In the Hands of a Washerwoman a Mull Kerchief with Embroidered Borders, c.1780.jpeg
Rolfson - In the Hands - Nameplate IOR 2021.pdf

In the Hands of a Washerwoman: a Mull Kerchief with Embroidered Borders, c.1780

  • Author(s) / Creator(s)
  • I am researching female laundry labour and the cultural import of clean, white linen in 18th century England. There are very few examples of surviving linens anywhere. I am most fortunate to have access to some rare 18th and 19th century linens recently donated to the University of Alberta, including this kerchief in my photo. A linen garment over two hundred years old is a tangible, historical record which offers insight into the unrecorded and undectable lives of laundrymaids, laundresses and washerwomen. Women often chose laundry labour as a last resort for economic survival. It was gruelling, labour intensive, repetitive, and the pay was meager. And it was always women! While there are almost no surviving personal accounts or records of female laundry labourers, material objects like these linens can prompt historical curiosity and lead to new understandings of the past. Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, I haven't been able to get back to the textiles collection to view these linen garments, unfortunately. I am grateful I have some photos, including this one, that I took over a year ago.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International