Hearts Through History Romance Writers

Mrs. Child’s General Maxims for Health

by | April 19, 2013 | 4 comments

By Anna Kathryn Lanier 

A few years ago I came across a reproduction copy of THE AMERICAN FRUGAL HOUSEWIFE. DEDICATED TO THOSE WHO ARE

The American Frugal HousewifeNOT ASHAMED OF ECONOMY by Mrs. Child, originally printed in 1828.  This reproduction is of the 12th addition, published in 1833.  THE AMERICAN FRUGAL HOUSEWIFE “was an extremely popular nineteenth-century manual for homemakers. Interesting recipes and remedies, advice on


ing and the myriad responsibilities of housekeepin

g are all put forth in straightforward, no-nonsense, Yankee prose.” 

One section is on General Maxims for Health (page 87).  Here’s what Mrs. Child has to say: 

Rise early. Eat simple food. Take plenty of exercise. Never fear a little fatigue. Let not children be dressed in tight clothes; it is necessary their limbs and muscles should have full play, if you wish for either health or beauty. 

Avoid the necessity of a physician, if you can, by careful attention to your diet.  Eat what best agrees with your system, and resolutely abstain from what hurts you, however well you may like it. A few days’ abstinence, and cold water for a beverage, has driven off many an approaching disease. 

If you find yourself really ill, send for a good physician.  Have nothing to do with quacks; and do not tamper with quack medicines. You do not know what they are; and what security have you that they know what they are? 

Wear shoes that are large enough.  It not only produces corns, but makes the feet misshapen, to cramp them. 

Wash very often, and rub the skin thoroughly with a hard brush. 

Let those who love to be invalids drink strong green tea, eat pickles, preserves and rich pastry.  As far as possible, eat and sleep at regular hours. 

Mrs. Child

Mrs. Child

Wash the eyes thoroughly in cold water every morning. Do not read or sew at twilight, or by too dazzling a light.  If far-sighted, read with rather less light, and with the book somewhat nearer to the eye, than you desire. If near-sighed, read with the book as far off as possible.  Both these imperfections may be diminished in this way.

Clean teeth in pure water two or three times a day; but above all, be sure to have them clean before you go to bed. 

Have your bed-chamber well aired; and have fresh bed linen every week.  Never have the wind blowing directly upon you from open windows during the night.  It is not healthy to sleep in heated rooms. 

Let children have their bread and milk before they have been long up.  Cold water and a run in fresh air before breakfast.

 Too frequent use of an ivory comb injures the hair.  Thorough combing, washing in suds or N.E. rum and thorough brushing , will keep it in order; and the washing does not injure the hair, as is generally supposed.  Keep children’s hair cut close until ten or twelve years old; it is better for health and the beauty of the hair.  Do not sleep with hair frizzled, or braided. Do not make children cross-eyed, by having hair hang about their foreheads, where they see it continually.


 Interestingly enough, a lot of Mrs. Child’s advice is too good today, nearly 200 years later.

Anna Kathryn Lanier

Never let your memories be greater than your dreams. ~Doug Ivester


  1. Celia Yeary

    Anna K.–I liked the one about making children drink cold water and go run before breakfast.I can just see that happening all across the country.
    The other good one was to avoid eating foods that disagreed with you.
    I love these old kinds of books. Thanks.

  2. Caroline Clemmons

    Anna Kathryn, this was exactly what I needed for my WIP, so thank you very much. My heroine knows nothing about being a wife. I’ll look for a copy of this book.

  3. Anna Kathryn Lanier

    Hi, Celia and Caroline. Thanks for stopping by. I love this book. Mrs. Child is the person who wrote “over the river and through the woods” poem. She has several books that are still in print, similar to this one. I love them. And yes, Caroline, it’s a great resource and would be a good gift for a new bride in the 1800’s. It was pretty much in constant print for years. She and her husband got into some political problems because they were abolitionists and it went out of print for a while, because her publisher dropped her….

  4. Sarah McNeal

    For the most part, this is good advice. I don’t agree with keeping children’s hair short if they want it long. That seems intrusive. And I don’t think hair in the eyes will anyone cross-eyed. The rest if it–pretty close to what’s good. Very interesting that even then, some people had the right ideas.
    Very interesting blog.



Share This