The Washing Machine: "Mother's Not Herself Today"

I began with a pre-1914 washing machine, graduated to the launderette, and then finally acquired a washing machine - which seemed the perfect answer for a woman who had four children in five years. But it was the contemporary washing machine that finally confirmed my identity as a housewife. Whereas a man who becomes a house husband is primarly a father, I was no longer a mother. I was a housewife - a patriarchal wet dream. At one time it was the oven that defined mother it was now the washing machine that trapped me. The washing machine is the smile of the mother's face. Men may do the washing - but they are not housewifes. Yet more and more demands are being made on mothers. They must bring up children, look after the elderly, and earn money. The washing machine loves control, steals the heart of the house and ruthlessly celebrates cleanliness as the supreme god. But it has its limits: the washing machine can't control blood, be it menstrual, the blood of birth, or the blood of war.

Text by Jane Graves The Secret Lives of Objects