Proverbs tells us that a virtuous woman “works with her hands with delight,” and “does not eat the bread of idleness.” The truly beautiful girl is one who sees her life as a mission of service. What others view as a burden, she views as a blessing and opportunity.
I was nothing if not hard working. I often completed all of my school work before lunch, so that I could then turn to reading, sewing, or any of a number of other hobbies. School was something I excelled at, and my parents were proud of me. I studied advanced science and math and loved learning languages.
Of course, as much as my parents valued academics, I knew there were other areas a young woman must excel in if she wants to attract a proper husband. I therefore learned to cook, both from my mother or from simple experimentation. I prided myself on my pies, and even made noodles from scratch. I even learned to can, as I knew that this skill would be needed in a proper wife.
I also enjoyed gardening. We always had large gardens, and we children did a great deal of the tending and weeding, sometimes waking at dawn in the summer months to weed before the summer heat. In addition to learning to garden, I also studied edible plants and medicinal herbs. I learned that dandelions could be eaten in salads, that plantain was good for mosquito bites, and that raspberry leaves made an excellent tea for pregnant women (such as my mother). I even tried to make flour out of clover. I loved walking through marshy areas or abandoned lots looking for plants that matched the pictures in my books, becoming excited at each new find. I knew that a proper wife should be able to forage for food and prepare herbal remedies, especially if the government collapsed and the country descended into anarchy as we always feared it would.
In addition to cooking and gardening, I knew a proper wife must know how to sew. This was no problem for me as I sewed clothing for myself and my younger siblings and crocheted sweaters for whichever child was the baby at the moment. I also sewed a quilt, because I knew a proper wife must fill her hope chest with homemade quilts. I cross-stitched several samplers as well, ever proud of my growing accomplishments. I would be ready, I knew, for that moment when a godly man would seek my hand in marriage.
I also spent a good deal of time teaching my younger siblings. I taught them subjects like languages and math, eager to help my mom out by taking some of the load off her shoulders while at the same time practicing for when I would someday homeschool my own children.
When my mother needed help, I was quick to jump to her assistance. I would stop in the middle of my studies to make lunch, or to take some of the younger children off of her hands. When she and dad were out for an evening and I was in charge of the children, I would organize them to clean the house from top to bottom, and we were always eager to see how much we could surprise our parents. In addition, any time I felt that a room had grown to messy or cluttered, I cleaned and organized it. I loved organizing, and frequently volunteered for organizational tasks.
It may seem strange, given this emphasis on homemaking skills, but I was raised with the expectation that I would go to college after high school rather than simply remaining by my mother’s side. My parents both had college degrees and even as they became more and more conservative and moved into Christian Patriarchy territory, their belief in the importance of education was one thing they never questioned. This is why they worked so hard to give me a good education as they homeschooled me. While many in the Christian Patriarchy movement see college, especially for girls, as evil and brainwashing, my parents believed that if they brought us up properly and taught us Truth, we would never stray from it. And of course, they taught me that I should go to college not to attain a career, but rather in order to have a good job until I married, or in case something happened to my husband someday – death or major injury – and I had to work. In other words, they did not want us girls to have careers, but rather to have the ability to get decent jobs if circumstances made it necessary.
Looking back, I find it interesting how much my parents’ expectations shaped the skills I felt I needed to know to be an accomplished young woman. While most Americans focus on their daughters finishing high school or applying for college, I saw it as just as important that I learn to cook, garden, and sew. I was always busy, always working on something, but never discontent. I loved learning and I wanted very much to be an accomplished young woman so that I could attract a godly suitor. While I am glad that I learned what I did, I wonder at my source of motivation.