Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Laundry: and You Hate Doing it Now?

We had a short discussion here a few days ago about the lovely stories from times gone by and about how many of the realities were not so pleasant. It made me think of something I once read about laundry in Victorian times, which I found and thought I would share. If nothing else makes you thankful for modern appliances, perhaps this will. It is no wonder that women did not have careers, usually, that instead they stayed home and cared for a family, often with the help of servants. This information is taken from Liza Picard's book, Victorian London.

She says that the family wash was done infrequently. A family of three might do the wash every five or seven weeks. It was done in a cycle of coloreds, body linen and other fine things prepared for boiling on Friday, the fire lit under the boiler at 3 AM on Saturday. Sunday was church, so Monday the washing lines were put up in the garden (yard), which was a major project in itself with a large amount of wash being done. The washing was also finished on Monday, my guess is that each item was scrubbed out by hand until some inventions during the Victorian era. Tuesday shirts and petticoats were starched and the table linen and sheets were smoothed and folded to be mangled. They were sent to and returned from the mangler on Wednesday, while the ironing was begun. Thursday everything would be checked and put away, so the laundry basically took a full week to do. An average wash for three persons was 24 day shirts, six night shirts, petticoats, drawers and knickers, nappies (diapers) and sanitary towels. Silk dresses were sent to a "scourer" to be cleaned, or to save money, you could wash it in gin! Remember, throughout all this, the family had to be fed and cared for in all the regular daily matters.

Now, mind you, if your house rented from 40 to 50 pounds a year (I assume this is approximate), drying could be done in the garden. But to hang out clothes next to a more expensive home of 70 to 80 pounds would be a "profanation". The family would be considered low and vulgar and shunned accordingly. The only hope for them, thereafter, would be emigration- that is what the book says! LOL. Of course, the higher your rent, the more servants you likely had, so the more laundry there was that needed doing. And of course, with the lack of modern birth control methods, there could easily be many children. I think I would require everyone to wash their own clothes out at the end of each day, hauling in their own water to do it! But what do I know? Perhaps I would be shunned for that.

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