10 inventions your great-grandmother wished she had
I have a job. A great job. One I could choose myself. My great-grandmother also had a job. A tough one and not one she could choose herself. She was a housewife, and in the 1800s being a housewife was a tough, full-time job. If you had the money you would hire a maid to do the dirty work for you. If not, you had to do it yourself.
I am a housewife too: 1 hour a day. In that time, I cook a meal for my family on my efficient gas stove, using the stock in my fridge, my freezer and the tins of food in my garage. While dinner is cooking, I pop some washing in the washing machine or dryer, vacuum clean the carpet or clear out the dishwasher.
And while I'm doing so, my thoughts wander off to my great-grandmother and how she would have marveled at my easy housekeeping. In honour to her and all the great-grandmothers in the world, here's a list of the 10 inventions they would have loved to have. The 10 inventions that have made it possible for our generation to seek a life beyond housekeeping if we want to!
Imagine cooking on a coal stove or range. First you need to feed it with coal which you have to go get from the coal cellar. Then, you have to light a fire that burns just so that it gets hot enough to cook on without consuming the coal too fast. Regulating the heat was a heavy task involving lifting heavy iron rings from the range or letting them down. Pots and pans would get stained with a black patina, and coal particles would land everywhere in the kitchen making a thorough weekly cleaning session no luxury at all. Just compare that to gas or electric cooking: just turn on the stove, it heats up immediately, you can regulate the heat just by turning a button, no patina on your pots and pans and no coal particles flying around. So clean and easy!
Washing would take three days: one to soak, one to wash and one to dry and iron. The washing alone took a whole day. It started by getting buckets of hot water at the water shop, carrying them home to fill the washing tub and boil it further on the range. After the cooking, some rinsing, then bleach for the whites. Rinsing again, and yet again. Finally, wringing it all out (by hand in the worst case). Imagine how she would have been thrilled by a machine that would do all that automatically at the push of a button!
Holland is perhaps one of the countries with the fewest days in a year suitable for hanging out the washing. It's often too damp, too rainy or too cold. So great-grandma probably spent a lot of time cramming lots of damp washing on a couple of drying lines in the attic or above the stove. She would have loved the drying machine.
Running hot and cold water
No more pumping up the water and heating it on the stove or buying it a the water store. Just open the the faucet and get instant hot water to clean your house with, wash your hair, bathe the kids...
Ever tried to iron with a coal iron? It's heavy, clumsy and a real art to get the wrinkles out without burning the tissue or staining it with coal!
Fridge and freezer
Have you ever thought about how much time your great-grandma would have spent preserving food? Hours of making jam and chutney, salting and drying fish and flesh, keeping the dispense dry and keeping out the bugs from flour and the like.
In a coal-heated house dust was everywhere. Not only did your great-grandmother have to clean the floor more often, it was more tedious to do it also. If somebody would tell her that in a hundred years time women would clean the floor of an entire house in just half an hour she would have never believed you.
Only the rich would have spent the time, effort and money to light a fire in every room. It was more common to only have a warm kitchen (where the range gave heat already). The rest of the rooms would have been bitterly cold in winter. Think of the luxury we have. We simply heat up all rooms by turning a button.
Canned food and supermarkets
If you cannot preserve your food that long, you need to go shopping every day to get fresh bread, veggies and meat. It must have been a great way to meets friends and gossip, but it was time consuming as well. Getting bread, vegetables and meat alone already required a trip to three different shops. Self-service was unheard of, so every visit to a shop involved standing in line and waiting for the shop assistant to complete your order. Doing all the shopping for a whole week (or two) in just one hour, and keeping it fresh was something of a dream. Canned food and supermarkets made it possible though.
Washing dishes was a heavy job. With families often consisting of about ten family members, and with heavy pots and pans and no running hot water, it definitely wasn't your great-grandmother's favorite job. I'm certain she would have loved that dishwasher!
So next time you use your washing machine, vacuum cleaner, open a can for dinner or stock up on food in the supermarket and think you are doing a tedious job, think of your great-grandma and how she would have loved to trade places with you!