Babes, Bairns and Little Strangers
Being Born and Growing Up in Victorian Canada
If there was one thing that set the Canadian people apart from the European immigrants, it was their attitude toward their children.  Nothing was more precious or valuable and fortunately those attitudes were later reflected in many Canadian homes.
But when the Jesuits first arrived in this country in the early seventeenth century, they felt that Canadian parents were far too permissive with their children, since they never spanked or disciplined them in any way, preferring to use inspirational stories to steer them down the right path.  In turn, the Canadian people found it difficult to understand how the priests could condemn them for being scantily dressed and dancing naked, and yet could strike an innocent child.

Child rearing in Victorian Canada fell somewhere in between, though corporal punishment was a fact of life, and many a young lad or lass learned their lesson at the end of a hickory switch.
Many wonderful stories have survived from the Era that paint a picture of carefree youth, but it was also a very difficult time.  Childhood illnesses claimed many of the young people and those that survived were expected to work at an early age and were accountable for their actions long before reaching maturity.  Children as young as ten were sent to jail for petty crimes, where they no doubt learned how to improve their skills, though definitely not how to avoid arrest.

And while child deaths were more common, they fortunately never became commonplace and a family’s  grief over the loss of a child was still felt.  From an obituary in an 1876 newspaper:

Our darling bud of promise
Too fair on earth to dwell
The saviour took it from us’
Yet ‘tis wel, tis well”

As in earlier times, children were still looked upon as treasures and though the overdressing and constant administering of “miracle cures” no doubt did more harm than good, they knew the importance they played in their parents’ lives.  Indulgent fathers whittled wooden dolls, trains and wagons and local shops had a wide array of fashion dolls, doll houses, miniature stoves and train sets.

On butchering day the pig’s bladder was saved to make a football and my dad told me of stories of hockey matches played on the ice with cow patties as pucks while tree limbs were used as hockey sticks. Other balls were made from unravelling old hand knit socks (often without permisson of the person who now went sockless) and most children had a wooden sled and pair of skates with wooden platforms and iron runners.

Young children spied on unaware lovers, little boys teased little girls and parents fretted over what their children's futures had in store.  That much hasn’t changed.  Now for a glimpse into the lives of Victoria's Canadian children.
Avoiding Pauperism and the Reckless Increase of Population - Family Planning and Contraception
One Hundred Meals for Only a Dollar - Feeding Victoria's Canadian Children
Poke Bonnets, Sacques and
Rubber Drawers
- The Well Dressed Victorian Canadian Child
Idiots, Fools and Criminals - The Improvement of Offspring
Morning Sickness and Lancinating Pain - Pregnancy and Childbirth
The Pitch and Tone of a Child's Cry - The Little Patient
From Laudanum to Leeches -Curing Childhood Diseases
A Dusting of Nutmeg and a Goose Oil Rub - Taking Care of an Infant
Gathered Breasts and a Little Cream and Sugar - Nursing the Newborn
Shoe the Horse and Scratch Cradle - Fun and Games for Victoria's Canadian Children
A Sharp Pen-Knife and a Steady Hand - Care of Victoria's Canadian Children
'Skulemarms' and Nasal Harmony Educating Victoria's Canadian Children
Spare the Rod and Pass up the Perfectly Good Use of a Woodshed - Discipline Victorian Style
The Institution of Marriage Home Page
Uniquely Canadian Home Page
Victorian Canada Home Page