Internet Shakespeare Editions


The housewife's duties (a long list)

From the Roxburghe Ballads.
University of Victoria Library.

John Fitzherbert (A Book of Husbandry, 1525) offers this advice:

When thou art up and ready, then first sweep thy house, dress up thy dish-board, and set all things in good order within thy house; milk thy kine [cows], feed thy calves, sile [strain] up thy milk, take up thy children and array them, and provide for thy husband's breakfast, dinner, supper, and for thy children and servants, and take thy part with them.

And to ordain [organize] corn and malt to the mill, to bake and brew withal when need is. . . Thou must make butter and cheese when thou may; serve thy swine, both morning and evening, and give thy pullen [fowl] meat in the morning, and when time of the year cometh, thou must take heed how thy hen, ducks and geese do lay, and to gather up their eggs; and when they wax broody to set them thereas no beasts, swine or other vermin hurt them. . .

(More duties. . .*)


  1. Fitzherbert continues...

    And in the beginning of March, or a little before, is time for a wife to make her garden. . . And also in March is time to sow flax and hemp. . . and thereof may thou make sheets, board-cloths [table- cloths], towels, shirts, smocks, and such other necessaries; and therefore let thy distaff be always ready for a pastime, that thou be not idle. . .

    (The distaff was the stave on which wool or other raw fibre was placed, so that it could be spun by hand.)

    Did he say "Idle"?