The past and future of laundry
Carl Tashian

I had a scene in my latest book, Healing Montana Sky, set on the prairie in 1895, and I had to research washing clothes. What labor and drudgery!

Hauling water from a well or stream, and heating wash and rinse water on a wood burning fire or stove, scrubbing with stinging lye soap every bit of bedding and clothing — which for a woman, one outfit meant undergarments, petticoats, dress or shirtwaist and skirt, apron. Multiply that by a second outfit, and many family members (no birth control, so lots of children)— including one or more babies in diapers. Exhausting!

Then having to hang all those heavy clothes, sheets, tablecloth, etc on the line. And doing this is while minding several small children/babies, and having to stop and prepare meals on that wood burning stove for the family.

And that’s only wash day. The next day was ironing day. Heat heavy irons on the stove, switching one iron for another when it cooled. And doing that for every garment and also the sheets and tablecloth.

Women in those days needed to have amazing stamina and muscles. We take our modern appliances for granted. We also take our water resources for granted, which is leading to major problems, especially in California.

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