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Housewife

A soldiers's housewife, dating to the American Civil War A soldiers's housewife, dating to the American Civil War

Housewife is an English (UK) term to describe a pocket-size sewing kit containing buttons, needles, pins, scissors, threads and other sewing accessories. The term is often (but not exclusively) associated with sewing kits issued to the British military. In the mid-eighteenth century, it was written huswife or hussive and these forms can still be found at the end of the twentieth century (Shorter Oxford English Dictionary).

There is a reference to a huswife in Memoirs of a Coxcomb, by John Cleland (1709-1789) and published in 1751. There is a comparable reference to a huswife in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, when Fanny Dashwood is shocked on discovering Lucy and Edward’s engagement, while her companion, Nancy Steel, is only concerned about losing her huswife: "And for my part, I was all in a fright for fear your sister should ask us for the huswifes she had gave us a day or two before; but however, nothing was said about them, and I took care to keep mine out sight." Sense and Sensibility was written in 1795 and first published in 1811.

Source: Shorter Oxford English Dictionary: 'Housewife'.

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 7 July 2016).

GVE

Last modified on Wednesday, 31 August 2016 08:47