Rosie The Riveter's Grandmother, The Tough Kept Going

JPK Huson 1863

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#1
add machine wash.jpg

It may not have taken much effort watching that ' home washer ' being put to use, perhaps the point of this advertisement. Like it was easy. Most of our ancestors were the girls using those things. That's a load of sodden laundry next to it and ever hang a wet sheet on the clothes line? It's a small shot of what life entailed, a day in the life of our ACW ancestors.

Here's another. Those are large tubs filled with water logged clothing. It's a workout all by itself you'd pay a personal trainer to put together. It may be a big yawn compared to all the frills, lace and frou frou capturing modern imagination but it's how we lived. We girls were pretty darn tough.
new ad wringer washer.JPG



With my daughter out of touch this weekend because the Women's World Cup is being fought, thought I'd see how we've progressed to this point. These modern athletes are incredible, women's soccer such a tough, uber-fast game it's intimidating thinking of a players fitness level. Despite past images depicting we girls as fragile creatures in need of a good male arm to lean on I've frequently thought we'd need the endurance of a half-marathon runner just to make it past breakfast. Between climbing into all that clothing, hauling it everywhere and performing mundane chores like hauling your carpet out to the line and beating it with the tennis racket, you'd need a nap. Not done yet since pumping and hauling water, boiling clothing on the stove then using your new, modern wringer took yet more energy.

Era- and I mean war era publications were filled with uber romances, featuring mythical creatures. Fairies were big. I'm beginning to understand why. Yes, life was ' good ' without being the ' good old days ' we love to idealize but it was tough, too. Who didn't sometimes wish they could fly away?
fairy forest.jpg


No wonder Lady Liberty looks so tough. She had to be.
lady liberty crop.jpg


Sure, some of these activities depended on one's ' station in life ', i.e. you had ' help ' if you could afford their services. Ran into an hysterical fitness program for ' ladies ', routines where you'd have achieved the same results by spending time hanging out your own laundry. Or ironing it. Heating up your iron on the stove you kept hot by continually adding logs or coal then using that lump of iron for several hours? You'd pay a lot of fees at your local gym to get that level of fitness.

stove the independent.jpg

" The stove that pleases everybody ", note it's wood or coal, both requiring some weight lifting. That's a lot of hot cast iron to navigate while doing it, too.

Day to day life was honest work but illustrates what the word ' drudgery ' means. And exactly why, having survived the epidemics that swept your community, avoided being burned alive when your crinoline caught fire, lived through carriage overturns and gotten through multiple childbirths in one piece women could live until advanced ages. Our family history is terrific, great and great great grandmothers approaching the century mark before God threw in their towels. Nana, my Scots great grandmother and a child of the ACW generation insisted on living by herself in a huge house and hosted Thanksgiving dinner-cooked by herself- until giving in to a broken hip at 93.

From NYPL, note the irons heating on the stove top. We use our antique irons for doorstops for a reason.
stove iron kitchen nypl.jpg

It's post-war which means things are updated from that decade. Not a lot! This was a fairly typical home, too, despite our vague ideas of ' quaint '.

Point made, I won't get our a rattan rug beater and bludgeon it to death, it's just something we just don't always appreciate. Who doesn't love Rosie The Riveter's awesome bicep and what she represents? It was genetic.
 

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donna

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Wonderful illustrations. I remember my Granny's old ringer washer. I would stay right by her side as the clothes came thru the ringer. It was fun, for me a child, to watch. After washing she would take clothes out to clothes line for them to dry. My job was to hand her the clothes pins. They were the old wooden ones. I thought wash day was such fun.
 

Kurt G

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#3
My greatgrandmother died in the 1940s . She had 11 children and lived on a small farm in northern Michigan . One of my late mother's memories of summer visits was GGrandma hooking up the horse and wagon and hauling the laundry back to the creek about 400 yards away . She would start a fire under a huge kettle to boil water . I can't imagine the work involved .
 

Seduzal

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Although it was hard work washing clothes, cooking on the stove and other things that the people had to go though in that day and time. The most of the time when you thought you were caught up and nothing more to do...there was always time for cutting wood! Wood for the stove for heating water for boiling clothes, for cooking meals, heating the house during the winter months.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#6
As crude and elementary as the devices shown in the post appear, they were a darn sight better then using a scrub board or beating on rocks. Yes, we have come a long ways since then

Right? I've never been able to figure out how on earth clothes became cleaner by beating them on rocks anyway. I'm not saying it didn't work, I'm just trying to figure out how. In a day when most had few articles in their wardrobes, seems a little odd to wear them out more quickly by shredding them on rocks?

Maybe it was just being soaked in water. Camp is in the middle of a lake, no electricity and a laundry mat miles away. You can't use soap for obvious reasons. If we need something clean, like sheets and don't feel like making the trek to town, it's amazing how clean you can get them. Tie them in a mesh bag, tie bag to rock and let them hang around at the bottom of a lake for a day.
 

AnnaLee

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#7
When I was very small I remember my maternal grandmother and my mother heating a large tub of water over an open fire in the back yard and boiling the clothes. They also used lye soap which they made. There was no ringer machine only a "wash-board" of which they rubbed the stained clothing on. My mother bought a ringer washer when I was around seven and eventually bought an automatic washer/dryer when I was about fifteen. She still hung the clothes on a clothesline and used the dryer for towels mainly. I hung them and took them down many times before I left home. Hated that job.
 

Patrick H

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#8
Another great thread. The stove in that last photo is fascinating. I'm looking at all the plumbing associated with it, but I can't figure out the large tank above it. Can someone fill me in?
 
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#10
When I was in Korea we used to see the woman washing white clothes in a stream or lake, it was a wonder how they managed to get them so white. The water was not always that clean.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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#11
When I was very small I remember my maternal grandmother and my mother heating a large tub of water over an open fire in the back yard and boiling the clothes. They also used lye soap which they made. There was no ringer machine only a "wash-board" of which they rubbed the stained clothing on. My mother bought a ringer washer when I was around seven and eventually bought an automatic washer/dryer when I was about fifteen. She still hung the clothes on a clothesline and used the dryer for towels mainly. I hung them and took them down many times before I left home. Hated that job.
Right? And you had to pin one piece of clothing to the next with the same pin. Have to say sheets sure smelled wonderful after drying out there.

Your laundry was a ' thing '. I remember women being perfectly awful about each other's clothes lines and what was hung. odd what sticks with you in memory. One of my mother's friends never spoke to her neighbor- there was some discussion over why. She leaned in and said in a hushed voice " Her whites are a disgrace ". Like the woman ate kittens although that would have probably caused less scandal.
 



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