Working Class Life in the 1940s - Wash Day


This is a still from the BCF vide We of the West Riding (1945)
This is a still from the BCF vide We of the West Riding (1945) | Source

Monday is Washday

I don’t know if it is just a working class thing, but in working class homes in the 1940s and 50s Monday was always wash day.

For us Mondays meant cold meat left over from the Sunday joint with chips or bubble and squeak for dinner. This was a quick and easy meal to prepare which it needed to be because wash day was labour intensive.

I still like the taste of bubble and squeak, and I think that it is a delicious way to use up the left over vegetables.

Back then we considered it almost a sin to waste anything. Especially food if it was still edible. So we threw no food away if we could use it in another dish. Bubble and squeak was a favourite way to re use left over cooked vegetables.

Today we seem to live in a throw away world which often includes throwing away leftover food.

Groundfloor plan of our house and nextdoor

I Hated Washday

Apart from the food on washday which I loved, I hated wash days especially in the wintertime.

The reason I hated them was because doing the washing always made the whole house feel damp.

Not only was there a smell of wet clothes everywhere downstairs but also the windows would steamed up.

Even the painted brick walls of the scullery would have condensation just running down.

Because the whole downstairs felt really damp on wash days it was not a pleasant atmosphere to be in .

Like most of the people in the working class district where we lived we lived in a two up two down terraced house.

Our house was an end of terrace house. So that meant that besides the two bedrooms we had an attic accessed by a narrow staircase this was my bedroom.

Because our house was an end house my attic bedroom had a real window. All the mid-terrace houses had no window in their attic. Also access to their attic was via a hatch in the ceiling and a pull down ladder.

This is a rough layout plan of our ground floor so you can get some idea of where things are in the house. If you click on the image you can see the floor plan at full size which is a bit bigger.

A Dolly Tub

Dolly Tub and Peg
Dolly Tub and Peg | Source

The Dolly Tub

Originally my mum did her washing in a dolly tub. During the week we kept the dolly tub in the pantry until we needed it.

A dolly tub was a galvanised metal ribbed tub which stood about two feet high.

During the week we used the dolly tub to put the dirty washing in. Anything that was dirty and needed washing we would put in the dolly tub ready for wash day to come round.

On Monday morning mum would take the dolly tub from the pantry into the scullery. There she would take the dirty washing out of the dolly tub and sort it into separate piles.

There was a pile for the whites, a pile for the coloureds and another pile for all the delicates.

Next she would sort the piles into the order that she would be washing them in.

The clothes that were the cleanest would be the first washed as the water would be re-used for the next load.

A Copper

the Brick Copper

Mum would use hot water that she had heated from the copper to fill the dolly tub up.

Sometimes mum would heat pans of water instead. She put pans on the top of the gas cooker to heat heat them.

Where I lived, most houses had a built in copper in the scullery. The coppers were brick built and had a small fireplace underneath.

The small fireplace is where you built the fire to heat the water.

In the first photograph the fireplace is hidden behind the wooden lid of the copper so you can't see it.

The second photo shows a copper with its lid on. Now you can see the fireplace. Ours was a little different to these two coppers but these two photos gives an idea of what a copper looked like.

If we had a boil wash we would do the wash in the copper rather than the dolly tub.

The copper took up the whole corner of the already small scullery.

In most small terraced houses the scullery was only a small room. Our scullery was something like eight foot long and seven foot wide.

There was just enough space between the sink on one wall and the gas stove on the other to put the big tin bath on bath night.

The Posser or Dolly Peg and the Ponch

The Posser or Dolly Peg and the Ponch
The Posser or Dolly Peg and the Ponch

The Posser and the Ponch

Mum would put the cleanest stuff first into the dolly tub. She would often part wash some of the smaller items in the scullery sink before putting it in the dolly tub.

This kept the water in the dolly tub cleaner for longer. We used the water in the dolly tub to do more than one wash.

We agitated the washing in the dolly tub using either the posser or the ponch.

The posser sometimes also called a dolly peg had three legs and the ponch was like a copper plunger with holes in.

The ponch was used in an up and down motion. While we turned the posser clockwise then anti-clockwise. Much like the central agitators type washing machines.

