In the early days of World War II, the combined
If only you lived in Regency England, life would be nothing but fine horses, rare liquor, darling slippers for balls, and Mr. Darcy with his cast of happy servants, right?
How about a heated wire to an exposed dental nerve? That’s a little closer to reality. No matter how lovely life in the past might sound, remember that some aspects of the modern era ain’t so bad.
1) Laundry day was infinitely more horrible.
Who loves the sorting, the pre-soaking, the folding? No one. It’s comparative luxury, however, compared to laundry day in a typical Regency estate. Doing the laundry involved anywhere between 50-200 pounds of wood to heat water, gallons and gallons to feed a copper boiler, several hours of hand-wringing, and finally the soothing sight of all your undergarments sprawled on the lawn to dry.
2) So was the “detergent.”
There was lye soap, yes. But lye didn’t solve all stains. What was the Regency-era Tide pen?
High ammonia content meant that the contents of chamber pots were often used to scrub stubborn stains. Some servants also used ox-gall– the contents of the gall bladders of cows– to avoid color fade.
How are those luscious ball gowns looking now?
3) Speaking of urine, it had to come from somewhere.
A few modernized houses with the means had a primitive flushing system, but for the most part ladies and gentlemen had to go on the go. That meant in the street, by the side of the road, and, yes, right in the dining room. Men took care of business in chamber pots located in dining room sideboards. Ladies might duck behind a curtain or into a “ladies retiring room” and do their best to aim into a bourdaloue, a kind of travel chamber pot which came complete with a lid.
Don’t worry, though, girls: It apparently wasn’t as difficult as it sounds. Panties were a few decades away, and women pretty much went commando beneath their skirts.
4) Selfies were serious
Smiling in this era was considered low breeding; to show one’s teeth or laughing loudly marked one as vulgar. Most portraits from this era show either a slight smile or a serious expression in order to reflect one’s dignity.
Then again, if I were a pregnant woman 200 years ago, I wouldn’t be doing much smiling either:
5) Childbirth was a freaking nightmare
This goes beyond the absence of modern painkillers. Nearly 20% of women died in childbirth, and almost as many children.
In their third trimester, women were packed off into “confinement,” as to be seen heavily pregnant was considered indecent. While hidden from society, they might be bled or given vomit-inducing substances in the hopes of delivering a child who wasn’t too large for the new mother’s hips.
After a baby was born, women were kept in bed for weeks and fed little more than a liquid diet. Infection was rampant; doctors or midwives rarely washed their hands or sterilized instruments. Even the simple process of changing bedclothes to ensure cleanliness was a good 40 years away.