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Blue Bird - freeing women from their greatest drudgery in old-time Phoenix


As I was paging through the old Phoenix newspapers at the Library of Congress site, an ad for the Blue Bird Store caught my eye. I had seen references to the Blue Bird store, which was an appliance store. They sold vacuums and automatic washing machines. And finding an ad like this also helps me to determine where everything was located in old-time Phoenix, in this instance on Adams, west of Central (then called Center). Next to Owl Drug, which was on the southwest corner, and across from Valley Bank, which was its location after they moved from Wall Street, and before they moved into the Professional Building.

Anyway, when I posted it on Facebook I noticed that it was the line "freeing more women from their greatest drudgery", which to our modern eyes sounds ridiculous. I mean clothes still had to be washed! But I thought it would be fun to time-travel and see it from the point of view of young women in 1919, which is the year that this ad ran.


My grandmother had a washing machine like this one. She was born in 1901, so it must have been the latest thing when she got married and started raising a family in 1919. Certainly her mother never had one when she was young, or her grandmother. And from what I understand before electric clothes washers, clothes were washed one piece at a time, in a big barrel of water, scrubbed against a washboard. So the water had to be fetched to fill the barrel, soap had to be added, the clothes washed and hung up to dry, and the water disposed of. No just grabbing a whole bunch of clothes and dropping them in the machine!

By the way, the thingy there on the top of the machine is a wringer. It was operated with a hand crank, and clothes had the water squeezed out of them. I remember that my grandma hated breaking buttons with those! She never had a dryer, so she would wring out the clothes and then hang them in the back yard. To me, this seemed like an awful lot of drudgery, but to her it must have been wonderful. She would have seen previous generations of women doing washing the old-fashioned way!

So, it really was true - an electric washing machine really did free women from a lot of drudgery. You just have to look at it from their point of view. Thank you for time-traveling with me!

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