The materials that our clothing was made from back then was unforgiving. Make a mistake at the washing stage or the ironing stage and you were stuck with the results.

Clothing made from wool I remember was a particular case in point. Wash woollen clothing in water too hot and you would be left with a matted miniature of your original.

Many a younger child in the family inherited the favourite jumper of an elder sibling this way.

The shrunken jumper was impossible to return to its previous shape. It was easy to see that the jumper had been shrunk in the wash.

I don’t think that anyone liked wearing clothing that had shrunk. But many a family could not afford just to throw stuff away.

If it was possible for another member of the family to squeeze into the item that had shrunk, then they would wear it.

Even though a shrunken garment did not look particularly good it was still functional.

Mangle - Our mangle stood outside just under the scullery window
Mangle - Our mangle stood outside just under the scullery window | Source
The Reckitts Blue Bags
The Reckitts Blue Bags

The Mangle and the Blue Bag

After the washing had been done then came the arduous task of rinsing the soap out of the washing.

First mum would ring as much of the soapy water out of the washing by hand as she could, this water going back into to dolly tub to be used for the next load of washing. Having rung out as much as could be rung out by hand then the washing would be put through a mangle to squeeze out as much water as possible.

The mangle that we had was a big wrought iron mangle with huge wooden rollers on and it used to live in the back yard just outside of the back door.

After that the washing would be rinsed in cold water in the big stone scullery sink until the water ran clear and there seemed to be no soap left in the clothes.

If the items being rinsed were white often a Reckitt's blue bag was added to the rinsing water at this stage.

These blue bags made your whites look white again. Often the whites especially if bars of washing soap had been used to wash them would tend to go a little yellow the blue bag countered this and restored the appearance of the whites.

When mum was satisfied that the soap had been removed from the clothes they would then be mangled again until all the water that could be squeezed out was squeezed out.

The space between the rollers could be adjusted by screwing the handles on the top of the mangle. If you look at the photo of the mangle above you can see the large threaded bolt on the side that made this adjustment.


I remember winding the mangle in our back yard for my mum as she fed in the wet washing.After being mangled the sheets used to be so tightly squeezed between the rollers that they used to come out from between the rollers almost horizontal and as stiff as a board.

This is a photo of two children doing what thousands of children did each week. This mangle was smaller than ours but it gives you an idea of what we looked like. All this physical work kept us pretty fit as kids.

It was amazing just how much water could be removed from the washing by these old fashioned mangles. When it was cold outside mum’s fingers used to get so cold and chapped.

It was incredibly hard work and washday was something that had to be done each week, no matter what the weather.

The washboard

Washing that had particularly grubby areas like socks or the collars and cuffs of shirts etc would first be treated to some intensive hand washing.

This was done using a bar of washing soap and a washboard with ridges on it and it would be done in the stone sink in the scullery to get the worst of the grime off.

This served two purposes one it got most of the grime out before it went into the dolly tub to be washed thus making sure the hard to clean parts were dealt with properly and two it kept the water in the dolly tub from getting dirty too quick.

The Ascot and the Washing Machine

The Ascot and the Washine Machine

What a relief when we had the ascot water heater put in the scullery over the sink and the brick copper taken out.For the first time ever we had hot water on demand, we never had anything more than the one cold water tap and the gas Ascot and they remained the only source of water in the whole house.

Then of course came the washing machine. The first washing machine we had was loaded from the top and over the top of the washing machine there was an electric mangle.

I can still remember the day when mum was doing the washing using the washing machine and she called me to come quick. Mum had been feeding the washing through the mangle and it had taken her right hand with it. The stop button and quick release for the mangle was on the righthand side of the washing machine and mum couldn’t reach it with her free left hand.

Don’t let the small size of the mangle fool you those rollers exerted a terrific amount of pressure and there were a lot of injuries inflicted by this type of electric mangle.

It was lucky that I was there as it had taken mum’s hand up to the wrist by the time I managed to stop the machine and release her. The pressure exerted by these mangles on the washing was tremendous and it made quite a mess of mum’s hand. Her hand was black and blue for weeks after and very painful.    

The Washing Machine in Action

To give you some idea of one of these types of washing machines in action here is a small video of one that I found on you tube. You can see from this small video that even with a machine it was still very labour intensive and demanded your attention unlike the automatics of today.

