The CSG (Household servants)

canadian_settlers_guideCSG stands for Canadian Settler’s Guide.  I really dislike acronyms, I can never figure out what they stand for (LOL) but for the sake of title length alone, I’m shortening it. I’m reading this book and sharing with you for the next few weeks.  I started the discussion here. Jump in and leave a comment on any post whenever you like.  I’d love to hear your reactions.

After the new Introduction, is the Introductory Remarks.  Our author, Catherine Parr Traill, reminds the wives and daughters to ask for God’s blessing before the journey.


As soon as the fitness of emigrating to Canada has been fully decided upon, let the fermales of the family ask God’s blessing upon their undertaking; ever bearing in mind that “unless the Lord build the house, their labour is but lost that build it; unless the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” In all their trials let them look to Him who can bring all things to pass in His good time, and who can guard them from every peril, if they will only believe in His promises, and commit their ways to him.

(Excellent advice, even in modern times, I would think.)

Then her advice to women is to acquaint themselves with practical knowledge of

“the homely art of baking and making bread, which most servants and small housekeepers know how to practice, but which many young females that live in large towns and cities where the baker supplies the bread to the family, do not, is necessary to be acquired.”

Really? Didn’t everyone make their own bread in those days? It appears, they weren’t so unlike our modern times in that respect. Special note is made to women unaccustomed to duties of the home because of their position in society which has exempt them from what they consider menial occupations. She tells us that there are circumstance that can take the servants away, though you have brought them with you; sudden illness, a servant’s parents sending for them home, which they will often do without consulting you, and it is important to prepare yourself for these duties by yourself. She writes:

“I have before now seen a ragged Irish boy called in from the clearing by his lady-mistress, to assist her in the mystery of making a loaf of bread, and teaching her how to bake it in the bake-kettle. She had all the requisite material, but was ignorant of the simple practical art of making bread”. “The making and baking of really good household bread is the thing of the greatest consequence to the health and comfort of the family”.

She also advises women to familiarize themselves with cooking, curing meat, making butter and cheese, knitting, dress-making and tailoring – for most of the country people there make the everyday clothing for their husbands, brothers and sons. She guards us against spending money except for the building up of the farm; buildings, buying stock, and improvements, that this is the goal of the settler, to become independent.



I’m reading the book and blogging as I go, which is hard for me to do. I have such an orderly mind and would like an overview and outline before I jump in. But time doesn’t allow me that.

So far I think I am beginning to understand why emigrants had such a difficult time. Were most of the women from a higher class with servants in the home? They brought their female servants with them but were often abandoned to household duties on their own.

How does this relate to our modern times? We don’t have household servants anymore… or do we? Are not the dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, hot water tanks, tap water, bread makers, mixmasters (vitamix, kitchenaid, food processor), crock pots, toasters, refrigerators, ranges, the household servants of today?

How do you think you would do as a settler’s wife without these ‘servants’?

Which ones could you do without? Which ones could you NOT do without?


3 responses

  1. I think it would be especially hard on the immigrants that came over with servants and then were suddenly without. To never have done the things that were required for survival and suddenly be thrust into it out of pure necessity would be extremely challenging. I would imagine it would be very easy to become depressed which would make it even harder to complete the needed tasks.
    I personally do not think I would be a good settler. I’m pretty soft!
    We actually do not use our dishwasher because of water issues and I don’t have a bread maker or a kitchenaid or anything so I knead our bread by hand. I would not like being without the washer and dryer. I would not like washing diapers the way they used to!

    • Millie, I think most of us are pretty soft. I was imagining how I’d do if it was me. The major thing for me would be the lack of electricity. I plug in a lot of stuff! I suppose we all do. Doing without a refrigerator would be especially hard for me. My hubby is very inventive so I don’t think we would be suffering for very long, he’d be coming up with some things to make life easier. 🙂 But I guess that would be only if he had time to come in from the fields.

  2. Hmm… what could I do without? I suppose I could do with my Bosch – I’d have to knead by hand. If I had to replace my Vita-mix, I’d need a hand grain grinder. Can’t see getting around that. Need all the pots and pans. I’d *like* the food processor and washing machine/dryer, but I suppose I could do without those.

    I too was surprised by her admonishment to learn bread baking – I would have thought they all knew how to do that.

    Her beginning advice is very good. Needed today, definitely. I am enjoying your CSG entries.

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