Washing Day


This morning I started a load of laundry, then came upstairs to work on this blog post. In a minute, I’ll go downstairs, move the load to the dryer, then enjoy thirty minutes of reading while I wait for the clothes to dry. Another fifteen minutes to fold and Voila! Laundry Complete.

Can I tell you… Rose is more than a little jealous of me. Not only does her wash day routine take longer than two hours, every bit of which is spent on her feet, there’s not a blasted book in sight anywhere.

No, if ever there was a chore designed to make a poor farm wife wish she’d never left her posh upper-middle class life, laundry is it!

And no wonder. Just look at all the steps involved, just in this one picture.

Stages to washing1] The washtub must be filled with water. Hot water. There’s no indoor plumbing, so water must be pumped from the well AND then heated before it can be poured into the wash tub.

2] This particular model is motor driven, but the 1910 model that Rose owns has a flywheel that is manually driven. According to the literature, it takes about 7 minutes of moving the crank on that flywheel (by hand) to finish a load of laundry.

3] The laundry is removed from the undrained washtub and run through a wringer into a rinse tub. This is done one piece at a time.

4] Oh! Did I mention that the rinse tub has to be filled with water from the well?

5] After all the clothes have been transferred to the rinse tub, theoretically another load can be started. Again, this picture shows a motorized tub. In Rose’s case, it’s hand operated. So… She’ll have to wait until she has Load No. 1 ready for the line before starting another.

6] The wringer is angled (hopefully, it’s set up on a swivel to move easily between tubs) towards the bluing water and after thorough rinsing in the rinse tub, each item is sent through the wringer again and into the bluing tub.

Yep! That tub also has to be filled with water from the well.

And, in case you’ve lost count, that’s three large tubs of water that Rose has had to pump and carry, and in at least one case, heat. (And let’s not even think about what this task is like in the dead of winter when the temperature is below zero. Ugh!)

7] Finally, after rinsing in the bluing tub, each piece of clothing must be wrung once more, this time into a basket to carry to the clothesline for hanging.  At this point, each piece of clothing has been touched four times.

8] Now Rose can start the next load of laundry. She would have washed the least soiled clothes in this first load, followed by successively dirtier clothing, saving the greasiest, nastiest pieces for last. This way, she wouldn’t have to change the water.

Now, consider what each of those tubs looks like after all her laundry is done. Ick!

9] When she’s finished the last load, then she gets to lug heavy laundry baskets to the line and hang them all to dry.

Jeez! No wonder the moms in all those old movies always wore aprons and fussed at their husband/children to wash up.

And, Rose is quick to point out, her 1910 machine is better than the alternative: a washboard and tub.

But, the laundry isn’t finished yet. There’s still ironing to do, once the clothes are dry. But, let’s talk about that another day; I’m beat.

PS: Wondering about the picture in the header? Well, that’s the NEW washer in the 1929 Sears Catalog. Rose has been dreaming about owning it. But, $89.50 is pretty expensive. And, it will be about ten years before she has electricity on the farm. So, for the foreseeable future, dreaming is all she’ll be able to do.

3 thoughts on “Washing Day

  1. Zan Marie says:

    The thought of all that labor is mind-numbing! I’d be down for the count before the first load was in the rinse water. My mother is younger than Rose, but she remembers churning butter while reading…and getting in trouble if her dasher got too slow. We have it easy, don’t we?


  2. It’s amazing that back when there was so much labour involved, people actually bothered ironing their day-to-day clothes and sheets and so on. I actually enjoy ironing and I don’t even have to do it, ever. Of course, my iron just plugs into the wall. I don’t have to heat 4-5 separate irons on the fire and make sure they don’t scald the clothing or my fingers…


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