A Washing Machine in Action

A look into the future

I found this video made in the 1940s that looks into the future to show how wash day would go in the future.

This is a fascinating video, you see the woman doing the wash and this was very similar to what I remember being my mum's experience after she got her first washing machine in the mid 1950s, that is apart from the utility room and the flat iron.

The things shown in this video are portrayed as a dream come true where most of the hard work has been taken over by modern appliances.

When you watch it in light of our experiences today you can still get some idea how hard was day was back then.

Some of the things in this video became normal for the ordinary working class housewife but some never came into most working class districts back then.

Washing Day late 1940's film

Never Leave Your Washing Unattended

Around the mid fifties a Bendix coin operated laundry opened locally and my mum would sometimes use them, sometimes she would do the laundry there but other times I would be sent to do it. Compared to doing it at home it was very easy as the washing machine was fully automatic all you had to do was load it and put in the measured amount of soap powder which even a child could manage that. If you had any trouble there was a manager who would show you how to do it she would also do for a small fee what was called a service wash. In a Service wash you dropped off your dirty washing and later on you picked it up clean, dry and folded.

Mum liked the Bendix that was until one day when everything changed. Mum had been to the Bendix and she had put a load of washing into the machine and set it going. Rather than sit there just watching the machine she decided to pop over the road to the local pub for a drink while she was waiting. When she came back she found the washing machine that she had put our washing into empty. While she had been in the pub someone had stolen all our washing out of the machine. They had not waited until it had finished its cycle they had lifted it out while it was still soaking wet.

For weeks after this I was constantly looking at people in the street to see if I could see some one wearing our clothes. We never did find out who took them and my mum never left her washing unattended again. We didn’t use the Bendix much after that experience.

The Public Laundry or the Wash house

Even in the forties before the Bendix coin operated laundry arrived not everyone did their washing at home some use to go to the big public laundry that most towns and cities would have. These places were still in operation in our city of Nottingham right up until the last ones were closed down in 1970. I have a bit of video taken of the Victoria wash house taken in 1969 shortly before it closed down. The sights and sounds that you will see on this video are little different to the sights you would have seen in the 1940’s and 50’s.

The Victoria Public Laundry

This Video is well worth watching it starts with a woman pushing her weekly wash to the wash house in an old pram. This was often the only means of transportation that folks had available back then. The pram was used to transport all sorts of things including bags of coal in fact anything heavy that the housewife needed to move the pram would be pressed into service.

These laundries were often preferred to doing the washing in your own home especially if you had a large family. Here in the public laundry everything was on hand plus it was also a social outing too where people would chat and help each other with the tasks. It is hard to imagine that this Public Laundry was still being used in 1969.

If you think living this way was hard work then you would be right but just imagine what it must have been like in the early part of the 1940’s when there was a World War going on. During the war to the already hard living conditions you had to add air-raids, being bombed and working around all the shortages that being at war introduced.

This generation of working class women was a very stoic and inventive one they were the unsung home-front heroes who made an abnormal way of life feel as normal as possible in spite of all that was going on around them. I wonder if today’s women could do as well under similar circumstances?

I hope that you have enjoyed this small trip back to the washdays of the forties and fifties. If you have enjoyed reading this hub you might like to read some of the other hubs that I have written about working class life a list of them with links is below.

Comments 51 comments

justom profile image

justom 6 years ago from 41042

Very interesting hub, it's amazing how much harder life was back then. Now the machines do all the work. Love the photos you chose to go with your story. Nice work!! Peace!!

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi justom thank you for your kind comments and I am glad that you liked the photos.

50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

Ms. Maggs, thank you for the trip back in the time machine! I learn more and more that the internet holds much of my past.

