All moms get free admission to Old Sturbridge Village on Mother’s Day, May 12, and the first 200 mothers to arrive will also receive a free gift – a tin star made by hand in the Village Tin Shop. Mother’s Day highlights include a spirited “Moms vs. Kids” tug of war contest on the Village Common, a variety of crafts for children to make as Mother’s Day gifts, and a chance to vote for the “Best Mother in History” from a list of mothers of famous children.
Modern moms can learn about early parenting and childbirth practices from Old Sturbridge Village interpreters portraying 19th-century domestic advice author Lydia Maria Child and 1830s midwife Lucy Tucker. Storyteller Tammy Denease will portray slave seamstress Elizabeth Keckly, who purchased freedom for herself and her son, and went on to become Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker and confidante. A special Mother’s Day Brunch will be served at the museum’s Oliver Wight Tavern (reservations required).
Mother’s Day is also one of the last opportunities to view the Village’s current exhibit, “A Child’s World: Childhood in 19th-Century New England.” The exhibit is in its final weeks and will close after Memorial Day, May 27. The exhibit highlights nearly 200 rare child-related artifacts – toys, games, puzzles, portraits, clothing, and furniture from the museum’s collection – all on display together for the first time.
Although Mother’s Day is a modern invention, Old Sturbridge Village historians note that by the 1830s, a “cult of domesticity” began to glorify the home as a sanctuary and refuge from the increasingly bustling and impersonal outside world. Despite this trend to glorify home and hearth, being a mom in the early 1800s was a very rigorous job.
Women typically had five or six children and they worked straight through their pregnancies—handling all the endless chores necessary in running a household. Mothers often had their children over a 20-year span, so it wasn’t uncommon to have an infant at home when the oldest child was entering adulthood.
As for baby equipment, mothers in the 19th century made do with what they had. For baby walkers, they simply placed ladder-backed chairs flat on the floor so babies could push the chair and toddle behind. Antique chairs were often worn flat on the back from generations of children learning to walk.
With so much cooking done at hearthside, fire was certainly a danger for children in early New England households. No doubt one of the earliest words children learned was “Hot!”
Old Sturbridge Village, one of the country’s oldest and largest living history museums, celebrates New England life in the 1830s and is open from 9:30 am-5 pm seven days a week. Admission: adults $24; seniors $22; children 3-17, $8; children 2 and under, free. All programs are subject to change. Each admission includes free parking and a free second-day visit within 10 days. For times and details of all OSV activities visit: www.osv.org or call 1-800-SEE-1830.