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Laundry and ironing were arguably the most arduous of household tasks through the s, and into the early s. But presenting herself and her family as tidy and well-groomed—especially on Sundays—was a matter of pride for the housewife of those times.
Clean and neat equaled respectability. Starched white aprons and petticoats, ribbons and bows, seem like a dubious choice for frontier apparel, but to pioneer women they represented victory over harsh environments; order; and preservation of feminine roles.
I got them ready for the line, the wind so hard, yet I managed to hang all out. The tub frozen full of water, I worked at 2 hours before I could get enough of it out so I could put the clothes in. Rollins Diary entry from her overland journey to Oregon in Soap maker; Frank Hohenberger, photographer.
A lye solution and rendered animal fat were boiled together. It was a multi-day process.
Before homes had indoor plumbing, buckets of clean water had to be hauled mainly by women to the house for cooking, washing dishes, bathing, laundry and cleaning. The spring, creek, pump, well, or street hydrant might be 60 yards downhill in an unbearably hot summer, or frozen in winter. One wash, boiling, and rinse of clothing used about 50 gallons—or pounds— of water.
Indoor plumbing remained a matter of class well into the 20th century. The rich got it before the poor; the city dweller got it before the farmer. By the mids, most white women in the United States could read and write. The plethora of domestic advice manuals sought to teach moral values through good housekeeping; an untidy home led to frequenting the saloons. Housewives were advised to keep to a strict weekly schedule for their chores:.
Fabrics and dyes of the period necessitated a different recipe for each fabric and stain. Housewifery was terribly hard and demoralizing work. Authors of domestic manuals tried to provide a road map for new brides and buck up their spirits.
Wearing ever more complicated pieces of apparel that required a great deal of skill to sew and care for was one way for the middle- and upper- classes to demonstrate their elevated place in the social hierarchy. Others took wash into their own homes, which allowed them to care for their children at the same time. Both the Union and Confederate armies hired laundresses during the Civil War. A laundress traveled with, and was sometimes captured with, her regiment. In her "free time" she often assisted the doctor with wounded and sick men. Often they were wives of soldiers.
Dressmaker Sarah Boone invented an ironing board to make pressing sleeves and bodices easier. Her patent was granted in It was a period of intense competition for patent rights to new devices, and ideas were coming fast and furious. Some were practical, some not so much. But all had the potential for financial reward.
Many inventors were ordinary American citizens, including women and African Americans. The cost of obtaining a U. In the average time between applying for and granting of a patent was only days. An inventor mailed documents to the U. Patent Office in Washington, D. Inventress Florence Potts received at least four patents, her first in at age nineteen. Both women and men patented des for time- and labor-saving gadgets to ease the back-breaking labor of washday. Oh, and save money, too. By the end of the s, housewives and washer women could purchase mass-produced boiling tubs, washboards, wringers, mangles, irons of all shapes and sizes, clotheslines, and laundry soap from catalogues and corner stores.
In the mid-to-late decades of the s, pleated frills or fluting were the thing. Fluting and goffering irons were heated over a flame and produced one frill at a time, an agonizingly slow businesss.
The fluting machine could produce numerous identical pleats very rapidly, a time- and labor-saving device welcomed by dressmakers, laundresses, and homemakers. Heated slugs were placed in the hollow cylinders. Rollers adjusted to accommodate different thicknesses of material.
Thomas Edison patented his incandescent light bulb inbut electricity was new and mysterious and frightening, and it took a long time for people to bring it into their homes:. Installing the network of wires was difficult and expensive. Retrofitting existing homes and bringing power to rural areas was costly. Until the s most new homes were wired only for lights. One or two small appliances could be used on their house light lines.
The market for domestic electricity was divided into lower- and middle-income homes with illumination only, and upper-income homes wired for full service. And electricity was very dangerous — newspapers were full of stories about people and livestock who were electrocuted in the early days. Change came in the s, when New Deal policies set a minimal standard of electrical modernization for American homes -it was a matter of social justice.
The first electric flatiron was deed and patented in by Henry W. Seely from New York. His iron used carbon sticks to produce heat. Instead of a cord, it had detachable wires connecting the iron to an electric circuit. Enter Charles E.
Carpenter, who invented the first electric flatiron known to actually be manufactured for use. Carpenter received his first patent for an electrically heated flat surface inwhen he was 25 and a student at the University of Minnesota. Acting on suggestions from F. Nevens, Carpenter deed a clothes iron. His iron used zig-zagged iron wire to conduct electricity and produce heat. Four of the irons were first used in Mr. For the first 20 or so years, power companies generated electricity for only a few hours during the evenings—their focus was mainly on its use for lighting. Earl H.
Richardson, photo courtesy of the Robert E. InEarl H. He had been experimenting with des for an electric iron, figuring if women began to use electric irons the demand for electricity would increase, and OEC could operate around the clock.
Richardson handed out several dozen samples of his iron to OEC consumers, and then persuaded his company to generate power during the day every Tuesday ironing day. It worked. But customers complained that the iron got too hot in the center. In overHotpoint irons were sold around the world. By the late s the flatiron and light bulb were the electrical devices most widely found in electrified households. Manufacturers introduced electric washing machines in the early s, but few consumers bought them. Owning a steam laundry became a fashionable endeavor, often bringing in a comfortable living if not a fortune, and entrepreneurs thought the trade would be easy to learn.
Not so. Owners and workers dealt with complicated machinery, sometimes with only the vaguest idea of how to operate it. Commercial laundries were a substantial source of employment for women, who made up most of the workforce. But the businesses were predominantly owned and run by men. Between andthe of laundry workers in the United States jumped from 38, toWomen starchers and ironers were considered skilled workers and earned comparatively high wages. When ironing and starching machines were introduced, those skilled workers were transformed into easily replaced, lower-paid machine tenders.
Families, rich and poor, sent at least part of their laundry out for someone else to do. In the first decades of the s, the city of Oxnard offered at least one Chinese laundry, a steam laundry that also sold fuel oil and soft water, a French laundry, and a hand laundry that also provided baths for people. Bythe small hamlet of Timberville that grew up around the Conejo Hotel boasted not only a post office, a blacksmith shop, and the Timber School, but a Chinese laundry as well. It took four months for clean laundry to make its way back. Racist hostility made it almost impossible for Chinese immigrants to work in the gold mines or the timber and fishing industries in California.Wife want hot sex Stagecoach
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