Here in America the terms are different but the methods quite similar. I remember the day that we received out first hot water heater it was a cube much like today's top load washing machines, it was mounted between the end of the counter, it was made by General Motors and was white enameled steel, and followed by a one piece steel with white enamel sink with side by side bowels and a place on the left to pile dirty dishes, a wash bowl and a rinse bowl, then on the right a slanted and ridged area for water from clean dishes could drain back into the rinse bowl. Followed by the water heater came the washing machine, It was a "Speed Queen" with an electric agitator and wringer to the top and rear. At that time my father had saved the money and bought a complete kitchen of steel white porcelain cabinets upper and lower. The washer was placed on the back porch. Monday was our washday as well. I was 4 years old but I remember the change to modernization. Here in Arizona there is only 5 to 15 percent humidity, it is warm to hot (106 degrees in summer) and a clothes line to dry clothes in an hour or two is easy. After my father passed I inherited all of these things and they are now in my kitchen along with a 1952 O'Keeffe and Merritt cook stove that has a center griddle and 3 burners with the fourth a gray porcelain 8 quart pot that works like a counter top "crock pot" or slow cooker. Every thing works and I found parts for the water heater in a California restoration store, that tried hard to buy all the parts of a vintage kitchen. Like Father like son, I declined and use all of these things daily to weekly. I have metal pants stretchers and jeans appear pressed after drying on the line with these stretchers. Being single wash day is when I get a full load of laundry. Probably the most memorable part is the wringer (mangle) as they tried it out for the first time my father told me to not get caught in the ringer, at my first opportunity I stuck my fingers in it and it quickly swallowed my left arm to the elbow as I screamed and my father yanked the plug out. I remember the arm turning bruised dark blue and then to yellow over the period it was in a sling. I suppose I didn't get a whipping because I had learned a lesson the hard way. It was a story my father liked to tell about his thick skulled son. I was one who did exactly what he was told not to just as soon as he could manage to sneak the act in.

I thank you for a good hub with a good conversation point and memories. I now use that old washer in the shop for shop towels and greasy work clothes. I've went on too long, 50

wesleycox profile image

wesleycox 6 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

This is an excellent hub about life back then. It is easy to take for granted the ease we have today with our washers and dryers. Also easy to forget what people did in the 40's and 50's. Thanks for sharing.

alekhouse profile image

alekhouse 6 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

Wow, Maggs, this is such an interesting hub. I loved it. Having been a wife and mother, I really appreciate the changes in how we've done our washing over the years. Thanks for a trip down memory lane.

marijanareynders profile image

marijanareynders 6 years ago from Toodyay, Western Australia

Maggs, how interesting, I remember most of these and I grew up in South Africa. And I still use my own 'Ponch' - the back of a broom - to stir and move washing around in the tub if I am not using the washing machine (or treading it with my feet in the bath). It was such fun helping my grandmother with the washing and you brought back the memories. Thanks for that.

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi 50 Caliber, you certainly haven’t gone on too long, in fact I’d say that you haven’t gone on long enough. I love to hear about you life past and present. This comment you have posted here has just whetted my appetite I am sure that there is enough just in your kitchen to make a really interesting Hub and I would love to see some photos. I know that I would surely read it, and I am convinced that many other people would find it fascinating as well.

Thank you for your kind and encouraging words and I am glad that the Hub evoked some memories, sorry about your arm by the way sounds painful

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Wes, I am glad that you enjoyed your little trip down my memory lane things were definitely very different back then and life was physically harder. Today’s generation though have hardships of their own to face and overcome, and I know that I wouldn’t trade my childhood for one of today’s. In my day we had a childhood that allowed us to stay children right up until we reached the age of 15 when we left school, today’s children seem to have so much pressure and expectations put on them that just being a child can easily get squeezed right out. I remember on my 15th birthday being left up when everyone else went to bed to determine for myself what time I would go to bed now that I was considered a young adult and I was also allowed to smoke in the house.

Within a few days of becoming fifteen I was working full time and bringing in a wage which as an office junior was the grand sum of three pounds ten shillings at today’s exchange rate that is about $5.25cents for a forty two hour week. Thanks for leaving a comment I really appreciate it.

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Alekhouse, I remember getting my first automatic washing machine in the mid seventies when my kids were both still youngsters. It was my husbands idea, I had a twin tub that made a lot of noise and when it went into its spin cycle it would vibrate so much that it would travel around the kitchen. At the time I was studying for my degree and would get up very early in the morning to do some studying and I would set the washer going. The noise that the washer made would wake my husband up which didn't please him very much.

