I have always been quite intrigued by Mrs. Claus and the work that she does behind the scenes. She is the perfect example of “beside every successful man is a strong woman.” I also think that there is an opportunity for more exposure for Mrs. Claus so that more young girls will get to see positive depictions of hard-working women, healthy relationships, and managing work-life balance. What better time of year for role models than the holidays? As we are celebrating Christmas in July here at Recollections I have been thinking of the various depictions of Mrs. Claus over time and fell into a serious online rabbit hole. I have selected four of my favorite depictions of St. Nick’s sidekick through time to share with you this weekend. Enjoy, and Happy Christmas in July!
1887: A Hickory Backlog: In An Architects Modern Kitchen
One of the earliest depictions that I could find that does more than just mention a Mrs. Claus or “Santa’s wife” is an 1887 Good Housekeeping article titled “A Hickory Backlog: In An Architects Modern Kitchen.” I had the pleasure of reading the article in its entirety and think that it qualifies as a feminist depiction, especially for it’s time.
The article tells the story of an architect who is woken up one night by a stranger in his room, “an agreeable but extremely dignified and earnest looking woman” he immediately recognizes as Mrs. Claus. Our readers will love that before revealing the reason for her visit, the author goes into extreme detail in describing her clothing. I especially loved how her coat was described:
“Her outer garment was a bright colored plaid worsted cloak reaching to within about six inches of the floor. Its size was most voluminous, but its fashion was extremely simple. It had a wide yoke across the shoulders, into which the broad plain breadths were gathered; and it was fastened at the throat by a huge ornamented brass hook and eye, from which hung a short chain of round twisted links. Her right arm protruded through a vertical slit at the side of the cloak and she held in her hand a sheet of paper covered with figures. The left arm on which she carried a large basket or bag — I couldn’t tell which — was hidden by the ample folds of the garment.”
The reason for her visit is that she is fed up with men designing kitchens in modern homes that take no consideration for the work that women will do in the kitchens once complete. She complains to the architect that she is tired of seeing women injured or inconvenienced in their management of the household meals. Besides many personal injuries due to steep cellar stairs and poor lighting, she also notes that women are worn down due to all of the unnecessary walking they have to do. My favorite point that she makes is that numerous domestic workers have lost their jobs due to no fault of their own but rather that the circumstances under which they are required to work are simply too difficult.
When the architect argues that certainly he can’t be held responsible for female carelessness Mrs. Claus bites back: “Yes, that is just like a man; always thinks first of his own needs and then if anything goes wrong is sure it is anybody’s fault but his own.” She then tells him to get out a pen and paper and proceeds to instruct him on the proper design of a modern kitchen.
How cute is that?? I do say, the portrayals of Mrs. Claus got off to a good start!
1889: Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride
The next significant feature that I found was an 1889 poem called “Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride.” Apparently, “Goody” was a 19th-century term for a good wife. While she may be dutiful, this Mrs. Claus also has an attitude! The poem opens with Mrs. Claus complaining that Santa gets to have all of the fun on Christmas, while she stays home tending to the house. Goody Claus wants to go along on the adventure!
Mrs. Claus gets out her finest cap to look the part and it is here that we discover a bit about the couple’s background as she says:
“See! I’ve fetched my snow-flake bonnet, with the sunrise ribbons on it;
I’ve not worn it since we fled from Fairyland our wedding day;
How we sped through iceberg porches with the Northern Lights for torches!
You were young and slender, Santa, and we had this very sleigh.”
Goody Claus makes a great argument for going along with the Christmas adventure and off the couple goes. Santa even lets her help fill the stockings, and at one point she offers to repair one of them saying “Let me show you what a woman’s wit can do.”
1963: How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas
Phyllis McGinley’s How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas is a great example of a “feminist” spin on Mrs. Claus and I am determined to send it to my nieces for Christmas!
The premise of the story is that on Christmas Eve, Mrs. Claus presents Santa with an idea on how to shake things up a bit as he goes to deliver the toys later that night. The problem is that Santa doesn’t take very well to the idea and becomes “indignant,” storming to his room and asking not to be disturbed. He goes as far as to say that her idea has made him sick and that he must sleep in order to recoup in time for the toy delivery. He insists on not being disturbed.
Santa retreats to his room and fails to wake for the 12am departure of his sled. When the reindeers call Mrs. Claus to ask where he is, she attempts to wake him by knocking on his door. When he fails to appear, Mrs. Claus recalls how insistent he was not to be disturbed and takes the rest of the night’s matters into her own hands.
It is after Santa gets angry at her actions the next morning that we discover what the cause of the temper tantrum had been in the first place. It turns out that Mrs. Claus had suggested that unexpected toys be delivered to each of the children in order to spice things up in their lives. And this is exactly what she did. One such switch was delivering “for girls who had nothing but dolls on hand, nice red dump trucks for dumping sand.” At first, Santa is horrified at what her innovative idea will do to his reputation, but when they receive the report that the children loved their gifts, he relaxes and praises Mrs. Claus for her work before the pair sit down to a Christmas morning feast.
But that night, Santa had to prepare dinner himself.
You can listen to a recital of the poem on YouTube here.
2016: Mark and Spencer Campaign
This one takes the cake!
The 2016 Mark and Spencer television ad featuring Mrs. Claus was one that I wasn’t familiar with before, but quickly added to this list and it is now my favorite. I love its portrayal of Mrs Claus in a chic modern winter outfit and the way that she cheekily takes it upon herself to deliver a last-minute Christmas gift to the sister of a boy who has written saying that he often fights with his older sister but still loves her very much and wants to make sure her gift is special. Heading out in a red helicopter and wearing a perfect red coat, Mrs. Claus delivers the perfect gift to the girl.
I LOVE IT! I have a certain YouTube video that I share every Christmas, and I will be adding this ad to go with it. If you haven’t seen it, please watch the video above and make sure to share it far and wide this Christmas.
What do you think is next for Mrs. Claus?