By Marlene Epp
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Extra resources for Mennonite Women in Canada: A History
29 Laundry could consume the better part of a week and was among the most laborious tasks in nineteenth-century households: potatoes had to be ground for starch, gallons of water hauled and then boiled over wood fires, clothing scrubbed by hand, and then heavy water-soaked fabrics had to be wrung out and hung outdoors, no matter what the season. Then irons were heated and reheated in a day-long regime of ironing. Other regular tasks included whitewashing walls and polishing earthen floors with a mixture of cow dung, sand, and water.
To ensure equitable division of parental assets, families would maintain a record of the debits accrued by both daughters and sons who left the household. For instance, when a daughter married, the assets and gifts she took to her new household were debited in her parents’ family book. ” 46 When the last child was left with the farm, he (usually a son retained the farm) was obliged to pay out to his brothers and sisters an amount to equal the value of the farm, minus debits they had accumulated.
In the twentieth century, the Mennonite diaspora spread to the southern hemisphere, as war and repression in the Soviet Union, and assimilative pressures in Canada and the United States caused Mennonites to negotiate new settlement agreements in Central and South America. As well, a mandate to develop overseas missions that began in the late nineteenth century has seen a Mennonite presence grow in parts of Africa, India, and Asia. The first permanent Mennonite settlers arrived in what would soon become Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) in 1786, creating a community at a location called The Twenty on the Niagara Peninsula.