The Washing Machine Empowered Women.

Gender Issues: Home Work

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Dec 31, 2012    •    1064 Views

A few thoughts about the washing machine…

To do a wash, the typical late 19th century woman had to boil the water, use her scrub board, wring out the water, hang up the clothes, and carry out the dirty water. For 4 children, she would have washed 40,000 diapers. During one week, doing the family wash would have occupied 7 hours.

In 1920, only 8% of all US families had washing machines. By the mid-1980s, the number had risen to 75%. Now, (see below) 90% of all homes built since the 1990s have washing machines.

Wonderfully conveyed by Swedish Professor Hans Rosling in a 9 minute TED talk, the washing machine is really a growth machine. By empowering women, the washing machine diminishes world poverty and facilitates the spread of childhood education.

Thinking of the GDP, the washing machine vastly increases a woman’s productivity and frees her to generate more human capital.

From The US Census Bureau:

(Dates indicate the year a home was built.)

Housing Differences By Year Built in the US

Monday Gender Issues Posts

Sources and Resources: Definitely, I recommend the Hans Rosling TED talk. It is excellent. Also, for a fascinating read about the 20th Century US Consumer (and the source of my washing machine facts), Stanley Lebergott’s Pursuing Happiness is excellent and the ideal source of evidence that 20th century consumerism did indeed improve lives. And, for good stats on home technology, you might want to look at the US Census paper (and source of the above table) on household “amenities.”

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