I came home one day from shopping to find I had a new automatic washer plumbed in. Compared to the way my mum experienced wash days it seemed like I had it really easy and I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about when I heard other young mums talking about the joys of having an automatic washing machine. However within the space of a week or so you would have had a real fight on your hands to get that washer back off me and I had joined the chorus of mum’s extolling the virtues of automatics. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and I am so glad that you enjoyed your trip down memory lane.

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Marijane, I love the internet I have found out so much about how people have lived in other countries and much to my surprise I have found that we share a lot more experiences than I every imagined. Doesn’t it seem strange that the memories of hard times and hard physical work are for the most part still very happy memories? I am glad that this hub brought back some of your own happy memories.

itakins profile image

itakins 6 years ago from Irl

This is a wonderful account of washday -I'm intrigued as to how those women did it all.Thank you so much for another brilliantly written and presented hub.

Ann Nonymous profile image

Ann Nonymous 6 years ago from Virginia

Hi Maggs! What a great piece! I can relate so much....well actually to the laundry part. For even if I have been doing it since I was very, very young, i never had to wash entire loads by hand, and all the other details you expounded on in the excellent look into the history of a hard working woman on wash day! Loved it thoroughly and you are never a disappointment! Two thumbs up!

Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

I love reading articles like that and especially from people who experienced it. These sort of thing you never find in history books and yet to me they really describe their life. Thank you for a wonderful read.

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi itakins, My recollection of my mum is that she was never still apart from when we went away on our annual holidays I can’t remember my mum sitting around doing nothing. Not only did she manage to look after the house and all the household chores that involved she also looked after two kids.

That I think would be more than enough for anyone to be called on to do but on top of that she also managed to pull in paid work. I can never remember a time when my mum didn’t work and even at this time when we were young she sometimes worked more than one job outside the home. This generation of women were amazing.

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Ann thank you for your kind word it is so good to get positive feedback, I know when I start writing one of these hubs I get to doubting that it will be of interest to anyone but me. I keep adding little bits as I remember them hoping to give it some life.

In spite of that time being really hard work for the adults it seems to me to have been a very happy time for the kids. Many of my friends who grew up in this neighbourhood like me have memories of a very happy childhood.

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Hello, thank you so much for your comments they are really encouraging, I am glad that you found the hub interesting, I am close to publishing the follow up to washday I hope that you will enjoy that hub too.

Seakay profile image

Seakay 6 years ago from Florida

Great Hub! I can't imagine life without washing machines and clothes dryers. My mother-in-law was from England and she also has many stories to tell.

Thank you for sharing!

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Seakay, thank you for leaving a comment it sounds like you get on well with your mother-in-law maybe among her many stories there is a hub there for you to write.

SilverGenes 6 years ago

This was a fascinating trip to another time and place. Little things along the way tweaked very old memories for me - like the women pushing prams with all sorts of things in them. I could almost smell the soap and steam in the laundry! Even though it was very hard work, it must have been kind of fun to get together like that and have company for the chore.

Thank you very much for writing about this - it's wonderful to read :)

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Thank you SilverGenes for your kind comments, I am glad that you enjoyed your little stroll down my memory lane and that it stirred up some of your own memories.

Those prams were used for carrying all sorts of things not just babies. If they were not passed on when your parents were done with them I remember that the wheels off of these coach built prams were highly prized for use on the wooden trolleys that kids used to build.

RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

I remember my granny with the bluing bag on washdays. We were fortunate enough to have a wringer washer, and I used one the first years of my married life. My goodness but they sure got everything clean, and, I believe, used much less water than some the new-fangled beasts of the 60s. We had to know how to treat different fabrics back then.

We now have front loader with way too many push-buttons that senses load weight and doesn't waste as much water. Ahhhh, memories...

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Ahhhh memories indeed Lol... Just glad that I enjoy the memories but thankful that I have an automatic now Lol...

Thanks for taking the time to leave the input I love to read about other people’s memories and experiences.

Within a couple of months getting married my husband was posted to Singapore and so for two years I was very fortunate to have a servant that did all the washing and ironing for me.

This was even more fortunate for my husband as his uniform was all white and he put a fresh uniform on everyday.

The Amah would wash and starch his uniform then put it out to dry. When it was dry she would then iron his uniform she did this everyday.

She had only an old tin bath in which to do washing and using this small tin bath she washed everything by hand and sometimes by foot Lol..

