Friday, August 21, 2009

Being crafty in 1812

For some reason, this has been the summer of forts from the War of 1812, and Fort Erie was on yesterday's agenda. If you only have time for one fort, I'd recommend this one - the display here was more moving and vivid than the others I've seen, which is saying something. Plus, ghosts!

I'm interested in everything about the way people lived in other times, but I'm always especially on the lookout for information about women and the work they did, and at this stop I learned a lot. Picture this, if you will:

Out of 100 British soldiers, 6 would be allowed to bring their wives and children to be with them in Canada - though of course, they would be evacuated from the Fort in times of fighting. These 6 women would be paid to do the sewing and mending and laundry for their own husbands plus the other 94 men.

They were granted a little privacy by way of a blanket around the bed they shared with their husbands, but they would still be sleeping in a room that housed about 60 people.

Their children - there might be anywhere from 10 to 30 of them - would sleep wherever they could find space.

I read that sheep were kept at the Fort, so I asked a gentleman about the spinning the women did after I found this display in the other half of the barracks:

He said that not only did they spin their own wool - they spun flax to make linen. No wonder we found so many children's toys on display... how else could they have found the time to get the work done?

ps: this trip was a substitute for the Alpaca Farm trip that got rained out. Click here to read the surprising way the day ended.

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