Thursday 7 December 2023

Working Life in the 1890's


Here we are at Thursday again and I am sitting here drenched in sweat yet again like the fourth time this morning but that has nothing to do with this post.

Couldn't find anything about Christmas in Australia in the late 1800's so we have just another post from my information book.

One of the biggest and most time consuming tasks in that era was the washing of clothes, it was also the hardest of physical tasks a servant would have to do.

If they were lucky the home may have had one of the new-fangled washing machines, which ran on water power. Some even had gas fired hot water on tap.

Generally speaking though things went like this bed linen, tablecloths, and other such white things, had to be boiled in a wood fired copper. This meant that the poor servant girl had to stirred the clothes with a cooper-stick, can you imagine how hot it would have been hanging over a hot steamy copper in summer as well as winter but may not have felt as bad in the colder months.

She had to then remove these extremely heavy items into a trough or bowl for rinsing and starching as well as lifting them and putting through some kind of mangle or wringer. After that was done she then had to hang the washing out on a line to dry.

Once dried the washing would have to be ironed not with the type we use now days but an old flat iron that was heated on the coals of the stove or they may have had a box-iron which had red-hot coals contained in the iron, these were the most common types used.

It would have not been an easy task to judge how hot an iron was and it wasn't uncommon for either the servant or the daughter of the servant to burn themselves. If something was scorched the servants wages may have been docked.


  1. Thank God for modern conveniences, Jo-Anne, that's all I can say. Blessings!

  2. I agree with Martha for sure! I have thought about how grueling it was to do laundry back then. Also thought about beating the clothes on rocks in the you see depicted in movies and TV shows. What earthly good would that do for smells...and you know they had that! and stains etc. All you accomplished was rinsing dust off I guess. Ironing..oh, my gosh...I am sooooo glad things have changed.

    1. Yeah I am glad things have changed don't want to live in those conditions

  3. When I was little in the 50s my mom had a wringer washing machine and it was a lot more work than the electric automatic washer she got later. After the clothes were washed she had to lift those heavy wet clothes to run them through the wringer. Then she had to carry the heavy wet clothes in the laundry tub in clear water to rinse them. I'm not sure if she had to do this part but they were more gross if you didn't rinse them in the tub by swishing them around. Then she had to either run them through the wringer again or hand wring them. She hated the wringer. I think she got her fingers in it one time. Then she had to shake them out and hang them up to dry either outside on the clothesline or in bad weather or winter down in the basement where we had clothesline strung all over the ceiling. I would not want to go back, for sure! I remember what that particular way of doing laundry was like. I can't imagine what it was like before the wringer washer even! It had to be the hardest job. Oh, and ironing was such a pain! And we had an electric iron. Nope--so glad for the modern conveniences!

    1. I had a friend growing up who's mum had an old wringer type washing machine which I found odd as it was the 0's and my mum had an automatic washing machine

  4. I'll never complain about doing laundry again.


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