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Vatican: Washing Machines More Liberating than the Pill for Women

1950s Maytag washing machine

1950s Maytag washing machine

Michele Hanson in the Guardian UK:

To mark International Women’s Day, L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican’s official newspaper, has graciously commented on women’s lib for us. Its editorial decrees that the washing machine has contributed more to the emancipation of western women than the pill, or the legalisation of abortion, or being able to work outside the home. But it would, wouldn’t it? Abortion and pills aren’t allowed over there. Washing machines are.

What a bizarre world L’Osservatore describes, with its “image of the superwoman, smiling, made-up and radiant among the appliances of her house”. It’s more than half a century ago, back in 1953, that the automatic washing machine took off and women apparently went mad in the suburbs, turning to drink and sex. Only I didn’t notice my mother and her chums being radiant and smiling. They may have got rid of their heavy mangles and twin-tubs, but it was still a fairly bleak life, stuck at home fiddling with these new machines.

This is an open thread.

57 Responses

  1. After a tragic but strategic laundry accident involving one of my husband’s shirts, I have been banned from laundry duty 🙂 I’ll let my husband know that the Vatican thinks the washing machine liberated him. LOL!

    • The Catholic Church has had a busy week. Maybe they should just hang back until International Women’s Month is over.

  2. What planet is this again ?? I know I landed on the wrong one ..I just know it …

  3. I dunno…. anyone who has had to do an entire load of laundry on hand may not dispute this entirely.

    • Must women do all the laundry though? Apparently the Vatican thinks so.

    • BTW, I used to help my mom do laundry in the bathtub with a washboard. That was before we got that wringer thingy.

  4. Was this a result of Nancy’s visit last month?

  5. (Waving) Hi Boston Boomer. We had neighbors who used that style of washing machine into the 70s. And they had eight kids like us. I always felt sorry for them.

  6. My grandmother had a wringer washer in the cellar. I used to love putting the towels through that wringer when I was very young.

    • My mom had one of these.

      I remember when the old machine finally pooped out on us and I was actually excited that we were going to get a new, updated machine. But no!!!

      Mom dragged my dad and I to Sears where she declared that she must have the same model. The salesman was stunned. We walked past machine after shiny new machine to the one remaining Maytag wringer washer- in the corner gathering dust. The salesman tried really hard to convince her to try the new technology but mom wouldn’t have it. She was always suspicious of new technology. We were mortified. Mom was firm.

      This was probably the late 70’s and we were all amazed such a machine still existed. It remained in their home for maybe 10 or 15 years, when once again mom had to buy another machine. This time a NEW machine. I swear if the old model was still around she would have bought yet another.

      • Sounds like me. I went to a lot of trouble to find a good old candy bar cell phone. Don’t like these new-fangled things you have to flip open.

  7. Feminism by Whirlpool:

  8. The Vatican on women’s lib. What a concept.

  9. Yes, the Vatican on women’s lib. Next February moderates inside the KKK will be commemorating Black History Month.

  10. I laugh at those men in robes. I say give me the pill, the washing machine, and please god give me my dress back too…

    And the irony of it all is that they are supposed to be closer to god than the rest of us. I will eat my shorts if that proves to be true–dirt and all!

  11. Hey, I got my arm caught in one of those when I was a very little kid … I thought my mother was going to have a heart attack , it hurt like hell but I was ok …

    now that I think of it, it is kind of like belonging to the church. having your arm in one of those …

    • I had an elderly patient a few years ago who degloved a finger in one of those. Thank goodness it healed completely. She was so proud of the fact that the Maytag people came once to document her machine, because it was one of the last still in service. That was before they were bought out by Whirlpool, or some such company.

  12. Hahahahahaha!!! That Nazi sh*thead Pope can kiss my a$$! On second thought, he should be so f*ckin’ lucky to get any where near my gorgeous butt! In classic Roman tradition, he probably likes boys, anyway.

    (comment removed)

  13. I was such a lousy laundress that my son and late husband decided to wash their own clothes- they were tired of me ruining them. I could never figure out if I was doing it subconsciously or just had lower standards- my clothes seemed to come out passably.

  14. Is there any religion that you find acceptable on this blog?? I’ve been coming here for along time, I wasn’t aware this blog was so prejudice against the Catholic faith.

    • The commenters speak for themselves, not the blog.

    • The faith is fine. The Church needs fixin’.

    • Ste. Mother Theresa deeply questioned her faith.

      “Acceptable”? That word, to me, applies to grades not spirituality.

      When speaking of the soul, Catholicism might be just one narrow view of its expanse.

    • I’d say the Church of Latter Day Freethinkers would be our number one choice.

    • To quote South Park on which of all the religious organizations is the only one to have members actually go to heaven: “The correct answer was Mormons.” LOL

      I think you’re seeing some Catholics, x-Catholics, or something in between expressing some issues they’ve had. Kind of like Sinead tearing up the Pope’s picture. If you’ve been beaten to an inch of your life by a nun, it feels good to get it off your chest.

      But that particular group is not alone of course. Many religious suck in similar ways. So, um, no. 🙂

      Your mileage may vary of course.

