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laundry count blessins

August 28, 1998

Count Blessins

Written for a bride a century ago – from Mountain Life and Work
[spelling as in original work]

  1. bild a fire in back yard to heat kettle of rain water.
  2. set tubs so smoke won't blow in eyes if wind is pert.
  3. shave one hole cake soap in bilin water.
  4. sort things, make three piles, one pile white, one cullord, one work britches and rags.
  5. stur flour in cold water to smooth then thin down with bilin water.
  6. rub dirty spots on bord, scrub hard, then bile, rub cullord but don't bile just rench and starch.
  7. spred tee towels on grass; hang old rags on fence; pore rench water in flower bod; scrub porch with soapy water.
  8. turn tubs upside down.
  9. go put on clean dress, smooth hair with side combs, brew cup of tee, set and rest and rock a spell and count blessins.
more to consider

The evolution of washing clothing is quite amazing when you look at its stages:

  • WOMEN washing clothes by hand with their own soap and lye recipes;
  • advertisements in 1950s WOMEN’s magazines featuring ringer-washers, where clothes were manually processed through a pressing mechanism to remove excess water (and children frequently lost arms due to fooling around with them);
  • 1960s advertisements showing WOMEN in aprons with big smiles on their faces, absolutely delighted with their automatic washing machines;
  • the 1990s Maytag Repair MAN with time on his hands because the Maytag washers apparently never need repair.

Laundry is no longer only a woman’s chore (although women likely still do most of their family’s laundry). Men are doing laundry too, but look how easy it is now! Load the dirty clothes, add soap and turn on the machine. From washer to dryer in one fell swoop and, voilà, clean clothes. We don’t even have to iron if we buy the right cotton/polyester blends, or if we take the laundry out of the dryer quickly so the clothes don’t have time to wrinkle.

There are millions of women around the world who still wash by hand. I hope they get time for a cup of tea too! So many of us are privileged in the north and the west.

Does this story seem familiar?

My mother did my laundry. Even when I offered as a teenager to do my own, she said she preferred to do it with the rest of the family's as it would be a waste of water for me to do mine separately. When I moved out on my own, I realized how spoiled I had been. Doing my own laundry, even with modern washers and dryers, was a chore. Taking it to a laundromat was expensive too!

Then, married with no kids, my husband started to do laundry for the two of us. I thought this was great at first, but I would go to wear a shirt and find it folded so sloppily it was be totally wrinkled and unwearable. I would have to wash it again just to get the wrinkles out! I think he did it on purpose to get out of doing laundry altogether. I now do all our laundry myself – my choice, but at least I do it the way I like.

I think about our foremothers, washing clothes by hand over a fire, baking bread, gathering eggs, milking cows, butchering meat and preserving fruits and vegetables to last through the winter and looking after kids. Throwing a load into the washer is not such a big deal!

This feature was first published on section15.ca’s predecessor site CoolWomen.

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