Rambling Wren

12 Sep 2006

A quiet house tonight as only one child is in residence. My daughter is staying at a friend's farm and #1 son is also staying at a friend's house. It completely changes the dynamics of the household when there is only one child here and I wonder how it will be when they have all moved on to homes of their own.

I've been reading a book about a girl raised in a Mennonite family in Canada. I love reading about the various anabaptist faiths especially the Amish, the Hutterites and the Mennonites. I am not aware of any people of these faiths in Australia apart from a Hutterite community in NSW but I think the residents are actually all Americans
trying to establish a new community.

I am attracted to learning about these faiths not particularly because of their religious practices but because of their sense of community and that as a group they are able to hold modernity at arms length and choose only th
e parts they want, rejecting the rest.

I also like the fact that the role of homemaker is well respected at least within the Amish and Old Order Mennonite faiths. Although to the observer the women have little choice as to whether they are a homemaker or not this doesn't mean the role is devalued. From what I have read a well organised,frugal housewife who is
willing to work hard to maintain her home and family is vital to a family's overall success.

Reading about Australia in pioneer times a woman's role was seen as equally important and a man's success as a landholder was dependant on a good wife. It may have been a very hard life but a sensible man knew life was better
when shared with a capable woman.

I'd like to be thought of as a capable woman, I doubt that I will ever be tested as the pioneer women were and I don't know that I would pass the test. I hope my skills as a housewife are an asset to our family and not a hindrance. Women, ordinary women in the not too distant past worked so very hard physically in their h
omes as well as often bearing many children. In Australia in the early years these women were often very isolated as well. I think they were marvellous and even though there were numerous hardships it seems many women were still intent upon making their homes as comfortable and comforting as they could by using their various needlework skills and feminine abilities.

This has been a rambling post, forgive my lack of direction. It is interesting to consider that our lives are the way they are because we happen to have been born in a particular country at a particular time. We need to stop and consider every now and then those who have gone before us and have tried to live lives of dignity and purpose regardless of their situation.

7 Responses to “Rambling Wren”

  1. You know I was a total pampered princess, but now that I AM ALL GROWN UP I want to be able to do it myself. I like knowing I can count on me. Clarice

  2. It's funny, I have been musing on this subject myself the last few days - I think I will post about it :)

  3. I love your images - where do you find them all?

  4. A pioneer heritage is not something I can share with you. I suppose because my ancestors chose to stay behind. I can see how good women were the bedrock of early settler communities though and it's something I often muse upon after I've read a book, or watched a film set in those times. The question is: would I be tough enough? I honestly don't know.

    I'm also interested in 18th and 19th century "plain" communities. Yes, it is the sense of simplicity and community that draws me to them. Great post Jenny, thank you!

  5. Jenny,
    Great subject ~ thanks for sharing your ramblings!

  6. I live in Tennessee. There is a Mennonite community a couple of counties away from here, near where my mother was born. This particular community must accept a few modern things. We went out there to buy some of their famous peanut brittle one year, and we saw somone running a generator. I think there may even be a truck or two somewhere around. But, for the most part, the Mennonites do continue to lead a simple life. Most drive horses and buggies when they come into the county seat. The car drivers in the county drive with great respect for the buggies.

    Oddly, in the sixties, a hippie commune from California also setttled in this same, conservative, rural, Tennessee county. They chose to come here because they figured that if the the local people accepted the Mennonite community, perhaps, they would also accept the hippie commune.

    The hippies and Mennonites do share a desire to live a simple, agrarian life. But, their religious beliefs are far different. I'm not sure exactly what they believe today, but when they first got here, they followed a mishmash of religious ideas with a lot of "Hindu" and "Buddist" thinking thrown in.

    When the hippies arrived, they were mostly college students with a dream of going "back to the land" but no actual knowledge of farming. Some even got sick because of where the community placed it's latrines. So, the local farmers took pity on them and came in and showed them how to farm. They helped the hippies get through their first few years on the land.

    The hippies used to wear colorful tie dyes, so everyone called them, "The Technicolor Amish", as opposed to the Mennonites, who wear subdued clothing.

    Over time, the hippies have given up some of their more bizarre practices, such as "open marriage". They are outwardly more conservative now, but I'm pretty sure that they still wouldn't describe themseles as being Christians. on the subject.

    One of the hippie woman is a famous midwife, who has written several books on the subject. Her name is Ina May Gaston. Maybe, you've heard of her.

    Anyhow, that's more than you probably wanted to know. But, I've always found the mix of Mennonite, conservative farmers, and hippies in that county to be a fascinating one.


  7. I've sometimes wondered whether I'd be an adequate wife in more pioneering times. I like to think I'd do alright, and maybe even well. I enjoy the "domestic arts" (but don't tell anyone...).


Thanks so much for taking the time to chat. I don't always have time to reply but I do read every message you leave.