I bought some vintage apron patterns at the yard sale we had in the Vestry last month. It’s not that I really plan to make any of these aprons. It was a pure nostalgia buy. My mother kept an apron drawer in her kitchen and she had a similar assortment of pretty, but largely useless aprons. Aprons that didn’t cover up the places you were most likely to spill or splatter on. Aprons that worked best as domestic costuming.
I have been thinking about aprons this week, because while looking for materials for an upcoming event we are hosting with the Hancock Historical Society and the New Hampshire Association for the Blind, I came across the minutes of the Ladies Sewing Circle from 1900-1913.
I’m a sucker for beautiful penmanship and find old minutes oddly compelling. What I learned is that the ladies of the Hancock Church made and sold aprons. Lots of aprons. A typical sale might bring in $45.00. Run that figure through an inflation calculator and in today’s currency that works out to be over a thousand dollars in apron proceeds. We may see that as a quaint accomplishment, but these were women who weren’t allowed to vote yet, women who had access only to whispered methods of contraception, and women who lived in a town with a population of about 600 . They must have have been marketing geniuses to raise that kind of money. Exclusively from aprons. Before Etsy.
But what got to me was not the apron entrepreneurs’ bottom line, but how they chose to spend some of the proceeds.
Maybe you can make it out in the photo. If not, this is what it says:
Special committee reported the purchase of four dozen oranges and one dozen lemons for cases of sickness in town.
You’ve got to love a group of women who decide that what their town needs is a shared stash of lemons and oranges. What binds me to these women across the years is not apron patterns or hours spent in the same brick Vestry or a penchant for Vitamin C. What we share is a faith and a Gospel that makes it our obligation to do what we can for those who are without. In 1913, that meant stitching for citrus. Ladies, I’d say you spent your apron money well.