There was a clear division of labour in the household, though some tasks carried over into a joint venture independent of gender. Some women's and girls' tasks were indeed women's business and men stayed out of them, while others were men's. Neither would have wanted it any other way, given the attitudes of the time. I won't go into that. You can easily work it out even if you don't belong to that generation.
The best example of all this, and how well it shows up the sheer drudgery of housework for my mother, was washing the clothes. It wasn't even glorified by the term, doing the laundry.
|Yes, this attractive!|
One thing's for certain; anything washed in that copper was sterilised, and maybe cleaner in that respect than clothes that come out of many automatic washers these days.
I don't know what was in Reckitt's, but it whitened the clothes markedly. They'd have been a dull grey otherwise, after having the bleach boiled out of them to within an inch of their life.
|Top: 'Normal' pegs. 'New' model below|
Anyway, the clothes went through that second rinse while another load was simmering in the copper, and wrung out again. They were then carried to the clothesline, quite a distance from the house, out where the breeze was best.
You're going to think Hill's Clothes Hoist, right?
Wet washing, even wrung out with all strength mustered is damned heavy. Woe betide washing operations if the pole was dislodged and the washing came down in the dirt. That occasioned a good deal of grief, as it was back to the rinsing tub (at best) and the whole operation repeated.
In short, nothing was simple and not much was made simpler that might have been until we got electricity. The washing machine, however primitive the wringer model would seem now, made things much easier even if it didn't save much time. Mum had washing to do for four young kids and I guess that would have been pretty much a daily operation at times. Plenty of stinky nappies too, I don't doubt.
Washing was just one part of the operation, and Mum had no choice but to do it solo until we got big enough to help to make the manual load lighter. She also came to the dairy to do her part of the milking for hours on end.
Now you know why scholarships have been created in my name to educate Bangladeshi girls, so that even if they are unable to do anything else, they can teach their kids to read and write.
Much, much more could be said about my mother and her courage and joys and great sorrows, and the part my sisters played in farm life. They may tell those stories themselves, and make them part of the great historical archive of this country, along with those of the males, who think their contribution is so much more important.
It isn't. And fellas, we're not tougher either. That's why my mother made it almost to ninety.