W4343 TO HILDA MCQUESTEN from her mother, Mary Baker McQuesten
Apr 22 1889
To: Toronto Ontario
From: Hamilton Ontario
My dear Hilda,
Thank you so much for writing, I would have written you before, but very busy. To-day, with Cally and Ruby's assistance and Tom's too, I have been taking all the books out of Grandpapa's room, preparing to begin house-cleaning to-morrow, for I want to have the upstairs done before you come back.1 I am getting in a woman and man to help.2 Have just finished a letter to poor Mary Lillie, for this morning I received a letter from Mrs. George Lillie telling of the death of old Mrs. Lillie.3 I was greatly shocked after seeing her so lately.
It is very kind of dear Mrs. MacKay to say she enjoys your company. I trust you do anything you can to help her. Did Mary give Mrs. MacKay the note? I am waiting to hear about the cotton in case I get it you could bring it home in the bottom of the trunk. I think there would be room, you could put some things in a shawl strap. Edna missed you very much at first, and did not like it at all that she had not gone. She said she had not been at Mrs. MacKay's yet. I hope Mrs. Black did not disappoint you with your hats. I was very sorry to hear that Mrs. MacKay had to wait too long for you at the station. It was so tiring for her. I hope you will be able to read this letter, it is not a model letter for a mother to write her little daughter, but it is bed time and everyone has to be up early to-morrow, so I am writing as fast as possible. Give my kindest love to Mrs. MacKay and kind regards to Mr. MacKay & much love to yourself and Mary.4 Your loving Mama,
1 Mary's daughters, Mary and Hilda, were visiting a close family friend, Mrs. MacKay, who operated a small private school in Toronto. Mary was fifteen and Hilda was eleven years of age. Cally (Calvin), Ruby and Tom were thirteen, ten, and seven years of age, respectively. Edna is also mentioned in the letter and she was four years of age. Earlier in April, Mary had been at Mrs. MacKay's with Tom, and Mrs. Grant (a friend) had been looking after the other children at home (W4341).
2 Because of financial constraints, keeping servants was a problem, and it is difficult to establish when Mary was forced to give up servants. This letter suggests that Mary had no live-in servants at this time and that she hired help as needed for the heavier work. The two servants mentioned in letter of June 1883 are not mentioned again (W4315), although "Lizzie" in letter of October 13, 1890, may have been a servant (W4367). There is very little mention of servants in Mary's letters after Isaac's death. The census for 1891 lists two servants at Whitehern, but this may not be accurate. As the two eldest daughters became capable, they assumed many of the household duties, and Mary often comments on their heavy workload (W4531). In 1892 Mary describes doing the housework herself while her daughters are away, and she asked her friend Mrs. Fletcher to baby-sit Edna (W4387). In 1898 Mary had dismissed a girl and planned to advertise (W4415). In January 1904 Mary notes that "we have to do our own work, and the servant's wages are quite beyond me," and in August "we shall all have to work like trojans." In 1905 Hilda & Mary are doing a thorough housecleaning for Thanksgiving (5430). In 1906 she is "exhausted" by the housework (W4343, W-MCP3-5.007, W-MCP3-5.033, W5303, W5307, W5326, W-MCP2-4.052, W5665). In 1909 Mary cannot "afford" to hire help (W6419).
3 "Old Mrs. Lillie" was the wife of Dr. Adam Lillie who died in 1869. They had been missionaries to India. He was a minister in Brantford and had been a professor at the Congregational Theological Institute in Montreal for thirty years. He and Mary's father, Rev. Thomas Baker, were friends for forty years and Baker preached a lengthy eulogy in his honour (W4162).
4 For the MacKay family of Toronto, see W4297.