Wednesday, June 2, 2010


My mother had this pamphlet in her files of important papers.

It was printed in 1936 and was dedicated to the modern woman.

The wringer washer was central to the running of our home on the farm. One day a week was dedicated to doing family laundry. Mom did take time out to fix meals, chase cows out of the garden, pull her children out of mud holes and do her best to stop them from eating bugs.

Unlike my grandma, Mom didn’t have to wash the clothes using a scrubbing board.

By the time I went away to college our wringer washer had been replaced by a fine new washer and matching dryer installed near the kitchen.

A few years after my husband and I were married we moved from an apartment and rented an old house. We found a wringer washer in the basement. I'd been feeding quarters into laundromat machines since college so I was willing to step back in time and dust off my washer skills.

I didn’t have a nifty apron like this to wear when I sorted clothes.

But disposable diapers were still a novelty so I washed a lot of cloth ones for my babies in the washer’s hot soapy water.

Nylon panty hose are more long-lasting than those silk stockings and they don’t need a girdle or garter belt to hold them up. Although they still should be washed by hand.

(click to biggify and learn more about line drying clothes)

There is quite an art to drying clothes on the line. A sunny breezy day is perfect for fluffing towels and softening denim trousers. On the farm Mom tried to dry Dad’s work clothes outside in the winter. But more often than not she’d end up bringing them in frozen stiff where they were hung on a drying rack by the stove.

I wouldn’t want to go back to washing clothes with an old wringer washer. Things got clean, but the wringers were famous for snapping buttons and injuring anyone carless enough to get a hand too near the rollers. There were even well endowed ladies who did damage to other parts of their body when they leaned over and got themselves caught up in their laundry.

However, I do miss having a clothes line. There is nothing like the smell of sun dried linens.


Anonymous said...

Oh - this took me back to my childhood! When my brother in 1956, my Mum was a bit poorly, so my Dad bought a washing machine similar to the one in your photo, with an electric wringer, which would pop up if she tried to put too much through. Later they got a side-by-side washer/spindrier, before eventually getting an automatic machine (my Dad sat in the kitchen and watched it the whole way through the first wash) I laughed at the instructions for hanging out the washing - that's just the way my Mum taught me to do it!!

Anonymous said...

Ho! what a beautiful antiques I do remember how wringer washer was a thank you you are good.
diapers wrapped around the wringer?

Anonymous said...

I remember my mother had one of these when I was little. It suprises me when you say you don't have a washing line. It's a big thing here in Australia to dry your clothes in the sunshine, but dryers seem to be more accepted in the States. I remember (a long time ago) being puzzled when it was a hot and sunny day working at a summer camp in The Berkshires in Connecticut, and the dryers were going - we young Australian counsellors were a bit baffled...then again a woman told me recently "I would never have a clothes line.It would spoil the look of my landscaping". My country grannie had a pulley contraption and forked stick she'd hoist the washing up with when I was small! Everyone to their own I guess, but sun kissed washing smells wonderful!

Linda Sue said...

Our ringer and double tub was in the basement well into the 50's. Wish I had it now , would be brilliant for felting. We also had clothes lines strung across the basement by the furnace- especially since we only had one month of summer. Our basement was a scary place for a kid. there was also a huge mangle- we were warned to steer clear of it because it had a mind of it's own and would burn us up.I had it all figured out- I knew exactly where I would hide if the Nazis invaded...


Memories. Thanks.
My mother was thrilled the day her wringer washer was replaced with an 'automatic' and even more so when she got a drier. No more frozen clothes in winter.

With 4 children close together in age she must have spent a lot of time washing.

I remember she would wash one sheet per bed, cycling the top sheet to the bottom in the days before fitted.

When I hang out .. I had P. make up 2 lines from my tree to garage..I hang shirts on plastic hangers so they won't get that crease part way up. I hate ironing.

I love remaking the bed with sheets that have dried out in the breeze.

Jill said...

This is all too familiar with us ladies of a certain age. I had 2nd hand machine with an electric ringer when I was first married, and I remember gatting my rubber glove caught in it - I couldn't reach the stop button. That glove stretched a lot before it pulled off my hand!

DayPhoto said...

I remember the wringer washer and the tubs of water, one for the wash, one for the rinse another for either bluing or clorex or another rinse.

Washing clothes was a big BIG job. Ironing was worse. No such thing as easy care fabrics when I was young.


Anairam said...

I like the pictures - I would frame them and hang a vintage collage all around my washing machine! When I started working I couldn't afford a washing machine, and did not really want to own one - they seemed to speak of adulthood and responsibility too loudly! So I ended up washing my clothes in the bath for many years. But now I couldn't do without one. I hope you are having a fantastic weekend away, Leenie. COngratulations on celebrating several decades with a wonderful guy! L'Usband & I passed the two decade mark two years ago. We are the lucky ones - treasure it!

Elizabeth said...

Air drying is still the best!

Krista said...

I think the wringer washer was the inspiration for mammograms. Actually, when I first got married (21 yrs ago) we had a wringer washer hand-me-down from Jared's aunt. It was kinda fun but time consuming. Moved to modern day technology after several months! AND I used cloth daipers! Unheard of here in the states but was common in Oz at the time.

Maude Lynn said...

Well, at least my "other body parts" would have been quite safe!

Janie said...

Interesting trip back in time. I've never used one of the old-fashioned washers, but I used to have a clothes line. Maybe we should all go back to those more energy-efficient times. We were using solar power before it was fashionable.

Mary Q Contrarie said...

I live in a neighborhood where I am not allowed to have a clothesline. I have totally adapted by using a laundry drying rack out on my back deck on nice days. I still have all the benefits of sunshine filled clothes. And none of the hassle with disgruntled neighbors. The other nice thing about my rack is that it is easy to set up inside if the sun is not cooperating.

Buttons Thoughts said...

Oh I just had to leave a comment. I LOVED this it brought me back only about 26 years ago when in our old farmhouse I had a wringer set up in the drive/woodshed. I remember it was horrible doing it in the winter you had to wash quick and then hang the clothes on the line to later bring in frozen stiff and put by the woodstove.
I truly wished I had that informative book then.
I must admit I do not miss it one bit. Love the clothes line smell still though.
Loved reading the old comments.
Thank you Leenie and I am glad you saved the important pieces of history. :) Hugs B

Alica said...

I had to leave a comment here too...just like Buttons! :) I can't imagine using a wringer washer, and I can't imagine not being allowed to hang my wash outside! I know there are some developments around here where they aren't allowed to! Oh my. I love the smell of air dried sheets, especially!