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271 of 287 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon May 14, 2004
I got this book over 10 years ago, at the Sturbridge Village gift shop, and I swear, I've read it so much that I probably have whole sections memorized! It is, without doubt, THE best book of its kind.
The American Frugal Housewife is fascinating on a variety of levels, not the least in that Child wrote the book with the emphasis on "AMERICAN." Other such books existed at the time, but they were written in England and for English women. Child was one of the Transcendentalists who were huge advocates of personal self-discipline and restraint, but believed to their core the importance of fighting for what they knew to be right. It wasn't just a religious fervor -although Child's Christianity, like that of Catherine and Harriet Beecher Stowe, was extremely important - but a belief that the still relatively new United States had a unique destiny that set it apart from the rest of the world, specifically the old, decrepit world that was Europe.
Child was no blindfolded nationalist, however. She saw the flaws and contradictions that bound the new Republic. Child, like many other Transcendentalists, was a fervent abolitionist and a proponent of women's equality, and worked all her life toward achieving those ends. Even with its problems, Child was an ardent American. She saw Americans as a unique race of people with a unique and powerful destiny. Americans, she believed, were new and unique, and that the American destiny was far different from the degenerate, rotting hulk of Old World Europe.
So what does all this have to do with the American Frugal Housewife? Well, Child wrote the book specifically to address AMERICAN houswives and what she knew to be their unique problems and issues. It's much more than just a recipe book; it embodies Child's philosophy that the only way toward virtue was self-restraint and sobriety, and that the way to tutor the new nation in these values was by teaching the nation's housewives - the hand that rocks the cradle, Child believed, did indeed rule the world.
The new nation was becoming prosperous, and Child saw that then, like now, people had a difficult time learning how to restrain themselves financially. One part in particular has to do with how mothers should raise their daughters. Child believed they should teach their offspring the virtues of frugality, that it was better to put savings "out at interest" and earn wealth from it, then to indulge in the latest fad - one in this case being something called a Brussels carpet. As new brides went out to set up their household, Child lectures at how they drive their husbands to bankruptcy by embracing fads and trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Other, cheaper types of carpet "will answer just as well," Child wrote. She also recommends using cheap illustrations, nicely framed, as wall art, rather than going overboard to buy the latest European style.
Some of the best sections are on frugality. Child was the "Hints from Heloise" queen of her day, and she's got a solution for everything that could possibly beset the early 19th century housewife. The interesting thing, as others have noted, is how so many of her tips still work so well.
I don't know that I'm ever going to need her instructions on how to brew my own soap in a backyard kettle or how to keep my homemade pickles in a barrel from turning soft, but I did get a burn mark out of an antique chest by using rottenstone and oil, just as she prescribed.
What's rottenstone, you ask? Well, you can buy it at a hardware store, but if you want the recipe, buy the book! It's a fantastic window on early American life, but the sound advice inside, about not getting into debt and how to "do up" your brass so it doesn't tarnish, is still amazingly useful.
I guarantee you'll become a Child fan, just like me! :)
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93 of 96 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2003
I bought this book at a Revolutionar War event this past weekend and I've read it 3 times already (Purchased Sunday, and it's now Tuesday morning). My husband can't believe that I can't put this down. But I find it fascinating reading. Many of the little tips in here are still on many websites today for frugal living (olive oil and a little white vinegar for a wood furniture polish, for example).
Easy and fascinating reading for anyone interested in history, frugal living, and occassionaly a good laugh.
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68 of 70 people found the following review helpful
on November 17, 2006
I think it's very funny that she doesn't waste paper by diving right in with tips and doesn't bother to space out paragraphs. I actually like this more than Tightwad Gazette which tries not to be too preachy. Not Mrs. Childs, she's my kind of charismatic and she's preaching to the choir! I wish I lived as frugally as I should but this book is wonderfully bracing. Her analysis of consumerism still applies today.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon July 5, 2010
"The true economy of housekeeping is simply the art of gathering up all the fragments,
so that nothing be lost. I mean fragments of time as well as materials. Nothing should be
thrown away so long as it is possible to make any use of it. However trifling that use
may be; and whatever be the size of a family every member should be employed either in
earning or saving money."

This is for the most part, the only proper "Introduction" that the reader encounters when starting "The American Frugal Housewife, for Ms. Lydia Maria Francis Child plunges right in and begins dishing out advice left and right, providing a veritable flood of information. She advises, for example, that children not be allowed to frolic about until 13 or 14 years of age.

"This is not well. It is not well for the purses and patience of parents; and it has a
still worse effect on the morals and habits of the children. Begin early is the great
maxim for everything in education. A child of six years old can be made useful and
should be taught to consider every day lost in which some little thing has not been done
to assist others."

Other advice consists of how economize and how keep what you have in good repair. Everything from stockings to hearths, from apples to sausages. In addition, there is medical advice, and instructions on how to cook a variety of foods. Everything from porridges to cows brains, herbed wines to pies.

STEWED PRUNES.

Stew them very gently in a small quantity of water till stones slip out. Physicians
consider them safe nourishment in fevers.

BEANS AND PEAS.

