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Miss Alice on Laundry Day Woman with Basket of Clothes, 1855-65
Even now, many consider laundry a laborious task, but in the 19th century (and all centuries prior) it was an arduous chore. There was a reason it was called “laundry day.” First, water had to be heated, a large boiling pot over an outdoor fire suited much of rural America but in inclement weather a smaller pot on a stove would have to suffice. The use of lye and wood ash added to the hot water for pre-soaking (or “bucking”) was largely abandoned as cakes of soap were now readily available. The laundress would grate flakes off the bar of soap to mix up a lather. The soiled clothes were then added and scrubbed over a factory-made washboard with metal or glass scrubbing surface, a vast improvement over beating the wet wash with a bat or over a rock.
Single figure in box