When I do my washing, I often think of how my mother had to do this chore, and I am so thankful that I don't have to live like that.
My mother's washing machine consisted of:
- a tin tub
- a wasboard
- a brush
Mother didn't have a wringer, like this lady, so all the clothes were wrung out by hand.
The clothes were hung on a clothes line to dry. But because it rains so much in The Netherlands, most of the time the clothes were brought in the house for drying.
We had clothes lines strung in the attic, that worked well during warm weather. But when it was cold, the clothes were hung to dry in the living room - the only warm room in the house. Clotheslines were strung from one end of the room to the other, and a clothesrack was put around the stove.
When I came home from school, the living room often reminded me of "Flag Day".
The hardest part of wash day was getting hot water in the house. We had no electricity, and only cold running water. There was a store around the corner, however, that sold steaming hot water by the bucket or barrel. That's were my mother went on Monday morning to get her hot water. She would buy two barrels of hot water, took them home in the store's wheelbarrow, then carried them upstairs (we lived in an upstairs apartment). And the stairs in Holland at that time were much steeper that those in America - with much shorter treads.
She also had to make her own starch (boiling about half and half cornstarch and water).
White clothing was bleached, but because bleach tends to make the clothes yellow, she used a product called Reckitts Blue. This always made clothes sparkling white. She used to brag that the clothes her children were whiter and brighter than those of the other kids in the neighborhood.
Then came the ironing. You have to have two irons (and they were heavy!). One to use, and the other one to warm up again until the first one got too cold to do a good job.
In some neighborhoods it was customary for the women to do the wash outside, mainly because the houses were so small and there was no room to do it inside. Hot water would be delivered to them on Monday morning by a worker in the "Waterstokerij". On mild days, the women had a good time laughing and gossiping. But they also had to do the work in rain and cold.
The "Waterstokerij" not only sold hot water, but kindling wood, soap, bleach, and other articles used for washing, but best of all, there was a section for penny candy. Once a week we would get a penny - and we agonized at the showcase about what kind of candy to get.