Baked beans are a very simple dish, yet few cook them well. They should be put in cold
water, and hung over the fire, the night before they are baked. In the morning, they
should be put in a colander, and rinsed two or three times; then again placed in a
kettle, with the pork you intend to bake, covered with water, and kept scalding hot, in
hour or more. A pound of pork is quite enough for a quart of beans, and that is a large
dinner for a common family. The rind of the pork should be slashed. Pieces of pork alter-
nately fat and lean, are the most suitable ; the cheeks are the best. A little pepper
sprinkled among the beans, when they are placed in the bean-pot, will render them less
unhealthy. They should be just covered with water, when put into the oven ; and the pork
should be sunk a little below the surface of the beans. Bake three or four hours.

THE SKINNY:::
To be perfectly honest, there is some sound advice here. Some of it inspired by Ben Franklin, and some of it coming from friends and articles read by the author.

I found this an absolutely fascinating book that gives some wonderful insight into the daily life of early American families. We get to see what the concerns of housewives were, and how life was lived amongst a class of people -- the less well-off -- that is frequently overlooked by historical studies.

Ms. Child was born in 1802. She was raised by a strict Calvinist father and later she married a lawyer who proved to be an improvident dreamer who at times was imprisoned for his debts. As a consequence she knows frugality quite well.

The American Frugal Housewife is extremely well written, and was extremely well received at the time it was first put up for sale. In fact, it was republished 27 times between 1835 and 1841.

I HIGHLY recommend this work to students of history and those who are interested in early American life.

As for the "Kindle" format, I must say that this particular version comes with 'highlights', some of which are definitions. These are easy to access or ignore. (Which is why I can't tell you what they all are.) Being a FREE book it's hard to complain, but I should note that there are images from the original book that don't appear in the Kindle copy. They pertain to the parts of animals -- rumps, chops, etc.-- and aren't particularly valuable. But if you are curious you can find them at GoogleBooks and Archive-dot-org, both of whom have their own free copies.

ASIN: B002RKTKXO

Pam T~
pageinhistory
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on January 10, 2003
The thoughts and ideas of the 1800's could be applied to todays world to make it a better place. Like putting more energy into our morals and pride rather than trying to keep up with the Jones'. A wonderfull and funny look at many things that have gone wrong with society over the years.
I read just a few pages in a little store, than had to come home and find it to buy for myself.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on February 15, 2002
Both the prose and the basic philosophy espoused by this book are refreshing on todays palate. No over-wrought writing or get ahead mentality here. The book gives a wonderful view of household life in the 1800's, covering ground from pudding recipes to the best and cheapenst method for cleaning your candle stick holders and treating common ailments. Liberally spiced with the philosophy of a frugal housewife who's example many of us would do well to follow.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2010
Great book, hard to put down. Like reading a time capsule. BUT, I was constantly highlighting and underlining, because I was unfamiliar with many of the "ingredients" she has listed.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 22, 2008
Fascinating look into the past. I think some people might think this book has a few good ways to go green old fashioned if you're interested or off the grid or survival stuff or whatever (Just steer clear of the medical section. Fear Factor anyone?) but I think it is mostly useful as a historical reference. A great insight to logic back then. Still it was still fun to let your imagination run wild dreaming of doing some of these things. Also if you are going to do some reading about history why not go directly to the source on that particular subject? The chapter on raiseing girls was very modern in some suprising ways, I expected a sit down and be quite chapter but thats not what I got. For the price I think it was worth it.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2008
I really love this book. It probably would be a stretch for the typical mid-class to high class family, but for those who love to be frugal it's wonderful! Much of the tips and instructions are a little outdated for our period, but something about reading it gives you a drive to live more frugally and less wastefully. It teaches you to appreciate a simple life.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2011
Do I have anything in common with a Massachusetts housewife from 1832? This book is "Dedicated to those who are not ashamed of economy." Sounds like rural Maine where I live... hmmmm....

Nothing should be thrown away, neither TIME nor MATERIALS. Replete with Benjamin Franklin`s sayings like "Time is money" "Nothing is cheap that we do not want" and "A fat kitchen maketh a lean will." "Self-denial, in proportion to the narrowness of your income, will be the happiest and most respectable course for you and yours." Can we "prove, by the exertion of ingenuity and economy, that neatness, good taste, and gentility, are attainable without great expense"?

Keeping busy: knitting, "patchwork" (quilting), preparing and braiding straw for hats, making feather fans. "A child of six years old can be made useful...help[ing] others..." There are some religious overtones here. "Conduct [rather than means] is the real standard of respectability."

Chapters include: making soap, simple remedies (some scary ones like ointment of ground worms and putting sugar of lead with one gill of rose-water for sore [nursing] nipples - !), common cooking (everything from whortleberry pie to beer), hints to persons of moderate fortune, furniture, education of daughters (a product of its times, about domestic education), traveling and public amusements, reasons for hard times, how to endure poverty.

The Kindle edition of March 17, 2006 has a couple of editing errors (like "except in very rigid weather...") The margins are justified and really nice. This Kindle edition does have an interactive TOC and an interactive index, great features for the price (free : )

All in all, an interesting historical perspective of keeping house within a budget, but don't take all of its advice!!!
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