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458 pages, Hardcover
First published March 1, 2013
That Victorians could hire a "knocker-upper," which was a man with a pocketwatch who carried a long cane so he could tap on the windowpanes of his clients, which allowed workers to wake up on time and be punctual.
That women who wore cosmetics were considered to be unhealthy and unmodern, because Florence Nightingale had talked of how blocking pores would cause a long, slow poisoning through the skin. Also, wearing makeup made women feel deceitful, and others would say they lacked honesty.
That Victorians often ate a fried breakfast because it was the easiest way to cook early in the morning. A typical range would take a while to heat up, so any heavy baking had to wait until the afternoon, when the oven would be hot enough.
That drug abuse was widespread among Victorian babies. Their daily food was often accompanied by a dose of medicine, and these soothing syrups often left infants drowsy and addicted.
Hannah Cullwick fitted her morning wash in just before she cooked the family breakfast, often making use of the kitchen facilities. 'Wash'd me at the sink and laid the cloth for our breakfast,' she recorded on 11 August 1863. But most stand-up washes happened in the bedroom, for all the utensils would be ready and waiting. All a person needed was a bowl, a slop pail, a flannel, some soap and a single jugful of hot water brought up from the kitchen.She goes on to describe exactly how to accomplish such a complete wash, without compromising one's modesty in the presence of a roommate.
To both my pleasure and discomfort, I have had much experience of Victorian laundry in my career and can vouch for just how much hard work it is. A day thus spent is exhausting, and it is no surprise that so many women from the period mentioned in their diaries tempers fraying on wash day. . . In my own encounters, I did not mind the steam that filled the kitchen like a fog, but the constant change of temperature, from working inside with the hot pans to being outside in the cold moving water around, was almost unbearable.