A black and white photo of women and children in front of a wooden structure. A sign in between the people reads "Baby Clinic." A nurse is standing to the left with her hands on the shoulders of a little girl. Women in hands holding babies are to the right. Several people are looking out from two windows on the building in the background.
Mothers and babies at a clinic in Oyama in 1923.

The WORK OF THE MoTHER

A beige page with slight rust/water stains along the edges. The words "The Canadian Mother's Book" are listed in the middle.
The Vernon Museum’s copy of The Canadian Mother’s Book.

Mother’s Day provided the perfect opportunity to pull out the Vernon Museum’s copy of The Canadian Mother’s Book, a 1936 publication from the Department of Pensions and National Health, to see how parenting has changed over the years.

The unassuming little book begins with a dedication from the Government of Canada to mothers of all forms, saying that “no national service is greater or better than the work of the mother.” This is followed by several pages on what to expect during pregnancy and childbirth.

hAPPY, hEALTHY cHILDREN

Once the baby has arrived, the Canadian Mother’s Book provides guidance on raising happy and healthy children. For example, it recommends several “indoor airing” sessions before taking babies outside in the sun for the first time, and then for only a few minutes at a time.

It also recommends giving children a few drops of cod liver oil each day starting when they are a week old, and a little orange juice or strained raw tomato juice at four weeks. For older babies, the book suggests feeding them barley, rice, or oat jelly throughout the day. It also states that “it is no kindness” to give children cake or candy instead of attuning their senses to healthier foods.  

eCONOMIZE AND CARE FOR YOURSELF

The book provides many ways to save money on children’s items (it was published during the Great Depression, after all). For example, it suggests that a good cot can be made from an orange box or banana crate, and a small mattress stuffed with chaff or bran, for a total cost of only a few cents. It also provides several patterns for making clothing and diapers by hand.

Finally, it also emphasizes the importance of mothers caring for themselves and meeting their own needs at all stages of their children’s lives. Throughout the book, adorable photos of babies dot the pages, including a set of twins waving goodbye at the end.

While some of the ideas in the Canadian Mother’s Book are obviously outdated, it authentically acknowledges the labor of love that is motherhood.

 

To explore more of Vernon’s history, check out our other blog posts!

Gwyneth Evans, Research and Communications Coordinator