Unpopularity of Stepmothers

Asenath Nicholson
Chapter VII (13) | Start of Chapter

The characteristics of an Irishman are so marked, that whether you find him living on a bog or in a domain, in a cabin or in a castle, you know he is an Irishman still. His likes and dislikes, his love and hatred, seem regulated by a national standard. One of their deeply infixed characteristics is, hatred to stepmothers. The poor victim might as well enter her name on the black roll, and make a league to become a witch at once, as to undertake this crusade; for indulgent or severe, idle or industrious, amiable or unamiable, she is a stepmother still.

In this family, one of these victims presided, or rather tarried; and the very atmosphere of the house seemed to whisper stepmother, wherever a child appeared. A daughter of seventeen offered to accompany me in the evening to the well of St. Patrick, two miles from town, but this hopeful girl was not out of bed till eleven in the morning, and when the time arrived she could not accompany me, "she had no leisure but on the Sabbath." The stepmother looked significantly, and I inquired if her daughter had any business which was pressing?

"She lies in bed, as you see, taking her breakfast after the family alone, and sits till dinner time; she has nothing to do, but I mustn't—I'm a stepmother," giving another significant look.

Ireland’s Welome to the Stranger is one of the best accounts of Irish social conditions, customs, quirks and habits that you could wish for. The author, Mrs Asenath Nicholson, was an American widow who travelled extensively in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine and meticulously observed the Irish peasantry at work and play, as well as noting their living conditions and diet. The book is also available from Kindle.