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Housewifery in Hawaii and Utah

In July 2015 I visited the American Antiquarian Society for a seminar. The first day the teacher laid out a variety of cookbooks from the 1700s and 1800s. I was fascinated by them. They were not just recipes. there were instructions for medicines, how to fireproof clothing and put out fires in nurseries, and growing food and a variety of other things. I thought about modern cookbooks and how it is becoming more common to include stories and crafts. I thought about how people share these stories from their own life.

I had been in Hawaii the year before and noticed that housekeeping was very different than what I knew in Utah. I thought it would be fascinating to interview women in Hawaii and Utah about their housewifery or homemaking skills. I was able to receive a grant to go to Hawaii for a week to do interviews. I also stayed about another five days on my own and continued to work. It was fascinating. The women were wonderful and I learned much and enjoyed my time. I’ve only done one interview in Utah, but it was great too.

I’d like to do more interviews with people in Hawaii via phone and more in Utah. But I have been given numbers of people in California and Washington and would not mind expanding the project. This year I will share stories from the project on this blog. If you would be interested in participating in the project, please contact me. My email is kristi_bell@byu.edu or 801-422-6041. I look forward to hearing from you.

Kristi Bell, Curator, Wilson Folklore Archives

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