Hired Girls

One job that was available to young girls and women was that of a hired girl.  If the girl was not needed at home to work, she could supplement the income at home by taking jobs helping in other homes.  The young unattached girls who came here from European countries were eager to get jobs in the rural homes.  These "newcomer" girls thus had a chance to learn the new language and the mores of their adopted country.  Most likely these girls worked only long enough to meet some young man, get married and begin their own home.

Usually the pioneer women and children were required to do their own housework and barnyard chores but occasionally help was needed, as in time of childbirth, illness or injury.  The cook cars that were set up to feed the crews of men on threshing rigs and railroad lines also provided work for the women.

Most hired girls did not have an easy life - cooking in the cook car was very hard work, as they had many men to cook for and few conveniences.  Working in the homes was somewhat better, but there too the work was hard and the hours long.

Hired girls were not treated well in all homes.  They had to accept the role of hired help.  Wages were poor, the girls usually received board and room and $2.50 to $4.00 per week - this was for seven long days with no time off, except maybe a Sunday once in a while.  Perhaps the fate of the hired girl depended on the housewife's disposition, the amount of work that had to be done and the ability of the hired girl.

It has been told that one girl living in the north end of town worked for a family in the south end of town, a distance of about a mile.  The hired girl stayed at home but each day had to walk to work, perform household tasks including cooking the noon meal, walk home at noon to eat her own meal and then walk back again to work for the afternoon.

Another tale was that of the hired girl who came from a dance rather late and as "punishment" the next morning was set to work washing walls and ceilings, which were wainscoting!

Mrs. Jens Ashland (Myrtle Lier of Mose) got a job at age 13 at the Hans Froiland farm south of Cooperstown.  She worked there for two years from March to November, and then went home to Mose where she went to school from November to March.  She finished grade school this way.  The second year she was at Froilands' at age 14 she took over the whole household for one month while Mrs. Froiland was in the hospital in Fargo.  She worked at Froilands one more summer and from there went to the T. Thompson home in Cooperstown where she worked one winter.

Days on the farm were long - beginning at 4:30 a.m. - first thing to make breakfast for the men and then the daily chores - besides churning butter, washing clothes, ironing, scrubbing floors on hands and knees with a scrub brush and soap.  Everything had to be just so.  Her pay was room and board and $1.50 a week, the first year and by the third year she got a little extra pay during harvest.

She then went to work for Mrs. Ashland, where she worked for 2 or 3 years.  On March 13, 1922 she married a son Jens Ashland, and to quote Jens "she probably didn't get much pay at home but she got me!" This must have been a good investment as it has lasted for 60 years.

Mrs. Marie Johnson worked for Mrs. R.C. Cooper for a number of years.  She did general housework and helped with the entertaining.  They had lavish dinner parties.  The Coopers had their own light plant, and electricity was available only a few hours a day; so they timed their work to get it done at that time.  Mrs. Cooper liked to put on a white dress to go out and work in the gardens.  Mrs. Cooper was known to be a very stylish, chic lady, while her husband was described as "more common and like one of the boys".

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 141

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