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Today in Labour History

25 April 1926
Eugène Boudin, Washerwomen by the river
Source: Israel Museum, Jerusalem (on Wikimedia Commons)


Before it was mechanised, washing was one of the most terrible jobs done by women. The washerwomen spent practically their entire long working hours soaking wet, which caused bronco-pulmonary illnesses and skin complaints. They worked bent over, their hands were raw, chapped and often bled. Washerwomen worked outside in summer and also in winter when the water was freezing cold. A considerable part of the washerwomen's work involved moving and carrying the washing to and fro the river. This 'living hell endured by the women of the city of Utiel', as the mayor of this Spanish city put it, was somewhat relieved when a covered public washing place was inaugurated on 25 April 1926.

Read more? Carmen Sarasúa, 'The hardest, most unpleasant profession: laundresses' in: A Social History of Spanish Labour (New York 2011)

More info: A Social History of Spanish Labour (IISH Publication)