By Sarah Miner
On a whim, we headed east to the Phillip Foster Farm yesterday. It was dry and hot and we had the place to ourselves as we wandered through the old buildings. The girls worked together to lift a big bale of hay with the pulley and used the grinder for cornmeal. They climbed in and out of covered wagons, took turns on the tree swing, and explored every nook and cranny in the general store. We were well dressed for such a sweltering summer day, but the replica clothing in the old store made us think about the life of women and girls in the 1800s.
Full-length dresses with full-length under layers were required attire in those days. Large aprons were added to keep the dresses somewhat clean as they worked, with bonnets to protect their faces from the dust and sun. As we stood out in the sunny vegetable garden, we thought about how it would feel to wear those same clothes while hoeing rows of corn or picking tomatoes.
Perhaps they would stay inside on hot days. (Unlikely, but worth thinking about.) Since there was no air conditioning, they’d have to do all the indoor chores in a sun-heated house, still wearing all those layers of clothes that covered them from necks to ankles. The women who were lucky enough to be indoors had it better than those camping in the back of the covered wagons or in the “cabins” that weren’t much bigger than the wagons.
And yet, they were so grateful to be on this side of Mt. Hood at this welcome rest stop after such a difficult journey on the Oregon Trail. Of course, most didn’t arrive in the middle of a July heat wave, which must have made it a bit better. We modern gals were grateful to get back into the air-conditioned car with a couple of souvenirs and no complaints.