Monday, March 9, 2009

Women's (Laundry) Liberation

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Feminists of the world sit down before you read this. The Vatican newspaper says that perhaps the washing machine did more to liberate women in the 20th century than the pill or the right to work.
The submission was made in a lengthy article titled "The Washing Machine and the Liberation of Women - Put in the Detergent, Close the Lid and Relax."
The article was printed at the weekend in l'Osservatore Romano, the semi-official Vatican newspaper, to mark international Women's Day on Sunday.


What do our readers think? Is the washing machine the greatest liberator, or what would you suggest?


Anonymous said...


It definitely frees up all the time that WOULD have been spent by hand-washing clothing, which was typically the realm of the female (at least as far as I know).

Unknown said...

I think that the washing machine and its charming cousin, the dishwasher, hold the title jointly. The washing machine truly does free up a great deal of time. Frankly, one would not be working outside the home, if one had to wash clothes by hand. There simply wouldn't be time.

However, it is interesting to note that the washing machine also may be the biggest contributor to consumerism, too. People didn't used to have quite so many clothes because they all had to be washed by hand.

Anonymous said...

All of the modern household conveniences contributed to the liberation of women - for example, indoor hot/cold water, the gas/electric stove. No longer did one have to haul water into the house, start the fire in the woodstove and then heft immense pots of water onto and off of said stove. The washing machine was the culmination of all these achievements. And praise God for the ingenuity of human beings. As an aside, a housewife from the turn of the 20th century would have laughed at the notion of paying to go to a gym to work out one's upper body!

Sara said...

Ruth Schwartz Cowen argues in her book, More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave, that technological innovations, rather than freeing women for other pursuits, merely raised the standards of cleanliness at which decent housekeepers were expected to keep their homes. I think there may be something to that argument, but not nearly as much as Cowen does. That said, laundry was probably the most arduous housekeeping job faced by the 19th century housewife. It usually took at least two days of her week and may have been the one task for which she hired help (see also Susan Strasser's Never Done: A History of American Housework). So I would tend to agree that the washing machine in particular was a revolutionary labor-saving device.

Lucy said...

My husband pointed out that I have been liberated from the washing machine- I haven't done a load of laundry since I got married. (I had a good priest doing marriage prep)