Nov 29 2011: How To Wash Clothes The Modern Way (Pioneer Washing Machine Brochure, 1950s)

Produced by Pioneer Washing Machines in partnership with Rinso washing powder (because “it’s so important to use a rich, penetrating, active washing product like Rinso for your weekly wash”) there’s no date on this brochure, but the general style of the photographs and the washing machine itself (with its tub and mangle) seem to suggest it’s of 1950s origin. It’s certainly an artefact from the era that led to Richard Nixon and Nikita Khruschchev’s kitchen debates in 1959, and part of the more general push in the West to return women to the home after their time working in factories and elsewhere during the war years. So despite being produced as advertising, it’s as much a work of propaganda in its own way as the more self-declaratory examples seen elsewhere. Yet maybe the most intriguing factor here is, while the manufacturer is busy selling the ease and modernity of the Pioneer/Rinso washday to prospective consumers, the 40 pages of detailed processes and instructions involved – covered in an index that runs from Baby Clothes and Blankets to Woollens and Wringer – show how labour intensive washing was, even in this ‘modern’ incarnation. These days, loading a machine, putting in powder and pushing a button or two does the job. Here, it was clearly still a full days’ labour to get through even a moderate load or two.  A recent conversation with the artist Yelena Popova about technology saw her suggest that while computers were optional, for most of the world’s population, washing machines were not: everyone, especially women, in every country and situation, from rural China to urban shanty towns in Mexico, knew the benefits of having access to one. By showing how much work was involved in the basic job of washing clothes even fairly recently, this brochure explains why that’s likely to be the case.


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