I started writing a long entry on the post-war period but I’m buried under piles of work. So I thought I’d use part of the text for a short item.

The introduction of the birth control pill is always held up as the catalyst of the sea change that took place in women’s position and role in British society in the 1960s. While the Pill undoubtedly liberated women sexually, enabling them to control the number of babies they had, I would argue that access to affordable washing machines was just as important.

Prior to the 1960s, washing clothes usually involved a round copper tub, a scrubbing board and a mangle (wringer). “On wash day, clothes were boiled in a copper tub, rubbed on a scrubbing board, perhaps washed again, rinsed in clean water once or twice, wrung out (through a wringer or by hand) and hung out to dry.” Just imagine, if you can, the amount of time and energy that went into doing the family laundry.This Australian Web page includes an amusing TV commercial.

Going from this

to this

or even this

was one giant technological leap.

For washing machine enthusiasts there are lots more photos of collections here.

When I was young, our flat had a “copper” in the kitchen for heating water, which would then be scooped into the bath just next to it. (Please note: bath in the kitchen).

There was a large drying room on our floor for hanging clothes, plus washing lines in the “square” (yard) below the flats for when the weather was fine. (There was also a large air raid shelter and bike sheds at one end).

When my wife was a little girl, living at an unspoilt beach on the Paciific Coast of Costa Rica, her family had neither electricity or running water. She washed her clothes with a stone she carefully selected herself. I imagine the scene was something along these lines.