    • Catholics are like the Brits-always ready to criticise their Church or their Queen-but don’t like others doing so.

    • We’re not prejudiced against religion or Catholicism. Many of us were brought up Catholic, and we sometime laugh about our experiences. This post was just about a funny news story–not meant to attack anyone.

      • I would also point out that actions taken by church hierarchies are not always in sync with the members or with the original message of Jesus Christ.

  15. SoCalDem> First, the posts here do not exist in a vacuum. They are in response to something specific that the Catholic Church just did. Do you have no objections to these things the Catholic Church just did? And second, I didn’t see a poll taken of all the posters of this blog where we as a blog agreed that the Catholic faith was not welcome. Last I checked there were individuals who expressed opinions about the Catholic Church and their recent actions. If you disagree – state your case.

  16. my education, and support from mainly my dad who was more worldly than my mom, allows me to buy any washer i want. my education has freed me up more than anything. and my two older siblings are brothers and i had the same expectations to do good in school and graduate from college, from a father who never attended college (mom went to parsons are school). thanks again, dad. you really helped make me what i am. and having been raised in a catholic orphanage, you taught us what the catholic religion was really like for the poor and those dependent on it. shame on them and the pope. how out of touch can you be? what century are we in?

  17. Oh, for crying out loud – first they can’t keep their opinions off of our uteruses and now it’s the washing machines.

    May all their colors bleed over into the whites.

  18. Here’s a link to an MSNBC poll – give Obama a grade

    (58% are giving him an F right now)

  19. Okay, who is the Acting SoS and what the fuck is he saying to Syria while Hillary is out of town? Fire him, now!

  20. Here they used to do their washing in the local streams and river-bashing cothes against rocks. kids playing in the background.

    I remember when I first came here in the early eighties, an old lady who had been a washerwoman for much of her life, took me under her wing when she found out that I washed clothes by hand. (no launderettes here). No way was she going to let me do that, I was introduced to her shiny, spotless washing machine kept under a blanket in its own little room outside, told what detergents to use (not a cheapo brand), and given the use of a long, washing line in her garden.

    • Sheets were also boiled in special cauldrons with the ash from wood fires-people swear they came out much whiter than now.

      • What a great story, Laurie! Can you believe my grandmother used to iron her sheets? When I was a kid I liked ironing. There was something satisfying about it. And you could zone out while you were doing it. Same with washing dishes.

    • And if some have their way, I swear we will be doing it again. I bet there is nothing in our HOA bylaws forbidding me to do the washing in the local lake when Dr. Chu closes down all the coal plants and shuts down our electricity. I’ll even use Dr. Bronner’s enviro friendly soaps.

  21. Some times the Vatican just plain embarrasses me…men in dresses that carry “Smoking Purses” and Prada shoes telling women what “liberates” them.

    I just want to bury my head they could have just kept their mouths shut…I mean the are just like Pampers!

  22. OT:
    Just ran across this (in comments at http://minx.cc/?post=284050)

    “Here, instead of hoping Obambi fails, you can actually fail him:

    Give President Obama a grade

    A stupid internet poll. The interesting thing is MSNBC pulled all the links to it once it starting running 58% “F”.

    I dare you to find the poll starting from msnbc.com”


  23. 38780 respoinses and so far it is 59% vote F

  24. Obama – Jr.jr – will continue the practice of signing statements. NYT is splaining it to us why this is a good thing

  25. Best. Papal. Pronouncement. Ever.


  26. The catholic church and all the other male religions have no business expressing any opinions on women whatsoever. They should just STFU.

  27. What century are we in?


    Well I do see one hell of a positive outcome out of this one. Boy are Western women ahead of the curve — worldwide, no? In RD’s gen.

    We are the offspring of those women.
    My mom was an exec in the 50’s/60’s/70’s. In fact, the laundry was sent out to the cleaners in my childhood. It came back in blue wrapped paper packages — ironed and folded.

    Laundry was the last thing on her mind.

  28. My grandmother did consider the washing machine to be the best modern invention. She was the oldest of 12 children in a poor (Polish catholic) immigrant family and she did all that laundry in a tub with a washboard and a ringer.

    Oftentimes, when we were in her laundry room together, she would look at her washer and dryer and her eyes would tear up.

    She also left school at 12 to clean houses and then worked in factories to support her family and all those siblings.

    So I think birth control and washer dryers are not either/or/ versus kind of thing.

    I’ll take fewer siblings and a washer/dryer, thank you!

    • My grandmother once calculated that she’d washed diapers by hand (washboard & wringer) every day for over 10 years. I can’t begin to imagine it.

  29. ps: I can’t stop laughing.

    pss: my grandmother had a set of maytags in their garage by the time they were in their 60’s. Next to it was a “wringer” that dated from the 30’s? I loved wringing things out too — on that thing!

    He used it for his chamois — at that point.


    Oh and, my grandmother was a devout Catholic. My mother went to all Catholic girls schools. When she had my brother and I?
    She wanted us to grow up without any dogma, so, we got to sample all the various religions on our own.

    That pope is a weird one, no?

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