How did the invention of the washing machine advance the cause of feminism?


The development of the laundry has gone thought a long way, in this essay I talked about the history of the laundry which is from the past to now. People washed clothes by hands before, however the appearance of washing machines has changed people’s lives. We can see from the period of Pop Art, the painting by Richard Hamilton showed a range of automatically products, it means that the 1950s were pivotal for the American automobile industry. Besides, the post-World War II era brought a wide range of new technologies to the automobile consumer. In addition, due to the lack of male labor, women had opportunity to work, So the fact vigorously promoted the process of the feminism. So in this essay I talked about how did the revolution of the laundry reflect feminism ?

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Once upon a time, the way of tackling laundry is that washing in the river with a metal washboard and bar of hard soap.Washing clothes in the river is the normal way of doing laundry in many less-developed parts of the world. Even in prosperous parts of the world riverside washing went on well into the 19th century, or longer in rural areas – even when the river was frozen. Stains might be treated at home before being taken to the river. You could take special tools with you to the river to help the work: like a washing bat or a board to scrub on. Factory-made washboards with metal or glass scrubbing surfaces certainly spread round the world in the 19th and early 20th centuries. There were washing machines of a kind, but not many homes had them. Ideas from inventors working on washing machines helped improve the design of simple washboards and dollies. A plain wringer was the most common piece of home laundry machinery in 1900.

The idea of washing by machine goes back a long way, but nothing practical happened until the mid-1700s. Before that, three early designs take turns being put forward as “first washing machine ever”. An early 17th century book by Jacopo Strada’s grandson Ottavio showed his 15th century idea for a washing machine, probably intended for use in textile manufacturing. Then in the 1670s John Hoskins experimented with putting fine laundry into a thick bag that could be soaked before squeezing with a “wheel and cylinder” mechanism. A 1691 English patent referred to an “engine” with a long list of possible uses, including clothes washing. But it is unlikely to get the royal approval. It’s not until the mid-1700s that we see signs of progress with labour-saving washing machines. Versions of the tub in the first picture were on sale in London by 1752, when it was said to have been “long in use” in the North of England. It is clearly related to the washing dollies that were common home laundry tools in the 19th century.

schaeffers washing machine 2.jpg

It’s a long way of development of laundry from the hand washing to the washing machine. Besides, from some art work that we can see the evidence how the development of the washing machine. The collage called Just What is it That Makes Today’s Home So different, So Appealing?, which is by an english printer and collage artist Richard Hamilton, ” This collage of a stylised 1950s interior is a landmark in post-war art. The artist has combined cut-up photographs and cuttings from magazined to create a consumer paradise”( Butler, 1994) It shows the a range of the automatic product, such as the radio, the cleaners and telephone. Actually we can’t find the washing machine on the collage, so I won’t give the definitive answer to say that it’s necessary to use the washing machine at that time, but I am sure about the collage showed the culture of the 20 century, which the automatic products developed significantly and it has already exerted a subtle influence on people’s daily life. Hamilton-appealing2.jpg

Technology played a significant role in World War II.   Many wars had major effects on the technologies that we use in our daily lives. However, women also played a crucial role in America as their male counterparts were dispatched on multiple foreign fronts in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. With an abundance of opportunities available, women filled the jobs that were mostly occupied by men.  Many women began working in factories, manufacturing airplanes and working in shipyards; proving that women could perform “men’s work.”  Just as women’s role changed during World War II, it would change after the war was over and continue to evolve even today.

One of the common images associated with women during World War II is “Rosie the Riveter”, which is by J. Howard Miller. The image showed a women raised her flexed arm and said “We can do it.” The illustration was a way which the government to boost morale and recruit women into workforce. 

At that period, women worked in the industries, however, soon after the end of World War II, men returned home and eventually assumed their pre-war occupations that some women were occupying. So that some of women were compelled to go back home as a housewife and to take care of the kids while the husband went to work. As women were forced out of their wartime occupations and into the domesticity of the new American nuclear family, many women felt disenfranchised.  Furthermore, the 1950s are often identified as the pinnacle of gender inequality as women were denigrated and portrayed as “stupid, submissive, purely domestic creatures.”

Organizations like the Woman’s Club of Winter Park were areas where women could associate with each other and were crucial venues for feminists.  Here, feminist groups aimed to “Advance the social, civic, educational and moral welfare of Winter Park, and also to seek cooperation with other similar clubs to promote knowledge of and interest in the work of women throughout the state and nation.”photo.jpg

Although the immediate Post-World War II years and the 1950s did not encompass the feminist movement that the 1960s and 1970s did, it is clear that feminism began to percolate in the post-war years.  In this decade, the general assumption as to whether or not the 1950s was a “good” decade can certainly be distorted from a woman’s point of view as women were forced out of respectable roles supporting their male counterparts into the common household becoming a professional homemaker

Peter Baxter’s 55-year-old mother was a  shining example.

Working as a clerk in the British Ministry of Supply, she was, her son reckoned, ‘enjoying herself more than she has done for years. She has a quick brain, and it is stimulating for her to be using her wits instead of toiling through a load of housework’.

There was food for thought here. ‘Much as  she has loved her children, she might perhaps have been happier all these years if she could have kept on with a business career,’ he mused.

My final major project is about the “Indistinct”, which is means that not clear defined or easy to perceive or understand. I came up with one of my ideas when I did my laundry, the process of laundry can interpret indistinct, after washing the clothes are from untidy to tidy, which is a kind of change from indistinct to distinct.