Laundry day

Laundry Day 
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HistoryPrimary Education

This lesson contains 19 slides, with interactive quizzes and text slides.

time-iconLesson duration is: 15 min

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Laundry Day 

Slide 1 - Slide

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Use what you already know

Learn some new facts

Get ready to take part

Reflect on what you have learned
When you see this symbol in the lesson:

Slide 2 - Slide

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What types of clothes do you
think people wore in Ireland in the past?

Slide 3 - Mind map

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Clothes in the past
Traditionally, Irish clothing was made from wool or linen. Items made from expensive fabrics such as silk or satin were kept for Sundays and special occasions. 

Muslin, a type of loose white cotton fabric was often used for summer clothes, with shabby materials and hard-wearing boots worn when working on the land. 

Slide 4 - Slide

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Let's look at some clothes from the past...
This photo shows two girls on their way to school. They are wearing wide brimmed straw hats and white smocks over their long-sleeved blouses and dark skirts. They are also wearing long woollen socks and sturdy boots.
This is Bessie Dundee and her baby brother Jack.  

It was usual for boys to wear dresses when they were young! This made changing and potty training easier. Around the age of 6 boys would start to wear short trousers.  

This was an important occasion and marked by special family celebrations where they would be dressed in their short trousers for the first time!
This photo was taken in 1892 and shows the McKinney family. The men are all wearing dark suits with waistcoats, and white shirts with starched collars. Some of the ladies are wearing dresses with stiff corsets underneath.

Slide 5 - Slide

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Edwardian Day Dress 
This dress was made in London in 1905. Many large department stores at this time had dress-making departments where wealthy ladies would have their dresses specially made.  Dresses like this had to be handled very carefully when washing!

Slide 6 - Slide

This Edwardian Day dress is made from dusty pink silk.   It has a high neck and long sleeves trimmed with silk braid and lace.

It is made up of two pieces.  The top piece, known as a bodice, and the skirt.

In Victorian times, how often do you
think people washed their clothes?
Once a day
Once a week
Once every 2 weeks
Once a month or less

Slide 7 - Poll

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People didn't wash their clothes very often and would be done every couple of weeks!    

Laundering clothes and household linens was very hard work that took several days, so families often saved up their dirty laundry for as long as possible so that it could all be done at once.

Nothing was put in the wash if it could be spot cleaned and even underwear was worn several times before it was washed!

In Victorian times, people didn’t wash their clothes as regularly as we do today. Laundering clothes and household linens was very hard work and took a long time, so families saved up their dirty laundry for as long as possible so that it could all be washed at once. Even underwear was worn several times before it was washed!

Generally, Monday was the day of the week that the women and girls of the house did the washing. With no running water inside, water had to be fetched from the well. 
These garments were a type of women's underwear called combinations. They were made from white cotton and were made from a pair of long bloomers and a vest all in one.
Underwear like this was very popular during Victorian and Edwardian times - these are part of the collection at National Museums NI and are very old, dating from 1890!

Slide 8 - Slide

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This painting is called 'Resting'.

It was painted in 1905 by an Irish artist called William Orpen. The young lady in the picture is Lottie Stafford, who lived in a poor area of London called Paradise Walk.

Wealthy people could afford to take their washing to laundries like this, where washerwomen like Lottie would work long hours every day scrubbing and cleaning clothes and household linens.

Slide 9 - Slide

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How do you think the washerwoman in the painting is feeling?

Slide 10 - Poll

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Preparing the laundry...
In the past, before clothes could be washed they had to be sorted according to colour and fabric, just like we do today! Cuffs, collars and delicate lace would be removed before washing.  
The fire would be lit, ready to heat the water, and all the equipment would be gathered. 

This is the collar from a Victorian gentleman's shirt. Collars and cuffs were attached to the shirt using small buttons or tiny studs.

The collars and cuffs were the places where the shirt got dirtiest, so by making them removeable they could be washed separately without having to wash the whole shirt!  

Slide 11 - Slide

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Tools for washing...
After the water was heated over the fire, it was poured in to a dolly tub like this one. 

Sometimes people used wooden tubs or even tin baths to wash their clothes in!
Carbolic soap was grated and mixed into the water. Carbolic soap was very common and was used for washing everything from floors to people!
This is a wash dolly.  It is made of wood and was twisted back and forth in the dolly tub using the two handles. It makes the same movements as a modern washing machine, spinning the dirt and grime out of clothes. It is about 85cm tall.
This is a metal posser.  The funnel is full of small holes and is attached to a wooden pole.  When the posser is moved up and down, it sucks out dirt and grime.  Possers were used for washing sheets and blankets.  This posser and handle is about 80cm tall.
After placing the clothes in the hot, soapy water, they were scrubbed up and down on a washboard like this.
Soap was rubbed onto the clothes or into the ridges of the washboard. Washboards could be made from wood, glass or metal.

Slide 12 - Slide

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Rinsing the laundry...
After scrubbing, clothes were rinsed in clean water. Then they were starched, 'blued' and passed through a mangle. Starching clothes made them easier to iron and helped prevent wrinkles, meaning clothes looked neat and tidy for longer.

Soap often turned white items yellow.  Adding a special dye called laundry blue to the final rinse helped keep white clothes and sheets looking  bright and clean.
Mangles came in many different styles and sizes. Some stood on tables or even sat on the side of a bucket. Mangles were also called 'wringers'. 

By turning the handle, the clean washing would be fed through the heavy wooden rollers. These rollers squeezed water from the laundry, helping it to dry quicker. 

Slide 13 - Slide

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How do you think people in Ireland
dried their laundry in the past?
They hung it on washing lines.
The hung it in front of the fire.
They hung it on hedges and bushes.
They did all three.

Slide 14 - Poll

All three methods were common in rural areas in Ireland.
Drying and ironing the laundry... 
Washing could be hung to dry outside on a washing line using dolly pegs like these.  

Washing could also be dried in front of the fire, and in rural areas it was common to see clean washing draped over hedges and bushes to dry!

Once the washing was dry, it had to be ironed. This was a hot, difficult and dangerous job.  

Irons like these had to be kept extremely clean. They were sanded and polished regularly to avoid leaving marks on the clean laundry.

Slide 15 - Slide

There lots of different types of irons, but the most common were the box iron and the flat iron

The flat iron was heated on the fire while the box iron shown here has a sliding door at the back which opens to reveal a hollow space to hold a piece of hot metal known as a slug.
Can you put each of the objects 
in order of when you would need them to do the laundry?

Slide 16 - Drag question

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What was the most interesting fact you learned today about doing the laundry in the past?

Slide 17 - Open question

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How did you enjoy this lesson?

Slide 18 - Poll

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Slide 19 - Slide

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