There Was An Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe...

Mother Goose, 1968, Illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa via Syd and Goose

"There was an old woman who lived in a shoe,
She had so many children she didn't know what to do,
So she gave them some broth without any bread,
Then whipped them all soundly and sent them to bed."

This poem distressed me as a child - I couldn't make any sense of it other
than the horror and injustice of children being spanked for no good reason.
It's exact meaning or intention has been lost over time as it dates back to the late 1700's. Some believe the rhyme may refer to royalty (King George II and Queen Caroline who had eight kids) or Elizabeth Vergoose of Boston who had six children of her own and 10 stepchildren (she gets my vote). 

As a mother it makes sense to me now: too many kids + mother alone = crazy. 

Disney Mother Goose via *amber e*

I had this book as a child - don't remember the exact name of it, so I'm guessing. Wish I still had it.

Vintage Jello ad via graphic-design

From A Pocketful of Posies, A Treasury of Nursery RhymesFabric Relief Collage by Salley Mavor via Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Drawing by Kronheim, 1875 via Ask

This site has some information on the history of this nursery rhyme.


  1. Margeurite de Angeli illustrated this rhyme very prettily whereas Frederick Richardson (Original Volland Edition) shows a woman at the end of her rope! Janet & Anne Grahme Johnstone's is a good one, too. The image via artisan landscape is from Eloise Wilkin's Mother Goose. We also have Walt Disney's MOTHER GOOSE - it's a favorite of my girls.

  2. Thanks Stephanie - I wouldn't have guessed Eloise Wilkin to be the illustrator of that image! I need to get a copy of Walt Disney's Mother Goose. I read it so much as a kid that it has great sentimental appeal for me.

  3. Jil! I've just found your blog and I want to read it all! I collect vintage children's dishes and love these old picture books too! Today I made a post about "There was an old woman who lived in a shoe" and then I continue reading about it and I found you!! I'll continue following your blog and I'm going to visit the other ones you mention.
    Sorry for my poor English, I'm from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and we speak Spanish here.
    Besos! Silvina.

  4. Silvina, Thank you for your comments, your English is good!