V i o l e t ‘ s W o r d s

Thanks you for being here, beloved one.

Dear Violet’s story is our first of many in a new series on vintage motherhood . . .

Q:  Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today.

A:  {nods, humbly}

Q:  Can you start out by telling me how many children you have and when were they born?

A:  I have two boys.  They were born 18 months apart in the 1950s. 


Q:  And what was life like as a mother in the 1950s?  How do you suppose it compared to motherhood today?

A:  Well the biggest difference was the lack of today’s conveniences!  I did not have a dryer or a dishwasher.  We had one car.  My husband was gone to work with the car during the day so I was at home all day with the children.  I also didn’t have a telephone. 

Q:  Can you tell me what your experience was like when you were expecting your first baby?

A:  My first was born in the month of July-

Q:  Wow, July in North Carolina, nine months pregnant and no air conditioning.  Sounds hot!

A:  It was terribly hot and no, we did not have air conditioning.  We didn’t even own a fan! 

Q:  Not even a fan?

A:  Well no but we sat in the basement to stay cool.  And at night we opened up all the windows and things cooled down.

Q:  You probably know this but when a mother is pregnant today, there are baby registries and 40 different options for highchairs and car seats and all sorts of contraptions like bouncy seats and “exersaucers.”  Can you tell me what things you had ready before your first baby was born?  What was the norm?

A:  Well my mama and sister were good sewers.  They sewed a lot of gowns.  We didn’t have those things you have today-“onesie” things.  And we didn’t have sleepers.  We just used gowns.  We used cloth diapers and plastic pants.  My daddy made a cradle.  I made my own bedding.  Everything else I inherited from my older sister- a highchair, a crib, a playpen and a potty chair.


Q:  And what about your delivery? I would imagine it was a natural delivery without pain relief?

A:  My first labor lasted for 12 hours.  They gave me half of a shot of some sort of pain relief but it stalled my labor.  After that they didn’t give me anymore. So I just labored.

Q:  Thanks to our sister Eve!

A:  {laughs}

Q:  And what were your first days like as a new mother?  It is such an emotional time, especially with your first.

A:  Well, I stayed with my mama for a week and then I went home with the baby.  I realized that I was alone with a baby that I didn’t know to care for and I was scared to death!  And I didn’t even have a telephone It was a really helpless feeling and I wasn’t prepared.

Q:  That sounds very isolating.  I imagine you were lonely?  But you eventually found your way, of course.

A:  Well yes.  The girl next door, her name was Daisy, she came alongside me and helped me.  She had three little girls of her own and she took me under her wing and taught me the things I needed to know.  She became my best friend.   She taught me canning and baking, things I never learned from my own mother because I was her youngest child and babied a lot growing up. Also, my older sister was a great help to me.

Q:  Did you have “easy” babies?  Babies that slept well?  Nowadays everyone wants to know “how is the baby sleeping??,” it seems to be the benchmark in how you are doing as a mother.

A:  My youngest had colic until he was nine months old.  He just cried and cried.  I would give him catnip tea.

Q:  Catnip tea??

A:  Yes, catnip tea.  It is an old mountain remedy.  You would buy it by the can at the drug store.  Boil water, add sugar and the tea.  I remember that two tablespoons would make 2 baby bottles of tea. 


Q:  Can you tell me about housework.  What was it like in the days before modern appliances?  I think it is hard in the day of modern appliances!  Some days at 5 p.m. I think I can’t possibly summon the energy to get dinner on the table but then I think about how mothers just like me used to have to chop wood and build a fire to wash the dishes and make the meal.  That’s humbling!  I’m always praying that God would make me stronger.

A:  Well I had a washing machine in the basement.  I didn’t have a dryer.  We had a clothes line in the basement to use during inclement weather.  Sometimes I would hang the babies’ diapers on the line outside and they would freeze before I could get them down!  It was a lot of work, yes, I don’t know, we just did it.

Q:  You said your boys are 18 months apart, does that mean you had two babies in cloth diapers at one time?

A:  Oh yes.

Q:  What was that like?

A:  A disaster!  By the time my second was born my older son needed two diapers at one time for absorbency.  That made for a lot of diapers. All the time.  A lot of washing.  Plus the rubber pants.

Q:  Did you keep a garden as part of your homemaking?

A:  Yes, we had a garden and put up beans, corns, tomatoes and sweet pickles. 

Q:  I imagine that as far as cooking went, it was very hot in your kitchen in our North Carolina heat in the days before air conditioning.

A:  Yes, it would get very hot in the kitchen, but I didn’t know any different so we just made do.  Growing up, my mama cooked on a wood stove.  I was just used to it.

Q:  You were strong!

A:  Oh, I had to be.

Q:  What sorts of games did your boys play growing up?

A:  Baseball.  They were always playing baseball!  We played outside a lot.

Q:  Did you worry about snakes?  Poisonous snakes?  I’m always thinking about snakes when my boys are playing outside in the warmer months here in the south!

A:  Oh yes, I did.  That is an awful fear.  But I only remember seeing one snake on one occasion.  I did see one last year, a great big black one, but in that case he was headed toward your house and away from mine. {Erin’s note, Violet is my neighbor}

Q:  Oh, well how lovely.

