Rinse and Repeat: Laundry in the Nineteenth Century: Background information when reading Longbourn

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Longbourn

by Jo Baker

Longbourn
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2013, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2014, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

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Beyond the Book:
Rinse and Repeat: Laundry in the Nineteenth Century

In Longbourn, the housemaid Sarah's frustration with the laundry would have been shared by anyone who cleaned clothes during the early 19th century. Our modern process of sorting, dumping into a machine, pouring in soap, and pressing a button is an embarrasingly wonderful diminution of this once complicated and time-intensive process.

Nineteenth Century Woman Doing Laundry, Henry Robert Morland Doing the laundry during this period was such a daunting task that even mistresses of households that employed servants often pitched in. The wealthier families were able to employ servants who, like Sarah, focused mainly on laundry duties. For most families without dedicated laundresses, two days a week were set aside for doing laundry. Washing, boiling, and rinsing a standard load of laundry required around 50 gallons of water, which had to be hauled from a convenient water source.

Because cleaning laundry was so laborious a process, most people washed their undergarments only once a week. Women generally wore a simple sheath made from muslin ...

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