidery and sewing, and early examples of makeup, hair curlers and brushes. A number of antique wedding photographs and other photos are displayed in the main hall.

Protective garb worn by women is also featured. "This is a sun bonnet," Boshears said while pointing to an object under glass. "No self-respecting woman went out without a bonnet to protect herself from the sun."

There's also a tribute to the apron. "I still wear an apron when cooking family dinners," Boshears said. "One day my granddaughter asked, 'what is that thing you have on?'"

Women's Work is Never Done runs through Aug. 27 at the Frenchtown Museum, 1121 N. Second St. in St. Charles. The museum is open from noon-3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday or by appointment.

The museum's next exhibit will be on the Civil War in Missouri. It will open Sept. 1 and run through mid-October. A dinner fundraiser for the museum is scheduled for Sept. 16. A Civil War-era dinner, including live music from the time, will be served at the museum. Tickets cost $35 and are available now. Seating is restricted to 50 people.

For more information visit www.frenchtownmuseum.net or call 636-946-8682.

Christine Zika August 14, 2011 at 01:29 PM
I don't things have changed much except the tools and the type of work. That is why I believe every women deserves her very own Concierge!
Kalen Ponche August 15, 2011 at 04:03 AM
I agree Christine!

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