Case 2 of 3: Useful Leisure    

Olive Logan. Get Thee Behind Me Satan! New York: Adams, Victor, & Co., 1872.

Deemed a "woman-book" by the author, this progressive and liberal series of lectures challenged traditional gender roles for women, and also for children: "I should very much like to be abolished the absurd notion that athletics should be confined to boys…On the other hand, if a boy feels like learning to crochet, or do worsted work, let not these tastes be interfered with."


Book Cover

E. Landells. The Girl's Own Toymaker and Book of Recreation. Boston: Cyrus G. Cooke, 1861.

Filled with numerous activities for young girls, this book offers hours of enjoyment. Projects include paper toys, puzzles, doll clothes, doll furniture, and ornamental fancywork.


Title Page

"Needle-Book in Crochet". Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine. 1862.

Needlecases were often the first item a child would sew, knit, or crochet, They served as appropriate gifts to family and close friends.


"Needle-Book in Crochet"


The making of doll's clothes prepared young girls for the inevitable task of fashioning their own wardrobe. Popular periodicals, such as Godey's Lady's Book and Peterson's Magazine, provided a wide variety of patterns for doll clothes. Using the patterns as a guide, Mothers taught their daughters how to draw paper patterns, cut material, and assemble each garment. Gowns, undergarments, stockings, muffs, shoes, and hats completed the doll's ensemble.

Doll Socks, late 1860-70's. Knitted wool. Lent by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Doll's Fanchon (headscarf), late 1860-70s. Crocheted wool. Lent by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

"Work Department, Fashionably Dressed Doll." Godey's Lady's Book and Magazine," July 1868.


Doll Socks and Headscarf Lent by the Philadelphia Museum of Art
"Work Department, Fashionably Dressed Doll."


Many Victorian women owned worktables and workbaskets to store needlework supplies. In The American Woman's Home, published in 1869, Catharine Beecher provides a detailed description of the contents required for a proper workbasket:

"It is very important to neatness, comfort, and success in sewing, that a lady's work-basket should be properly fitted up. The following articles are needful to the mistress of a family: a large basket to hold work; having it fastened to a smaller basket or box, containing a needle-book in which are needles of every size, both blunts and sharps, with a larger number of those sizes most used; also small and large darning-needles, for woolen, cotton, and silk; two tape needles, large and small; nice scissors for fine work, button-hole scissors; an emery bag; two balls of white and yellow wax; and two thimbles, in case one should be mislaid. When a person is troubled with damp fingers, a lump of soft chalk in a paper is useful to rub on the ends of the fingers." "Besides this box, keep in the basket common scissors; small shears; a bag containing spools of white and another of colored cotton thread, and another for silks wound on spools or papers; a box or bag for nice buttons, and another for more common ones; a bag containing silk braid, welting cords, and galloon binding. Small rolls of pieces of white and brown linen and cotton are also often needed. A brick pin cushion is a great convenience in sewing and better than screw cushions. It is made by covering half a brick with cloth, putting a cushion on top, and covering it tastefully. It is very useful to hold pins and needles while sewing, and to fasten long seams when basting and sewing."

Duncan Phyfe style worktable, ca. 1840.

Implements on worktable: Spool holder with pincushion, tape measure with pincushion, needle case, thread winder, Coats & Clark spool of thread, and skeins of silk From the Collection of the Atwater Kent Museum. Bone crochet hook, steel crochet rug hook with wooden handle, pearl tatting shuttle, and silver tatting shuttle, [n.d.] From the Collection of Nicole H. Scalessa.

Duncan Phyfe Style Worktable

Spool Holder and Other Needlework Implements
Library of Ferdinand Dreer. February 1861. John Moran, photographer. Stereograph.

William A. Alcott. The Young Woman's Guide to Excellence. Boston: Waite, Pierce, & Company, 1845.

In an effort to encourage women to exercise, Alcott offers this suggestion: "Spinning is so far out of date, that it might be useless for me to recommend it to the young wife to betake herself to the wheel any part of the day. And yet very few kinds of exercise within doors, are better for many of the class of females for whom I am writing, than spinning wool, &c., on an old fashioned wheel."




Catharine E. Beecher. A Treatise on Domestic Economy for the Use of Young Ladies at Home and at School. Boston: Marsh, Lyon, and Webb, 1841.

Practical instructions on cooking, childcare, family health, education, and overall household management made this one of the most popular books of the nineteenth century. A revision entitled The American Woman's Home was published in 1869.




Edwin Hubbell Chapin. Duties of Young Women. Boston: George W. Briggs, 1848.

Chapin warns his readers that idleness will lead to immorality, and ultimately the degradation of society. He suggests women fill idle hours producing decorative art, in particular needlework, which is indicative of a civilized and moral culture: "The difference between civilization and barbarism is indicated not only by the increase of intellectual and moral power, and of all those useful elements which build up and consolidate society, but by those ornamental accessories, those beautiful productions of art, which evince a refined and luxuriant culture."




Lydia Maria Child. The Frugal Housewife. Boston: Carter and Hender, 1838.

Lydia Maria Child shares her knowledge of thrift and home management in The Frugal Housewife. In 1832, after seven editions, the book was renamed The American Frugal Housewife for European distribution. Regarding useful leisure, Child recommends 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."




The Gift for Good Girls, Containing the Good Girl's Book, and The Spring Flowers, edited by Mrs. S. J. Hale. New York: Edward Dunigan and Brother, [1845].

This guide to female domesticity illustrates the lives of over a dozen young girls. Chapters include "The Good-natured Little Girl," "The Persevering Little Girl," and "The Orderly Little Girl."




Letters to a Very Young Lady. Philadelphia: American Sunday School Union, 1843.

A "Minister of the Gospel" provides sage advice to a "Very Young Lady" in this collection of fictional correspondence: "I do not forbid you to spend some of your time on ornamental work in lace, embroidery, and the like. In every age and country, this has been the entertainment and occupation of your sex. It takes up many a spare moment, enlivens company, enables one to gratify friends, furnishes cheap presents, and prepares for more solid and useful labours."




Harvey Newcomb. Anecdotes for Girls. Boston: Gould, Kendall, and Lincoln, 1848.

Newcomb professes that a failure to comply with Victorian ideals of womanhood will result in loneliness, poverty, and immorality: "Poor and helpless will that woman be, who does not learn, when a girl, to employ her hands in useful labor."