Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Monday is washing day

Sunday Jan 15th.
A terribly hot day; wind blowing, dust flying, everywhere so hot and disagreeable. Mr Cock preached here today, a splendid service; Matthew 2, 11.

Monday Jan 16th. Washing day.

Tuesday Jan 17th.
Ironing day. 

It was 1888. Rhoda Andrew was 18 years old when she wrote those words in her diary. She was living with her parents and older sister on a wheat farm in central Victoria. Her simple life revolved around corresponding and socialising with friends and relations, attending church, helping her father on the farm and her mother with housework. She kept a diary for about 18 months and I've used it to glean bits and pieces of family history, but with these entries I'm highlighting her daily life.

Weatherboard cottage c1900.  This was a town house in NSW but country farm houses were very similar.
Rhoda is complaining about the weather and the only thing she finds to write about on Monday and Tuesday is the washing and ironing she has to do. The Bendigo Advertiser report confirms the hot temperature for Sunday 15 January 1888, about 107 degrees F (42 C). Bendigo is south of where Rhoda lived near Pyramid Hill. 

Bendigo Advertiser, 16 January 1988
Can you imagine Rhoda in her long-sleeved floor-length dress slaving over a copper washing tub and a fire to heat the water, and wooden scrubbing board? (I wonder when wringers were invented.) If you had called her workspace a laundry she wouldn't have known what you were talking about. She would have called it a wash house and it was usually a separate building from the house. And nearby would have been the clothes line suspended between trees or props with a forked branch handy to lower and raise the line as required.

Can you see her heating the flat irons on a hot wood-burning stove? And then, poor girl, she had to do it all again the following week. 
Flat irons on the stove. Source unknown. Copied off the web a while ago.
I've written about Rhoda's diary previously here, and will probably blog more of it in the future.


  1. Look at those temperatures! I remember getting on the school bus with red vinyl seats in the Wimmera in those sorts of temps.
    Country people did have quite strict schedules like that - always do washing on this day, always go into town on this day - I think a lot of them still do.

  2. I can feel the heat just reading your post. I'm always grateful for modern conveniences when I read about 'the old days'.


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