Gateway to the Classics: Ruth of Boston by James Otis
Ruth of Boston by  James Otis

How the Work Is Divided

There is no good reason why I should make any attempt at setting down here all that was done by our people in the way of planting, in order that we might have such a harvest in the fall as would put far from us the fear of another famine.

It should be easy for you to fancy how we are employed here in this new town. Some of the men are working at the palisade, or barricade on the Neck; others are in the field planting and hoeing, while yet another company is in the shipyard on the Mystic River.

Ten or twelve of the people are constantly fishing, or hunting, to add to the food supply, while those serving-men or laborers who are not skilled at other work are cutting trees into fuel, and otherwise clearing the land that it may be tilled another year.


The women and children are no less busy, and it is easy for you to guess what their duties are. These log houses, while not requiring as much care as if they were mansions, need very much in the way of woman's work.

Lest the shiftless ones, who have no pride in the appearance of the town, or are too lazy to do other than what may be absolutely necessary, should allow the dirt to gather round about the outside of the houses, a law has been made obliging each person to keep free from dirt or filth of any kind, all the land surrounding his dwelling for a distance of fifty paces, whether in the street or garden, and it is upon us children that this last work falls.

Save for the babies, and those who are abed with sickness, there are no idle ones in Boston, and well indeed it should be so, for it surely is true that "Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do." If we were not busily engaged during all the waking hours, then would we have opportunity to grow homesick, for much as we are growing to like this New World, there will come now and then thoughts of the homes we left in England, and one's heart falls sad at realizing that, perhaps, never again will we see those whom we left behind when the Arabella sailed out of Southampton.

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