Peggy explains the origins of Grandma Nollie’s recipe for whitening instructions:
"I believe the above instructions for 'whitening' are written by the hand of my grandmother, Nollie Hill Godwin. I am not sure if this whitening would have been used for skin or for clothing. Living in the Texas sun, Nollie always wore a bonnet outdoors in order to protect her skin from the darkening effects of the sun. She may have used this formula to further lighten her skin. Living on a farm with a hard-working husband and nine hard-working and hard-playing children, she doubtless had need of whitening for their clothes, also."
-The Godwin Archives, Volume IV: NEIGHBORLY NOTES, Schoolwork, and Miscellaneous, (2007).
This liquid composition was used as a whitening for things and “as a wash for making the skin fair.” Here is some additional information about the ingredients that you may find interesting.
Glycerine (sic) is explained in the recipe for Hair Restorer in the "Miscellaneous" section.
Rose water still enjoys an excellent reputation today as a traditional facial cleanser, because it works as an astringent, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and has a lovely scent.
Flake white is a basic lead carbonate. One web tale explains how it was probably made, “Strips of lead were carefully folded to have spaces running through them. They were called buckles because they sort of looked like them ….They were fitted to clay pots which had holes in the bottom. Those pots fit into other pots that held the acetic acid or vinegar. Those pots were set side-by-side on beds of fresh manure and tanbark. (Tanbark is bark rich in tannin; bruised and cut in pieces to use for tanning) That was also stuffed between the pots. The sheds were closed and filled up with acidic fumes and heat. (This) made actual flakes of lead grow on the buckle. The process is called efflorescence …You can also see those flakes if you take a storage battery apart. Those are sulphur (sic) compounds and not nearly so white as Flake white. Sometimes they build up and cause a short circuit between the plates.
The buckles were harvested and the flakes scraped off and washed in water before drying. The resulting pigment is very special because the color is warm, and with a beautiful sheen like pearls. Flake white is a type of lead paint that is commonly used in oil paintings today; however, it is slowly being replaced by titanium white and zinc white because of the health related concerns of lead.
Rainwater harvesting comes down to us from ancient times and some of you may be familiar with the picture of the J.A. Godwin family taken around 1912 in Long Cove, Texas. You can find it on page 44 of Ruth Godwin Gadbury’s book “Godwin-Hill and Related Families” (1980). To the right of the house in the background is a large tank which caught rain off the roof. Rainwater has long been valued for its purity and softness. It has a nearly neutral pH, and is free from disinfection by-products, salts, minerals, and other natural and man-made contaminants.