Thursday, February 12, 2009

What is a Huswife

What is a huswife? Well, the short answer is, she is the counterpart of the husman. That is, the husman and huswife shared a hus. That's all. They were husband and wife and they managed together the general oeconomia, or private economy of a particular household.

Here's a partial,but representative list, based the ten most widely printed texts of the 15th-17th centuries of the kinds of things a huswife might need to know how to do:

How to bake a costard, puff pastry, pie, cake, or buns
How to make meats ordinary whether bakes, boiled, or carbonadoed (grilled)
How to make an excellent sallat, whether simple, compound, boiled, or preserved.
How to make puddings of bread, liver, blood, or rice
How to tan leather
A very fine method to counterfeit gold, silver, pearls, and gems
How to make good beer and wine
How to adulterate wine, beer, flour, and sugar
How to make cheese and butter
How to spin, weave, or knit linen, wool, and hemp
How to dye fabric
How to choose, raise, breed, and butcher pountry, horses, cattel, and sheep
How to preserve meat and fruit
How to make jelly, jam, sweetmeats, sugared spices, and candied flowers
How to make “an excellent conceit” of a miniature, working cannon out of sugar, rose petals, and rose water.
How to ice a cake with edible gold and crushed pearls
How to choose, clean, prepare and preserve fish
How to order a great feast impressive to the eye.
Hoe to order a seeming great feast of less expense.
How to make love potions, perfumes, waters, and vinegars of great virtue.
How to know if a lover be true.
How to know the inner virtues of a mind which ought to be in any huswife.
How to comport oneself in public
How to treat servants
How to quicken the wit
How to preserve a man from drunkenness
How to clear the eyes exceedingly
How to provoke sleep
How to cure lethargy by violent means
How to preserve against the plague, dropsy, cold, cough, headaches, menstrual cramps, fever, toothache, backache, boils, pestilence, consumption, black jaundice, colic, heat in the liver, and pain in the spleen
How to set bones
How to increase a woman’s milk
How to dry up milk
How to ease childbirth
How to know a woman be maid
How to know if a woman be with child
How to know if a woman lie
How to make wrinkles dissapear
How to freshen breath
How to make false teeth
How to draw teeth without iron
How to make wigs
How to restore grey hair to color
How to breed hair exceedingly

Ann Firth observed that, "central to the notion of householding is stewardship, with its connotations of fostering and increasing available resources."

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