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Now and Then

Ruchama Schnaidman

What was life like 200 years ago, before school buses drove children to school, and before electrical appliances filled our homes? Let’s take a step — make that many steps — back, and find out.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Now: When your clothing gets dirty, you dump it into the washing machine, turn the dials to the correct settings, add soap, and press start. Forty-five minutes later, your clothing is spotless, wrung out, and ready for a trip to the dryer. Another hour and your clothing’s dry and ready to be worn again.

Then: Washing laundry involved a full day of backbreaking work. Early in the morning, ladies went down to the river and lugged back heavy pails of water. This water was heated over an open fire (which had to be started and tended). Then the real work began. The clothing was scrubbed on boards with brushes, homemade soap (that’s another story), and rinsed or soaked in the hot water. Then it was time for wringing. Did you ever try lifting a sopping wet shirt? It’s much heavier than you’d imagine. But that heavy, wet clothing had to be wrung out by hand. And after all that work, the clothing had to be hung outside to dry in the sun. What happened if it rained while the clothing hung on the line? Don’t ask! 


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