Agitated to Clean: How the Washing Machine Changed Life for the American Woman

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date

April 2016

Faculty Sponsor

Leslie Madsen-Brooks


For most historians there exists a minimal understanding of women’s domestic life in the past. This project explores the tools used for washing clothing and provides insight into the lives of the individuals who used them, and how the evolution of these tools changed their way of life. Using a method based on the works of Jules David Prown, an interpretive analysis is being completed for multiple artifacts selected from the Idaho State Historical Society’s collection. The steps of this method include a thorough description of the artifact, making deductions about the artifact based on the description, as well as creating and testing hypotheses about what the artifact signifies. In addition to focusing on the specific artifacts, advertisements for these items are being analyzed to determine how these products were marketed to these women; this will assist in determining the comfort levels individuals had with newer methods of washing, and reveal the proposed benefits of transitioning to new machinery. The overall purpose of this research is to ignite an interest in the history of domestic women, as well as promote the preservation of the artifacts they used on a regular basis.

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