Neu, Leona. "Mama’s Aprons." Prairies 7, no. 7: June/July 1984, 54.
After the Christmas holidays, in the midst of winter, the women
of the house eagerly awaited the catalogue to arrive in the mail.
In it there were always many pages advertising brightly colored
printed cotton material.
Many women lovingly pored through its pages, dreaming of a new
cotton house dress and new crisply starched aprons. The last months
of winter was the time to sew those garments and get them ready
before spring came, because then practically all of their time would
be devoted to baby animals and fowl in addition to a myriad of regular
There was usually one outfit for “dress” wear. After
coming home from church and after removing her hat (who would have
thought of going to church without a hat?!), the lady of the house
reached for the apron first of all. The apron for Sunday was often
fancy with embroidery and lace.
But the aprons for work were large to cover and very utilitarian
for the variety of uses for the day.
Since few patterns were purchased, patterns from the neighbors
were copied and cut out from newspapers. In later years, braid,
trims, rickrack, or baize tapes were used for decoration.
The apron had more uses than just to protect the dress. It became
a dust cloth as she swished it across furniture before company came.
Pockets were hiding places for bits and pieces picked up as she
went through the rooms.
When she went to the cellar for fruits or vegetables and there
was more than she could carry by hand, the apron was picked up by
the corners and filled with her supplies.
And what a help the apron was to bring things in from the garden!
To gather eggs from the hen house, the apron was much handier than
to take the time to get a pail.
Another favorite function was to bring newly hatched chicks in
from the nest.
Also, what better fan could you get than an apron to chase flies
from the doorway before entering the house?
Moreover, the shy child had a place to hide when strangers came
to the yard, besides being convenient for Mother so that she could
quickly wipe the jelly stain from the child’s mouth left from
the last lunch.
Still another use was when the day got chilly and the mother had
forgotten to wear a sweater. She would then wrap her arms in the
And, while walking across the yard, there were forever scraps of
wood, chips, or corn cobs to gather to along the house for fuel
of for cooking the next meal. Where were those scraps put? In the
apron, of course.
When she wanted to relay a message to the men in the field (if
they were near the farmhouse), there was no such thing as a C.B.
Instead, she would tie the apron to a broomstick and wave it in
the air. The men knew then that they were needed at home.
Finally there were those bitter times of sadness when tears needed
wiping. Mom’s apron was always there, ready for use.