Charles and Caroline Ingalls

“Then Ma took the sadiron out of the wagon and heated it up by the fire.  She sprinkled a dress for Mary and a dress for Laura and a little dress for Baby Carrie, and her own sprigged calico.  She spread a blanket and a sheet on the wagon seat, and she ironed the dresses.”   Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie.

Some days I don’t change out of my pajamas.  It doesn’t happen often, just every once in a while when I’m feeling lazy.  So, when I read the passage where Caroline Ingalls ironed the family’s clothes on the wagon seat, I wondered why.   I understood washing the clothes, but ironing them?  After all, the Ingalls were traveling in a covered wagon and pioneers wore the same clothing day after day.  Even if Caroline ironed the clothing, they would quickly wrinkle again.   Yet she plugged in the iron—no wait!  She heated the iron by the fire and pressed the clothes using the wagon seat as a makeshift ironing boar

Why endure the drudgery of ironing on a wagon seat in the wilderness?  Caroline clung to a strong sense of propriety. Standards mattered.

Our culture applauds nonconformity.  Color outside the lines.  Zag when everyone else zigs.  I agree with this philosophy—to a point.  Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I wish young men would pull up their pants.  When I see people wearing pajama bottoms in public, I want to shout, “Get dressed already!”  And, for goodness sake, house slippers are called “house” slippers for a reason.

In the scheme of things, does what we wear and how we wear it really matter?  Maybe.  Psychologists say our clothing influences our behavior.  If we are slouchy, lazy, and unkempt today, what type of society can we expect tomorrow?

Do you think Caroline already thought of this?   Now, I’m going to look into my closet and see what needs to be ironed, right after I change out of my pajamas.

“Study first propriety for she indeed is the Pole-star.”   C.S. Calverly

Until next week,


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  1. I’m with you all the way on this one! I live next door to a drug store & their parking lot. If I had the time & desire, I could be entertained all day. Just looking out occasionally, I see people getting out of their cars and going in to the drug store – mostly women are guilty of this – dressed in PJ’s and slippers! Others come out with their hair in rollers or in such mix-matched clothing that I wonder why they don’t respect even themselves! Now, we don’t have to dress to impress, but really! I don’t why Mrs. Ingalls would have thought that she had to iron clothes on the trail, but that effort is appauded by me! I still iron some of my clothes, (or throw the perm-press in the dryer) but it looks like most people don’t even own an iron! The worst of it is – they don’t care! Haven’t we come a long way? :(

  2. I do believe that it does matter. I don’t believe you have to spend a lot of money on your clothes to look neat and clean. That doesn’t mean that I always practice what I preach … but you will never see me out in my pajama bottoms! Although there was that one time that I went to pick my son up from school and realized I had forgotten to change from my slippers into shoes. :)

  3. We have come a long way! Not long ago I watched an episode of Bewitched and saw that Samantha thought it was improper to go out in public in blue jeans–she twitched her nose and changed into a dress. I laughed at that one!

  4. I have that one beat, Laura! One Sunday I was trying on shoes to see which goes best and became distracted. It wasn’t until I sat down in Sunday School that I realized I was wearing two different shoes! We all had a good laugh over that one!

  5. Great post. Propriety does matter. And relaxing does too. But there is a time and place for both. Why did Ma iron? If the clothes were 100% cotton or linen, they would be incredibly wrinkly after hand washing and wringing. Then too, she may have ironed just to feel “at home”, to feel a bit of sanity in rough surroundings.

Do tell!

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