My mother used to tell me that there was a day of the week for every household chore.
I don’t remember my mother ever singing it to me, but while looking for information I found a song called “Monday’s Wash Day”:
“Today is Monday, Today is Monday,
Monday’s wash day. Everybody happy?
Well, I should say!
Today is Tuesday, Today is Tuesday.
Tuesday’s ironing day, Monday’s wash day.
Everybody happy? Well, I should say!
That little ditty goes on to tell us that Wednesday is cleaning day, Thursday is for baking, Friday is for “fiii-sh,” on Saturday we shop, and Sunday is for church.
Everybody happy? Well, I should say!
This seems to be the original “Wash on Monday” routine:
Wash on Monday, Iron on Tuesday, Mend on Wednesday, Churn on Thursday, Clean on Friday (I don’t know what happened to the fiii-sh), Bake on Saturday, Rest on Sunday.”
From Laura Ingalls Wilder of “Little House on the Prairie,” speaking of weekly chores while she was growing up: “For Ma and other pioneer women, each day had its own proper chores.
“Washing the family’s clothes was often done on Mondays, and took an entire day. Water was heated in a metal boiler; when it came to a boil, soap shavings were added and the clothes were dumped in.
“First the whites were washed, then the colored clothes, then the heavy work clothes. After the clothes boiled for ten minutes, they were removed, rubbed with homemade soap and scrubbed on a washboard. After all the clothes had been washed the tub was filled with fresh water and the clothes rinsed.”
I do remember my mother’s wash day and I think it could have well been on Monday. Like the wash day that Laura Ingalls Wilder remembered, I’m sure it could have taken most of the day.
Mom sorted the clothes by colors or whites and put them in the old washing machine, which was like a big tub, added water and soap and let the machine’s “agitator” swish them around for a few minutes.
Then the load of clothes was rinsed in the large cellar sink, then put through the machine’s “wringer.” Now they were ready to be lugged up the cellar stairs and hung up to dry. We had clothes lines that stretched from one side of the backyard to the other side. The clothes were fastened to the lines with wooden clothespins and left to dry.
When the laundry was hung on the clothes lines, it tended to come a little too close to the ground. But my clever grandfather had an answer for that.
Grandpa, with a saw and me in tow, went over to a nearby wooded area and found some just the right height saplings topped by forks to keep the clothes lines from dragging on the ground.
During the winter when the clothes couldn’t be hung outside they were hung on lines in our small, unfinished basement, or on the backs of chairs in the kitchen. After it was dried, the laundry was neatly folded, ready for ironing.
Back to Laura Ingalls Wilder: On Tuesday, “Ma would iron the finer clothes. First she would starch them with starch made by boiling grated potatoes. An iron was heated over a fire or stove. The item to be ironed was spread out, sprinkled with water and then the heated iron was used to iron it.”
I think maybe my mother spread her ironing chores around a little during the week. I can remember her “sprinkling” the clothes with water from a Pepsi bottle with a sprinkler top. Then she rolled them up and wrapped them with a towel, and ironed them when someone needed something.
Just about everything but the underwear needed to be ironed eventually in those days before “wash and wear.” (I remember my mother telling me that she knew women that even ironed the underwear).
Mend on Wednesday: “Pioneer women spent evenings and free time mending clothing. Ma mended everything from Pa’s shirts to the sheets on the bed. Ma did all her sewing by hand until Pa bought her a sewing machine.”
I can’t remember my mother doing much mending. She crocheted and em- broidered, but I think my grandmother got to repair the holes in socks and the rips and tears.
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