Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Photo: Family Collection

A woman in a simple flowered house dress and a full cotton apron steps out her back door with a an oil- clothed lined bushel basket. The basket is heavy as it holds wet clothes. She walks cautiously from the back porch to the picket fence gate and follows the overhead rope line to a starting point where she will use her wooden clothes pins to hang her wash.

It's all a ritual for her, one that she has done since she moved into her Michigan home in 1941. The T-shaped chunky clothes-posts that hold the lines were put in the ground by her husband. Painted white with green ball tops -- they are strong.

In her basement sits the wringer-washing machine that she uses to do her wash. There is a rhythm to her washing; wash, wring, rinse again, wring again, rinse again, then wring again. Her wash-day is her ritual cycle. Climb up the basement stairs with the loaded basket, walk two steps down from the back porch to the picket fence, enter the picket gate, follow the line to where she wants to start hanging her clothes. Once or twice a week she follows this ritual.

It is 1953 in the photo above. She has been performing this line drying ritual for twelve years while living in her same 1941 home. However, over the last few years, before this picture was taken, she began to lose her eyesight from glaucoma and had lost it completely by this 1953 photo. But she is strong, like her clothes line posts, and continues her same clothes-line ritual until her elder years.

She was my Mother.


  1. I love this. There's something wonderful in seeing a line full of freshly hung laundry. And did you know, this is one of the few ways old country doctors recommended for giving your children viatmin D? I loved that thought when I was told -- that sunshine collected in the threads and we were giving our children sunshine when we wrapped them in the line-dried blanket.

    "Her eyes, how they sparkled when she sang those old songs,
    While she was hanging clothes on the line, i was a kid just hummin' along,"

    Mama's Opry... Iris Dement

  2. Granny Kate -- Very interesting comment on getting sunshine to children through the threads of sun dried clothes. Do you think this was a piece of Kentucky folklore? Or am I just out of touch with the world of medicine?

    Singing while one works always makes a task easier.

    -- barbara