Lesson 19e: Lexington in 1775: What Are My Jobs?
Materials and Resources
• Handout: 30 Lexington children role cards, side 3 and general directions for using role cards
• Handout: What are My Jobs in 1775?
• Handouts: Farm Work (men) and Farm Work (women)
• Handouts: Farm Work Descriptions (men) and Farm Work Descriptions (women)
• Handout: Reverend Clarke’s Farm Year
• For the teacher: Teacher’s annotated version of Reverend Clarke’s Farm Year
• Identify what kinds of work children did on farms in 1775.
• Learn that each family member contributed to the family’s survival.
• Understand how many aspects of farm work were linked to seasons.
Background for the Teacher
18th century farm children were a crucial labor force. They were expected to contribute to their families’ survival by working. Historian Jack Larkin writes, “In the countryside, farm and family were intertwined, almost indistinguishable. The work of the farm encompassed a complete spectrum of necessary tasks, for small and unskilled hands as well as for older and more knowledgeable members of the farm labor force. Each member of the family was an interlocking member of a productive unit directed by the head of the household. Beginning…with shelling corn or weeding the garden, children took on increasingly difficult tasks as they grew up. Girls worked with their mothers in learning crucially important sewing, cooking and dairying skills; boys labored with their fathers in barn, fields, and shop.”
Farm work was seasonal in nature. Men and boys felt this more than women and girls. Spring was for plowing and planting, summer for haying, fall for harvesting and making cider, winter for butchering animals, cutting trees, and hauling them out of the woods. Men and boys spent much of their time outside, in the barn, or in the shop. In comparison, women’s and girls’ work, like cleaning, cooking, and sewing, washing, and mending clothes, was much less dependent on the time of year. Certain tasks though, did depend on the season. Women were usually responsible for planting the kitchen garden of vegetables and herbs in the spring. They churned butter from the cows that had recently calved. In the summer they weeded the garden and, once the weather was too warm to make butter, made cheese. Fall was the time for putting up food from the harvest for the long winter. In winter, women and girls helped to preserve by smoking or salting the newly butchered meat.
Jonas Clarke was Lexington’s minister, a position he had held since 1755. In 1773, his household consisted of himself, his wife, nine children (three more would later bring the total of living children to 12), and hired men and women who lived together on a farm with a house, barn, outbuildings, and 50 acres of surrounding farmland. The land had been farmed for over 70 years and was fully “improved;” pastures cleared and fenced, an established orchard, hayfields, and garden. Unlike some farmers in Lexington, Clarke did not have to spend time on the backbreaking work of clearing land. Reverend Clarke kept a journal in which he recorded some of his farming activities. The Lexington Historical Society owns the journal.
About the Resources
• Farm Work (men) – The activities pictured are:
1 – Chopping wood. Splitting wood was a never-ending chore, for cooking fires required fuel all year round. A man is carrying a load of wood, probably into the house. An axe is propped on a log, and a neatly stacked pike of short logs is ready to be split.
2 – Setting fences. Fences kept animals penned in and out of fields. Men often prepared new fence posts in winter, and then used them to replace rotted pieces in the spring. Farmers checked their fences regularly, for a break could mean disaster if animals got into a field and ate or trampled on a crop.
3 – Butchering a hog. Late fall or winter, when it was cold, was the time to kill a pig. The cold weather helped keep the meat from spoiling before it could be salted or smoked. The picture shows a steaming kettle of water. The hog, gutted but otherwise whole, will be hoisted and dunked into the kettle. The boiling water will soften the skin and make it easier for the farmers to scrape the hair off.
4 – Sowing seed. In the spring, farmers carried precious seeds in a sack to their fields, and sprinkled them evenly on the ground by hand.
5 – Threshing grain. After it was cut, brought into the barn, and dried, farmers beat grain with long sticks to separate the seeds from the stalks.
6 – Cutting grain – Farmers are using sharp, curved knifes called sickles to cut grain down. The farmer on the left is binding a bunch of grain stalks into a sheaf to make it easy to carry back to the barn.
• Farm Work (women) – The activities pictured are:
1 – Caring for children. The baby pictured is in an early version of a baby walker, which provided support for the child and kept it out of trouble. Since married women generally bore babies every two years, babies were a constant fixture in a household.
2 – Baking bread. Women cooked all meals over an open fire in the kitchen, and baked bread by heating up a brick oven set into the fireplace.
3 – Churning butter. After milking the cow, women let the milk sit in wide, shallow milking pans until the cream rose to the top. They would skim off the cream and then beat it in the butter churn until it turned into butter. This could only be done in cool weather. In hot weather, milk was made into cheese instead.
4 – Doing the laundry. Dirty clothes were washed by hand. The water had to be carried from the well or spring, heated over the fire, and poured into a clean tub. After adding soap, women would soak, pound and rub the clothes to clean them. More water was needed for rinsing. They hung clothes outside in good weather, and all around the house in bad weather, to dry.
5 – Spinning wool. Even though woven cloth was available in stores, country women sometimes spun their own wool, which they would knit into mittens, scarves, and hats, or have a weaver weave into cloth (not many women knew how to weave or owned looms).
6 – Making candles. Women made candles by rendering, or melting, cow fat, and the pouring it into molds. It was cold weather work, after a cow had been slaughtered.Teaching Activities and Sequence
1. Help students imagine 18th century farm work by studying the Farm Work images. You can cut them apart and distribute them as individual cards or keep them together as sheets. Cut apart and distribute the Farm Work Descriptions. Ask students to match the description to the image. As the students to answer the questions posed about each type of work either in writing or in a group discussion. Extension activity: give students a homework assignment of learning more about the jobs shown in the pictures.
2. Many jobs were seasonal. Discuss and sort the job images according to seasonality. Help students realize that men’s and women’s jobs were not only different from each others, but much of women’s work was not seasonal. Read and discuss “Farming Excerpts from Jonas Clarke’s Almanac.”
3. Ask the students to read side 3 of the second role card about the character’s work in 1775.
4. Have each student fill out the worksheet, What Are My Jobs in 1775?
5. To help students understand that each family member contributed to the family’s survival, start a “what if” conversation. What if you got sick? Who would do your jobs? What if your mother/father got sick? Who would do their jobs? What might happen if the jobs did not get done?
6. Writing activity: ask each student create their own seasonal journal, describing the tasks that their own character may have been involved in. You may want to preface this by getting your students together in “family” groups (there are nine families) to discuss who does what on the farm.