I know that I could never have done half as good a job as she did. I only remember having to do his uniform once. It was during the monsoon season and I had a real job getting it dry.

I hadn't got a clue how to mix up the starch that she used. Consequently when I ironed the shorts and shirt dry I had used so much starch they stood up on their own.

My husband was not amused and it is the only time he wore the same uniform two days running. My amah had to redo the one I had attempted much to her amusement.

At least it put a real smile on her face that lasted for weeks, I think then she was sure her job was secure and that I need her more than she needed me. Ahhh memories Lol..

Sa`ge profile image

Sa`ge 6 years ago from Barefoot Island

hello Maggs;

I had one of them washers with the ringer on it when I first got married. I would do the wash, in the machine while I filled a wash tub style sink with water, then run the clothes from the washer through the ringer into the wash tub sink to wrinse, then back through the ringer once or twice then hang them on the clothes line . And yes, put blueing in the rinse water. Gosh, that was real work out. It took the better of half the day or more. Great hub, voted up in more then one~ thank you for the memories! :D

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 6 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Sage, glad that you enjoyed your little wander down my memory lane and that it evoked memories of when you were a newly wed. It is amazing to think of just how much time each week was spent just on the family’s washing and ironing.

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether

i love seeing what life was like back then. the era of the 1940s and also the 1950s have always inspired me, in fact my grandmother swears that i was born in the wrong decade! :) thanks for writing this wonderful piece of work. voted up!

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Kittythedreamer, thank you so much for the lovely comment and for the vote up both are very much appreciated :)

jayb23 profile image

jayb23 5 years ago from India

Brilliant hub maggs...Life was so different then, wonder my generation is lucky enough to have never faced those times..sharing it too

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Jay thank you so much for commenting I really appreciate getting feedback on my hubs.

Life back then was certainly physically harder than it is today, I can still remember the joy of having my first automatic washing machine. Unfortunately I didn’t have my automatic when my kids were still in nappies (and they were not the disposable sort lol…) it would have made life so much easier.

However, many other aspects of life back then were much better than they are now. Thanks for sharing the hub too you are a star :)

noelene 4 years ago

Just found this site, wonderful and 50 Caliber I also would love to hear more from you.

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Interesting hub which took me back. My nana had a mangle right outside her backdoor in the garden covered in a tarpaulin and she had a big tub under her sink bench which she did her washing in. I remember her getting the sheets out of there to put them through the mangle, they weighed a ton, she had biceps like a bloke. She also had a pantry in her kitchen with no fridge - they kept the milk on the pantry step to keep it cold. That was the mid-60s.

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Noelene thank you for your kind comments I am so pleased that you have enjoyed this little virtual trip down my memory lane. As for hearing more from me I hope to be writing more hubs soon :)

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Jools it sounds like your Nana could have been one of our neighbours, I remember turning the handle on my mum's mangle as she fed the sheets through the rollers and they would come out almost horizontal on the other side of the rollers until the sheets weight caused it to flop down.

In the winter doing the mangling outside in the back yard was torture as the the wind blowing on our wet hands made the cold almost unbearable but no one complained you just got on with it happy to have a mangle that would get so much of the water out of the newly washed clothes.

Thank you so much for your kind comments and for sharing your own reminiscent with us I love it when people are kind enough to do that.

rose 4 years ago

The scrubbing board,was allways my faverot,,i love your story,& your pics the great,,my nan & my mum had mangle it was the best for keeping my jeans with a nice pleat down the middle of them,,,i still do av my mums washing board,it holds so many memorys for me as i was the only 1 out 6 children that ever used it ,,i use to use it for my school socks,,i love all the old stuff ,,& i still think the old fashion ways are the best you cant beat them ,,this world to day is so much easeyer,& boring ,,,i have a lot of old stuff & i still swear by it,,,im known as second hand rose ,wears second hands clothes ,,i love it & want mor storys & pics,,,,

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Thank you Rose so much for your kind comments, you are very lucky still to have something like that washboard as you say it is a lovely keepsake and it must evoke so many warm memories.

I love to think on those bygone days as it was a very happy time for me, but I can still remember the joy of my first automatic washing machine.

I had two children under two and both still in nappies. It was bliss just to be able to put the nappies in the washer and leave them.

