Washing the family clothes was always done on Monday either on a washboard or in later years in a wringer washing machine. If clothes were washed on any other day of the week the housewife was thought of as "lazy." And clothes were to be hung out to dry in the morning - the earlier the better - in order to keep the status of the housewife in good terms. One of my neighbor ladies once told me in confidence, that since she was not a "morning person," and could not manage to rise early on Monday mornings in order to get the clothes out on the line before noon, she would wash the clothes on Sunday (another no-no) and set the wet clothes in a clothes basket next to the back door. Before her husband went to work in the morning, he would hang the clothes for her. None of the neighbors caught on to this ploy because at that time, they themselves were busy washing their clothes.
The housewife was judged by neighbors on many issues. First of all the white clothes should be really white, in order to know that much effort had been put into the process of washing. Then the clothesline itself must be washed before hanging any of the clothes. This was done with a wet rag over the entire length of each line. Then how the clothes were hung on the line was another test. The white clothes were hung first, such as bed sheets, tablecloths, white shirts etc. Sheets were folded in half, lengthwise, and hung by the top and bottom. Shirts were hung by the shoulders - never by the tail. Socks were hung by the toes, not the tops. The unmentionables, such as panties, bras, men's boxer underwear etc., were hung on the inside lines - hidden by the sheets and towels that hung on the outer lines.
Clothespins were gathered and kept in a clothespin bag which could be left hanging on the line - but the pins were never left here and there along the line - this was considered "tacky." When hanging the clothes the efficient woman would use one clothespin to pin the end of one garment with the first of the next item. Clothes must be taken off the line before supper and into the house where they were folded neatly in the clothes basket and ready to be ironed on Tuesday.
Clothes were hung on the line even in the cold temperatures of winter. Women believed that hanging the clothes outside did something to make them freer of germs etc. I remember having to hang clothes out on the line when I was a child growing up on a farm. The clothes would freeze and then before supper I was sent out to gather them and bring them into the house. I would re-hang the clothes on lines that were strung in the attic. To bring in my dad's long winter underwear to the attic was a real challenge. I had to place this stiff foot piece of clothing under my arm, into the house, and then maneuver it up a set of steps, then through the four-foot high attic door.
(Continued next week)