All moms get free admission to Old Sturbridge Village on Mother's Day, May 11. The first 200 mothers to arrive will also receive a free gift - a blend of favorite heirloom seeds from the OSV gardens. Mother's Day highlights include a spirited "Moms vs. Kids" tug of war contest on the Village Common, a raffle to win a Village-made tea set, a variety of crafts for children to make as Mother's Day gifts, and a tour of the OSV gardens with a focus on medicinal plants used by mothers during the early 19th century. A special Mother's Day Brunch will be served at the museum's Oliver Wight Tavern (reservations required). For times and details: 800-SEE-1830; www.osv.org.
Modern moms can learn about early parenting practices from Old Sturbridge Village's costumed historians portraying 19th-century domestic advice author Lydia Maria Child. Storyteller Tammy Denease will portray slave seamstress Elizabeth Keckly, who purchased freedom for herself and her son and went on to become Mary Todd Lincoln's dressmaker and confidant. The OSV Tin Shop will demonstrate rattle making and the Pottery Shop will be making flower pots, among many additional activities and demonstrations at the Village.
Although Mother's Day is a 20th century invention, Old Sturbridge Village historians note that in New England in the early 1800s a major transition was underway in the role mothers had in the household. As fathers began to work away from the home due to the Industrial Revolution, more of the child rearing responsibilities fell on mothers. Women turned to advice books, written by women such as Lydia Maria Child, and maternal societies (the 19th-century version of a support group) to assist with the challenges of raising children in this new, modern world.
In addition, a "cult of domesticity" began to glorify the home as a sanctuary and refuge from the increasingly bustling and impersonal outside world. Despite this trend to glorify home and hearth, being a mom in the early 1800s was a very rigorous job.
Women typically had five or six children and they worked straight through their pregnancies - handling all the endless chores necessary in running a household. Mothers often had their children over a 20-year span, so it wasn't uncommon to have an infant at home when the oldest child was entering adulthood.
These and other aspects of motherhood in the early 19th century will be explored at OSV during its Mother's Day celebration. A full schedule of Mother's Day activities at Old Sturbridge Village is available at www.osv.org.
Old Sturbridge Village is one of the largest living history museums in the nation, celebrating life in early New England from 1790 to 1840. Located just off the Massachusetts Turnpike and Routes I-84 and 20 in Sturbridge, Mass., OSV is open year-round, but days and hours vary seasonally. The Village offers lodging at the Old Sturbridge Inn and Reeder Family Lodges and several dining options on-site. For more details, visit www.osv.org or call 800-SEE-1830.