This was the days when we used terry-towelling nappies and I would boil them using and old twin-tub washing machine.

I had to stand over the washing machine and each stage could only be done with input from the person doing the washing.

It was physically demanding work and it would take me hours to do the nappies.

I was so glad to see the back of that chore broken by the automatic washer.

zoe 4 years ago

hi just want to say i still have a dark green wrought iron mangle never used it but i find it intresting

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maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Zoe, how cool is that, where do you keep it indoors or out? How did you come by it was it given to you by a relative or is it something your bought yourself? I would like to know the story behind it :D maggs

Haley 4 years ago

I absolutely loved reading this article. I got a peek into a housewife's history. As a modern housewife, I must say we have it easy! Thank you so much for writing this. I have a question. How did women clean their floors back then? Did they have mops? I see how we use sponge mops now and still have string mops but I've heard that women would use old brooms and dump water with soap onto the floor. Is that correct?

Jan 3 years ago

I noticed your comment that Monday was wash day and you weren't sure why. Most towns and cities had a bylaw that would not let people burn garbage on a Monday. There was no public garbage pick up and almost everybody had burn barrels in their backyard. So, on Mondays,the housewives could do their wash and not have it smelling like smoke.

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maggs224 3 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Haley first let me apologise for taking so long to respond to your comment. Thank you so much for reading the hub, and for taking the time to leave a comment I appreciate both very much.

I must have missed this comment some how when you posted it I am so sorry :(

I remember my husband doing exactly that when we went to clean our first flat (apartment) we had rented it, but it needed a good spring clean before we could move in.

We were due to married in a couple of weeks and he was home on week end leave from the Navy and we went up to the flat with my mum and one of my aunts to give it a good clean.

Our flat was the top two floors of a large Victorian house, Mum, my aunt and I started on the downstairs rooms while my husband to be, set about doing the top floor.

He disappeared upstairs with a bucket of hot soapy water and a soft sweeping brush. The floors in the flat were wood floors but each room had linoleum down on top of the wood.

He tipped the hot water out and swept the water round the room and out of the door into the other room then along the landing and the first we knew of it was when he directed the now very dirty looking water down the stairs.

We mopped the water that came down the stairs with floor cloths.

Living in a small terraced house the amount of exposed flooring was not large, and I remember doing the lino and the pan tiles with a scrubbing brush and a floor-cloth.

We did have a string mop though I didn't use it a lot.

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maggs224 3 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

Hi Jan, thank you for your comment, that makes a lot of sense, though in our working class area, we all mostly had back yards not gardens, and no one lit fires in their back yards to get rid of rubbish.

ryan-da-boss 2 years ago

thanks this helped with a history project thats worth 230 pts. this info is gonna make or break my grade

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maggs224 2 years ago from Sunny Spain Author

@ryan-da-boss Well I hope it makes it and not breaks it :D

Sylvia 2 years ago

Fascinating! Thank you. This took me back to the early 50s when I was a young child and used to watch-and sometimes was allowed to help -my mother do the washing every Monday.

We had a cylindrical agitator washing machine with a lid. Water was fed in from a hose attached to the hot tap. Yes we had hot water coming out of a tap! Weren't we lucky? Thanks to my Dad who built our hot water system himself, heated by a solid fuel kitchen stove! (The water heating used to make terrible growling noises sometimes, and then he would turn some mysterious thermostat down, and it would stop growling. )

The agitator on the washing machine would make a ker-dunk....ker-dunk noise for ages. Then my mother would switch it off, and pull each item out of the water, feeding it through what she called the 'mangle' (rollers attached to the machine at the top) She always did this carefully, folding the items slightly first, and telling me never to do that in case I got my fingers trapped in the mangle!

I seem to remember the clothes fell into a tin bath placed at the back of the washing machine. She would drain the sudsy water out by using another hose running from the machine to the kitchen sink, then rinse the machine and let that water drain out before filling it again with plain water for the rinse. She always rinsed the clothes three times because we lived in a soft-water area.

Then everything went through the mangle again, and into the tin bath, and from that, out onto the washing-line in our garden. If it was a rainy day, they were all hung on a 3-part wooden frame, which she called a 'maiden'. Then they were dried around the stove. It always made the room steamy, and the windows steamed-up and was a bit bleary on a dull winter day!

