Blanche Merrill Brickett and her
daughter; Katherine Lang Morrison

Blanche Merrill Brickett led a short life, dying of "brain trouble" (probably a tumor) at 27.  She, however, was the epitome of Victorian womanhood: educated, religious, a participant in her community, curious and charming.  At the turn of the century, women's roles were changing.  Increasing incomes created a middle class, and with it, middle class women with the time to pursue  leisure activities... and politics. 

In 1890 only 3% of Americans attended college (by 1930 this will rise to a great 8%), but Blanche attended both high school, and Salem Normal School, where she prepared for a career as a teacher.  With Blanche begins a family obsession with education, and every daughter henceforth will go on to college.

Blanche will, instead of marrying a farmer, marry Edmund Copeland Lang  a progressive businessman with a zest for life, and interests in Boston.  For their honeymoon, they will travel by train across the country, meeting various business associates in their travels. Each meeting Blanche will duly record in her diary, including the details of the wife's dress, right down to the gloves they were wearing.  As the honeymoon trip progresses, Blanche learns to gracefully flatter her husband's superiors, and even begins to enjoy herself.  She lavishes considerable time in her journal on one of the most exciting meals of the trip... a visit to a cafeteria, where "we chose what we wished to eat, neatly displayed on plates for the taking and retired to our table with our trays!"

Because of her husband's position, Blanche enjoyed a middle class lifestyle, complete with trips to the beach, and days spent on her husband's sailboat cruising out of Boston.  In 1900, half of the working women in the United States are domestic servants, or farmhands, and Blanche is fortunate to be responsible for a small city house instead of doing heavy labor on the farm. 

Still, the life of a housewife at the turn of the century is one of brutally hard labor.  Cooking was done over a coal stove which required constant attention.  The stoves exploded, went out, belched black soot, and cooked unevenly.  Laundry was a nightmare, and Victorians wore many pounds more clothing than we wear today, in summer a woman might wear almost 30 pounds of stiff garments.

The bathtub was a relatively new invention, and frequently required hot water be heated on the stove, then carried, one bucket at a time, up to the tub.  Victorians were obsessed with germs, but the labor required to take a bath, and their deep suspicion of hot water, kept such things to a minimum.
Blanche would die in 1910, mourned by her community and eulogized in a flowery obituary in her local paper.  Though she once traveled by train, and was competent with a carriage, she didn't live long enough to see her husband buy the 41st license issued in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  That license, number 41, was passed parent to child until  registering cars in two states became too much of a burden.  The last plate hangs in our shed.