Laundry Blues

by Jill Holt, Curator of Textiles

In this era of high efficiency washers and dryers with their steam features and easy care fabrics, many people no longer feel the need to iron their clothes. While I am not old enough to remember the days of washtubs, washboards, wringers, and sad irons, I do remember when my mother did the weekly ironing. After bringing the clean clothes in from the clothesline, she would sprinkle them down with water using a bottle with a tin sprinkler stopper. She then rolled the damp clothes in a towel in preparation to be ironed the next day. It would take several hours to press the shirts, dresses, sheets and pillowcases. With the introduction of permanent press fabrics in the 1960s, she put away her iron and warned the family that she would no longer press any garments. And she didn’t! After she passed away, I found a cotton dress shirt of my father’s in the bottom of the laundry hamper, still waiting to be ironed after 30 years!

In our collections, we have a clothespin bag, sprinkler bottle, electric iron, and laundry hamper. All are reminders of a time when laundry was a much more demanding task.


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