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maggs224 18 months ago from Sunny Spain Author

This is a fabulous comment Sylvia, in fact if you were a member of HubPages you would be well on your way to a very interesting hub with this comment. I have not been around much on HubPages so I missed your comment when you posted it and I am very sorry that I did as I would love to hear more from you. Thank you for leaving this comment it adds value to this page.

Letícia Martins 12 months ago

Hi, I want to thank you for these very interesting text. It helped me a lot with a translation I had to do about a short story from Katherine Mansfield, At The Bay. I couldn't find what a "copper" was anywhere, but here. - by the way, I'm from Brazil.

Letícia Martins 12 months ago


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helenstuart 10 months ago from Deep in the Heart of Texas

Hi Maggs, not only was your post totally perfect, but if brought forth totally fascinating comments from every commenter. I honestly think you could write a book, the good old fashioned paper kind! Anyway, I lived in New Orleans for about 16 years, and spent a LOT of my time with my husband's half french half Sicillian Grandmother, who raised him. You hear a lot about New Orleans being kind of European, and I guess that's true. I would help Granny all day long chopping veg-e-ta-buls as she called them, and listening to her tell about the old days in New Orleans. I had never heard an elderly person curse or advocate prostitution, but she did both, still lamenting the closing of I think it was the Storyville red light district during WWI when too many troops caught vererial diseases. Her husband was an Irish cop, from the Irish Channel, in New Orleans, and she was always proud to show me a big box of knives he had confiscated from seedy characters and kept for himself. It was her treasure. He had died years before of stomach cancer, which may have been brought on from being shot in the gut by Granny with his own policeman's revolver. (he just wouldn't stop drinking!) oddly enough I know another elderly Sicilian housewife who did the exact thing to her husband. Neither man died (immediately) nor did either couple divorce or even speak of it again. New Orleans is definitely different. But what I wanted to say was, Monday was their washday their as well. Imagine in such a swampy environment when the humidity seldom dips below 95%, it was almost impossible to see within one's own home. The dish served in that southern town on Mondays was universally "Red Beans and Rice". Something that might not sound that great, but no New Orleans housewife worth her salt creates Red Beans and Rice that are not fit to be served at the finest creole restaurant. But the steamy conditions of washday created a more serious problem, Granny told me. Husbands could slip in and out of the house unnoticed, and they very often did, for trysts or to go get drunk in bar rooms. A woman catching her man oiling a squeaky screen door was a very suspicious woman indeed.

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maggs224 4 months ago from Sunny Spain Author

@Letícia Martins I am so pleased the you found this interesting and helpful thank you for leaving the feed back it is appreciated :D

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maggs224 4 months ago from Sunny Spain Author

@helenstuart What a fabulous comment I think that you have more than enough material yourself for a book. It sounds like she was a very colourful character. I am sorry that I missed the comment and had not acknowledged it sooner.

I visited New Orleans some years ago but we really didn't stray from the tourist area around Bourbon Street. It is the only place I have seen where alcohol being consumed on the streets. It is certainly unlike anywhere else in the States that we have visited. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your comment.

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helenstuart 4 months ago from Deep in the Heart of Texas

The "cajuns once removed" who live on the edges of the swamp are the most fantastic people I have ever met. My husband abandoned me there with a baby, and an empty house. No car, he took that and the money. I was afraid to call a shelter, which I know now would have saved us years of grief, But the neighbors were unbelievable! One set of Neighbors brought us a big plate of dinner every night, PLUS hooked their electric and water up to our house until bedtime every day. They loved to buy dresses for my little girl. I was suffering badly from Prozac and xanax withdrawal, (social phobia) and another neighbor, when she saw me standing in the street, wondering what to do, took me by the hand, told me to go get the baby, and that she was going to take me anywhere I needed. I picked up my meds. The cafeteria lady from the local school made sure we had food too. It's dangerous to go off the Beaten Path in the French Quarter, But I wish I could take people to all these heros houses. I will love them forever.

Heidi Whyley 2 months ago

I've just found your post and if I may say it is amazing. I do pre-soak clothes, well my nana said if you are going to do a job well start there . I feel so lucky that have a washing machine and not having to wash by hand

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