When I was a little girl, we had a full set of embroidered tea towels. This was B.D. (Before Dishwashers.) And we had chores – which included washing the dishes after dinner. Since my sister was four years older and had significantly superior fine motor skills, she washed. I dried. According to my mother’s tea towels, Monday was wash day. They went something like this:
Monday: Wash Day
Tuesday: Ironing Day
Wednesday: Sewing Day
Thursday: Market Day
Friday: Cleaning Day
Saturday: Baking Day
Sunday: Day of Rest
By the time I was drying those Melmac dishes, the way of life embroidered on our tea towels had all but disappeared and those little slips of linen were a last, lingering reminder of days gone by.
But this well known schedule is the way everyone kept house for more than a hundred years.
And, it makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Laundry was the heaviest task a housewife faced, requiring a great deal of strength and determination (also known as grit) to haul the water from the well, build the fire to heat the water, hand-wring clothes and carry big baskets of wet laundry to the clothesline from the washtubs.
Monday was the day to tackle this monumental chore, when you were still fresh and rested from Sunday. Tuesday’s ironing followed Monday’s wash. Mending and sewing on Wednesday made sense when you’d just been through the clothes and noticed what needed a button or a patch.
According to my grandmothers, a good housewife had her laundry on the line shortly after sun rise Monday morning. Unless it was raining. Snow? That didn’t slow them down much. Those clothes just froze right to the line, and there was usually a good, strong wind whipping through at the same time. Brr.
When did they squeeze in the task of making the lye soap to wash the clothes? Maybe that was a rainy Monday chore.
No wonder they called this the Happy Day washing machine. She had to sit down to agitate those clothes!
As for me, I’m extremely thankful for my aging and slightly shabby Kenmore washer. And I’m also really thankful that I can do my laundry while watching an X-Men marathon. Yep, that’s a definite improvement over “the good ol’ days.” I think I’ll follow my grandmother’s advice, and make a cup of tea and count my blessings. After I fold this load of towels.