Nancy Keeps House by Helene Laird

I wonder how many of you grew up with Nancy in the book Nancy Keeps House.  Did you learn your housekeeping methods from this book as well as your mom?  It was published in 1947 just a few years before I was born so it was still quite relevant when I was growing up in the 50's.  I read it often and have always remembered the instructions as I went about cleaning the next fifty years!  I found a copy when my children were still small and encouraged them to read it.  By then it was far too dated for them to enjoy and alas, they ignored it completely.  It sat on the bookshelf for years. 

Then the other day I saw an illustration in a blog and it reminded me of this book.  I looked online for illustrations to verify it and could not find a single illustration, not even of the cover.  It is listed on Goodreads and Amazon with a blank in place of the book photo.   I did, however find the authors real daughter making a comment through Amazon which I have copied for you.

Rebuttal from the real Nancy September 10, 2010
Format:Unknown Binding
My mother wrote 3 Nancy books, and what you have to remember is the time in which she wrote them--the 1940s. Things were different then! A lot of these book are based on her teaching me to keep house, eventually on my college adventures and life in the work world.

I am so happy to hear that this book still has some use to someone. Of course, when they were written I was absolutely mortified!
Poor Nancy November 16, 2007
Format:Unknown Binding
Poor gets pregnant and dad is apparently too macho to handle things in her absence. So she's pressed into service - has to learn to cook and clean.

In spite of the uber-inequality present in this book, I find it a strangely good read. I actually pull it out now and then when I need inspiration for my spring cleaning. It's not only a fictional book; it includes actual cleaning instructions. Much of it is out of date - does anyone still sprinkle their clothes? - but nevertheless, if you want to learn how to make hospital corners, this is your book.
This is the page of the book referred to in the earliest comment

I tried to find information on the real Nancy a few years ago and discovered that she is actually a stepdaughter to Helene Laird, explaining the vast age difference between the babyish 12 year old Nancy and the impending birth of her sibling.  Not that it can't happen in a family!  My own last child was born when the youngest was 12.  I found myself often joking I didn't get a new husband with the new family, lest people would automatically think it was a second marriage, "Not that there is anything wrong with that" quoting Jerry Seinfeld.  But I'm digressing here, it is just unusual to have an age gap of 12 - 13 years in between children. 

I had been searching online because I was afraid I left this book when I moved.  I left hundreds of books I collected over the years as I literally had no room for more than a few hundred in my new tiny house.  But when not finding any illustrations online at all, I searched the house and was overjoyed to find it among the books on the bottom of the last shelf of books I had. 
I discovered anew that there were two sets of illustrations.  One telling the story and illustrations that Nancy herself  supposedly drew for her housekeeping book.  

So for all you fans that grew up with this book, I am sharing a few of the many illustrations with you from my tattered and stained copy of Nancy Keeps House. 

We had double sinks washed dishes the opposite way.  My sister remarked a few years ago that it was odd that most people washed dishes from the right to the left.  She attributed it to my mother being left handed.  Do you agree? 

We didn't have a wringer washer, but it didn't seem odd at all to me because my best friend Patsy, had one.  I was always fascinated to watch her mom put clothes through the wringer and fearful due to her dire warnings that we must not ever touch it lest our hands and arms get crushed. 

We didn't do the grocery shopping at the age of 12 but we were allowed to go with Mom shopping, taking turns weekly.  It was a treat to get to go and one of my favorite things to do. ancient is this advice? 
We have a whole new food chart these days.

Nice to see Dad as the chef in this early book.  My dad also cooked a mean breakfast for us often on Sunday mornings.  

The premise of the book was that during the two week hospital stay Nancy would need to keep house for her dad and she was being taught the fine art of housekeeping while waiting for the impending birth.  Baby care would be a big help later so that was included.    

It was a fine book and Nancy Keeps House is a book that was very helpful to me.  I was able to quote passages to myself of the book, but never did I prop a poem and memorize it while doing dishes.  I had  sisters and we did dishes two at at time. We sang together, alternating lines:

Yackety Yak
On the telephone all the time
What a heck of a life
When you got a wife
on the T-E-L-L

This is quite the indulgent post!  Thanks to all who read it through!  Please leave a comment if you read Nancy Keeps House by Helene Laird.
It would make my day!

Linking up to:
Time Travel Thursday 
Vintage Thingie Thursday


Patty said…
Thank you Jeanne for sharing the pictures and this blog about Nancy Keeps House!!! I have thouht of the book over the years, too, as I cleaned up! Especially making the beds with "hospital" corners, I always thought of her! And it is so neat to hear about the "real" nancy who was a step-child. I always wondered about a 12 year old who never had to do any housework until her mom had a baby!! That was not our experience, was it!!
Unknown said…
Actually, jeanne, we did have a wringer washer....I remember it when we moved to Joyce drive. Thanks for the memories! I too, loved it when I had my turn to go shopping with Mom...It was a simpler time...I love you
i am not familiar with this book jeanne but it does have amusing illustrations. i love that pic where daddy cooks too because my dad was an excellent chef and did most of the cooking at home (apart from having a full time job). i like the ancient food chart too!
I did read all the way through, and find it so quaint the difference to the way things are now.
Don't you just miss June Cleaver and Harriet Nelson???
Thanks for the memories,
LV said…
Enjoyed visiting and learning about this little book. I love to read and always have. Do not recall having read this one tho.
Michelle said…
I'd love to get my hands on a copy of that book -- I could learn how to use that wringer washer hubby just bought me. (Supposed to be for decor, but it works, so I want to figure it out just because I've got it!)

How long does it take to hit the point where you can do dishes without thinking about them? You'd think after six years of hand washing dishes for a big family I'd be getting there....
Jeannie Marie said…
I'm sending the instructions from the book to you via email, Michelle.
lavender garden said…
thank you for posting this. I would love to get a copy of the book- I have tried online but nothing seems to be available. do you have any suggestions? is there an address where I could contact the stepdaughter? Thanks so much.
Jeannie Marie said…
The stepdaughter, Nancy, posts reviews on so you might try to contact her that way or through the publisher. I have seen the book crop up fairly frequently on eBay. If you send me your email address I can contact you if I run across a copy.
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