What was able to 10-year-old girl 100 years ago in Russia?
Girls were very early accustomed to hard work, even earlier than boys. So, from 5-6 years old they should already have been able to spin, help around the house and in the garden, in caring for younger brothers and sisters, for poultry and cattle.
By the age of 10, thanks to the “science” of mothers, grandmothers and other older women in the family, they moved to a new level of responsibility. The ten-year-old daughter was considered already quite an adult girl with all the ensuing requirements for her. If acquaintances and neighbors gave the teenage girl a derogatory definition of “well-meaning”, this was a very bad characteristic, and subsequently she could not even count on a good groom.
How was the learning process built?
Exclusively by personal example: usually the mother in the process of domestic or field chores showed and explained to her daughter how and what she was doing, then she entrusted her with the simpler part of the work. As the necessary skills are mastered, the functional performed by the girl becomes more complicated. If at 5-6 years old the little housewife was supposed to look after the chickens, then at 10-12 – already drive the cow out to the pasture and milk it. This progressive and continuous process guaranteed high learning outcomes.
Did teenagers rebel against such a structure? Of course no. On the one hand, labor skills, instilled from early childhood, allowed them to survive in rather difficult social realities, it was not for nothing that the proverb “There you go through the whole world – you won’t be lost” is a common saying. And on the other hand, among the common people, the Christian tradition was very strong, and it was precisely in that part of it, with regard to the harsh Old Testament. According to him, service to the father and mother was likened to service to God, and insulting parents and disobedience was equated with insulting higher powers. Such concepts as filial / daughter duty, respect for old age, and the realization that the family is the most important thing in life, and any work for its benefit were respected, were instilled in children of motherhood.
“To drive a farm – keep your mouth open”
What exactly was a village girl supposed to be able to by her decade? Her tasks were very diverse, despite the apparent simplicity of peasant life.
The Babi Kut
This is the “female kingdom” by the stove. Usually it was separated from the rest of the hut by a curtain, and the strong floor, without extreme need, tried not to go there. Moreover, the appearance of an outsider in the “woman’s corner” was tantamount to an insult. Here, the hostess spent most of her time: preparing food, maintaining order in the “dishware” (the closet where the kitchen utensils were stored), on shelves along the walls where there were milk screams, clay and wooden bowls, salt shakers, cast-iron, in wooden supplies with lids and in birch bark basins where bulk products were stored. A ten-year-old girl actively helped her mother in all these chores: she washed the dishes, cleaned, she herself could prepare simple, but healthy peasant food.
Cleaning the house
The duties of a teenage girl were also charged with maintaining cleanliness in the house. She had to sweep the floor, wash and clean benches nailed to the walls and / or portable benches; shake and clean the rugs; clean the bed, shake it, change the splinter, candles, clean kerosene lamps. Often ten-year-old girls themselves coped with yet another duty – they washed and rinsed the linen on the river, and then hung it up to dry. And if in the warm season it was rather entertainment, then washing in the ice hole in the winter turned into a rather severe test.
In large families, “overlooking” the older children for the younger was a dire necessity, because the parents worked hard and hard in the field. Therefore, a teenage girl can often be seen also at the cradle, which was attached to the ring to the central beam of the ceiling (the “matrix”). The older sister, sitting on the bench, put her foot in the loop, rocked the cradle, and she was engaged in needlework.
In addition to motion sickness of the baby, by the age of 10, a little nanny could herself swaddle him, make a pacifier out of chewed bread, feed him from a horn. And, of course, to calm the crying baby, entertain him with songs, “petals” and jokes. If there was such a need, then at 10-12 years old the girl could be sent to the nanny – “coddlers”. Over the summer, she earned from three to five rubles – a considerable amount for a teenager. Sometimes, in agreement with their parents, the nanny paid with “natural products”: flour, potatoes, apples, other vegetables and fruits, cuts of fabric.
A very important element of peasant culture. After all, the peasants made all the fabric for clothes, towels, tablecloths and other household items themselves, which is why it was called homespun. First, the girl was taught to wind the threads on the bollards (birch bark tubes), then – to flap the flax, and spin tows (threads) from it.