Women's Work

In 1938, the Hannaford Enterprise carried stories about pioneers of the area.  A story published June 3, 1938, gives a striking account of the life of a hard-working pioneer woman.

Selma Olson was born in Nerke, Sweden in 1857.

In 1881 she came to America and stayed in Chicago until November of the following year, when she came to Mayville.  On May 22, 1884 she became the bride of Mr. August Palm.  The ceremony was performed by Rev. Ohman in Hillsboro.  Two weeks later the newlyweds came to Bartley Township to live on the farm where Mr. Palm had erected a sod house the previous year.  This sod house was quite different from many sod houses at this time as it was boarded on the inside, while others had no frame work excepting the window frames and door cases.  This was to be their home until in 1887, when they moved into a small frame house, the lumber for which was hauled from Valley City.  Ten more years rolled on, when C.L. Peterson was hired to build an addition to the house.

One of the very first jobs to tackle on a farm is to locate a water supply.  Mr. Palm and his able wife set to work: himself doing the digging, while Mrs. Palm hauled dirt to the top in buckets.  As a reward for this she was promised a clock, which she got.

During their first year in Bartley they had no oxen nor horses.  The spring's work was hired and & town trips were made in company with their neighbor Carl Berg, Sr., who had the oxen.  Mrs. Palm recalls instances when she did not go to town for three years.  On one occasion when supplies had been brought home from town, Mr. and Mrs. Palm were away from home; an intruder entered their home and stole the supplies.  Also taken was silverware Mrs. Palm had brought with her from Sweden.

Upon one occasion an Indian came to the Palm house.  Upon entering the house, he stood with his back to the occupants of the house, while apparently searching for something in his pockets.  This naturally startled the members of the family.  However, at length he produced a piece of paper OD on which was written: "Give him something to eat and a bed.€  Her anxiety over, Mrs. Palm promptly set forth food, which the self-invited guest devoured.  Soon after finishing his meal, the In8lan made signs of being tired.  A bed was soon made on the floor for him.  Instead of placing his head on the pillow, he placed his feet there and was soon fast asleep.  While he slept, Mrs. Palm set about to patch his trousers, as they were in very bad shape.  When he awoke and found his trousers patched he placed his hand on his knee and uttered the only words he spoke while there: "That's good.€  After eating his breakfast, he left for Devils Lake and was not heard from since.

Besides rearing a family of nine children, Mrs. Palm laundered clothes for neighboring hired help.  This included patching also and netted her $3 a week.  Rearing a family was different in the early days, as all the clothes worn by the family were sewed by hand until in 1894, she became the owner of a sewing machine, which proved to be a big help.  She also made all the mittens and socks, and for these she spun the yarn.  Another way in which Mrs. Palm earned extra money was to board the schoolteacher.

During the haying season, Mr. Palm would cut the hay before going out to work and it was Mrs. Palm's duty to rake and bunch the hay with a hand rake.  The children were along to do what they could, which consisted usually in emptying the water jug.

As years rolled by, more land was acquired until at one time eight quarters were owned and operated by Mr. Palm and all the work was done by horsepower.  Threshing time came with even more work for the housewife, as that meant an added task of cooking for twenty-four men without additional help.

In times of sickness when the husband was away to work, it was necessary for Mrs. Palm to walk approximately three and one-half miles to a kindly neighbor lady, Mrs. V. Hanson, for assistance.  One of these times it was Henry who took sick.  With him in her arms and Charley, about two years old, toddling behind, the little party set out for Mrs. Hanson, who often times took the place of a doctor in the pioneer days.

Source: Cooperstown, North Dakota 1882-1982 Centennial Page 135

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