Helpful hints from La ménagère

Helpful hints from La ménagère (1) – (PIP #21)

By Louise Peloquin

Among L’Etoile’s briefs were helpful hints for the homemaker – tips on cleaning, sorting, sewing, anything to facilitate household management. These appeared regularly for an all-inclusive target readership – from the Maman of a large family to the immigrant who crossed the 45th parallel with the dream of “making it” in les États. (2)

    Although the French word ménagère is grammatically feminine, learning to clean a stain, sew a button, wash a window, plant a rooftop garden and turn leftovers into a delectable meal, were destined to all. Everything was recovered, reused, repurposed or recycled. Nothing went to waste. (3)

Take, for example, Joseph who arrived in Woonsocket with his father to work in a textile mill. He had no choice but to become self-sufficient. The adult he quickly became learned to make the crunchiest cornichons (4) and the tastiest piccalilli, to grow the biggest beefeater tomatoes on a Middlesex Street tenement balcony and later in a garden on Stevens Street, to turn bits and bobs of wood and string into treasures for his 9 children. No homemaker had an edge on him. Joseph was but one of the many French Canadians who enjoyed dispensing helpful hints. (5) It is no wonder that the ménagère rubric was a L’Etoile staple.

L’Etoile – June 30, 1944

La ménagère

     To make a stain disappear on a piece of clothing which is not perfectly clean, the end result is often a difference in color. 

     A circle will appear if the job is half-done or if one is too generous with the cleaning solution. To pre-empt the circle, which is hardly prettier than the stain itself, one must proceed as follows. Begin cleaning the edges of the stain, working towards the center with little semicircular movements. That way, each movement will blend into the other without forming demarcating lines. Blow on the stain constantly while cleaning. The faster it dries, the better. When the stain is no longer visible, lightly rub with a dry rag and hang the piece of clothing outside or in front of an electric fan. A water stain merely requires slightly rubbing the fabric on itself. The edge of a spoon, a coin, and even one’s fingernail often suffice to remove a not-too-pronounced circle. Always have a special cloth, preferably cotton, on hand. It is important to keep it very clean. In order to do so, just include it in the weekly wash with rich and active soapsuds which give “ultra-white” results. 


Once the household chores are done, a refreshment is welcome.

L’Etoile – November 22, 1944

Refresh yourself right from the bottle. Drink Coca-Cola. (6)


  1. The homemaker.
  2. The States.
  3. Nothing went to waste…in grandmother’s kitchen – Rien n’était gaspillé… dans la cuisine de grand-mère, by Betty A. Lausier Lindsay, provides examples. Bilingual booklet developed and reproduced in 1981 by the National Materials Development Center for French & Creole at 48 Henriette Street Manchester, N.H. 03102, with funds provided by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
  4. Pickles.
  5. Bébé and me, posted on December 7, 2020introduces Joseph. Here is an excerpt:

Joseph my (paternal) grandfather, a self- made man with a primary school education, had begun his professional life at the age of eight working six days a week in the wool mills of Woonsocket, Rhode Island. He and his father had left their family in Canada to try to make good in the then booming textile industry. 

Father and son worked, ate and slept in the mill and were allowed to meet on Sundays when they attended Mass together and spent the afternoon sharing stories as they walked around town. In the early evening. Joseph would get back to the warehouse where his “bed” – a bale of wool – was waiting for him. House rules stated that family members had to work and lodge in separate buildings. Joseph missed his father’s company but he always kept a stiff upper lip, feeling lucky to be able to send the two dollars of weekly wages to his mother back in “le pays” – the old country. The foreman quickly noticed the youngster’s quick reflexes and decided to take him under his wing to train him. Joseph climbed up the proverbial ladder and, a half century later, he ended his career managing Lowell’s Tool and Dye Company founded on the success of his inventions. He was very proud of his life’s journey as a self-taught engineer.

  1. Translations by Louise Peloquin.

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