A: Yes, sorry {chuckles}

Q:  I’m curious, looking back, do you wish you had disciplined more or disciplined less?  This is a big issue in modern parenting.  There is a great concern for kids’ self-esteem but a lack of respect for authority and elders overall, I think.

A: Well, no.  I disciplined them as they needed it and that was that!

Q:  Can you tell me how your faith played a role in your days a young mother?

A:  My faith  . . .  well, my faith  I guess is what kept me sane.

Q:  Well that is something that hasn’t changed.

A:  Indeed.

Thank you, to Violet for sharing your heart and story with all of us.  Coming next is my interview with a 94 year-old mother of 3, on life raising young children during the 1940s.

If you have a question you would like me to bring into an interview, please leave it in the comments section.

{all images, unless otherwise noted, pulled from this gorgeous collection}


  1. This is SO FANTASTIC! Please give my thanks to Ms. Violet for sharing with us. I love the way she says they just did what they had to do and didn’t know any different. Hard workers. We can learn so much from them! Thank you!

  2. Lovely. Huge differences, yet the same at the core. We make do, we accept help from our mothers and neighbors, we find strength, and we learn from our elders.

  3. This is wonderful. I love hearing about women’s stories, I miss my grandmother, she told so many stories about growing up and raising children in the 30’s and 40’s. Can’t wait to read more.

  4. I just love this. How wonderful how she doesn’t complain. She glosses over her hard work and less than easy circumstances. I especially appreciate how she doesn’t get wrapped up in controversy. “That was that”. So much wisdom is in that simplicity.

  5. So glad you decided to interview these women. It’s interesting to explore the differences in the way children are raised today and years past. Not only the parenting skills but the attitude of these women. Seems to be more content and accepting of circumstances. God bless.

  6. Oh, this is a wonderful post! I love hearing about motherhood in days gone by. Thank you!!

  7. What a wonderful series! I’m here from Clover Lane and can’t wait to read more. I’m also fascinated by vintage patenting and how our grandmothers and great-grandmothers lived and mothered.

  8. Thank you for doing this series. It’s so special that you are honoring these women. It’s a blessing to us that get to read it.

  9. Oh this is just wonderful! I was hanging on every word and can’t wait to read more!

  10. I love this! I wish now that I am a mother I would have talked to my grandmother about how she raised my mom and her siblings. I’m looking to more of this series – I’m a new reader sent over from Clover Lane.

  11. What a wonderful idea and a wonderful interview! I’m visiting from Clover Lane, and I can’t wait to read more. I wish my grandmother was still here so I could ask her the same questions!

  12. I love this! My husbands grandmother is 91 and lives out in Granite Falls, NC, where she was raised…I love her stories and looking forward to reading more of yours! North Carolina proud..well except those Blue Devils didn’t make me too proud today 😉

  13. Dear Erin, thank you very much for this bright idea! I so enjoy these posts!
    For mother of boys I have the following question: “Please share with us your tips on rising gentelmen.”
    Kisses from a blessed mother of 3 from Europe!

  14. Came over from Clover Lane – and I LOVE this series premise! The wisdom these women carry is precious. Thank you for taking the time to ask and share with all of us.

  15. Ok, this is my all time favorite blog right now. You are an incredible writer and photographer. Your words in so many of your posts are deep and speak right to my very core. My heart aches to have another little one just from reading your posts on motherhood. And your photos…I started reading your blog from most recent to years back, your photography skills only get better and better with time!!! And ok, your style is impeccable! There is something about you and your writing that is unassuming and beautiful. I can’t stop gushing! Wish you were my neighbor! Our little boys could spend the summers doing what little boys do and we could spend hours on DIY projects! haha! Thanks again for such a beautiful story! Chomping at the bit for you to post another vintage mother post! hehe xo

  16. Oh, and that QUILT!!! I HAVE to have it! I think I’ll figure out how to make one with circles! So adorable!

  17. This series is awesome!!! Thank you for sharing, Violet, your comment about the snake made me laugh. Everything about this post was inspirational, interesting and heart-touching. Thank you.

  18. This is wonderful! I would like to see questions about their marriages discussed. How they honored their husbands. How they balanced time with him and the kids.

  19. This is such a great series idea Erin! I really enjoyed reading this interview with Violet. It certainly helps to put things in perspective for us moms in this modern day. I just came home tonight from visiting family around the corner and yet I had Lily’s car seat, stroller with separate bassinet attachment so she could take a nap, bumbo seat with tray to feed her solids and boppy for nursing her as well as diaper bag. It was a lot of stuff for one little visit! It amazes me to think of how mothers did without all of our modern conveniences. In some ways it just seems less stressful and complicated. I found creating a registry to be a bit time consuming and sometimes all the ‘stuff’ while helpful can just feel like a lot of stuff. As I parent solo at present while my hubby works overseas, the gadgets have become helpful but carrying my baby when she’s in the mood in one of my favorite things. 🙂

  20. Hi, this was so lovely 🙂 I see you have included a photo of mine … the one with the blue teacup … would you mind terribly correcting the link please? Tumblr is such a sinkhole of lost copyright. Thank you, and I hope you have a lovely day.

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