I’d seen this 1900 image of sheets, shirts, and undergarments hanging between rows of New York tenements before. But I never noticed the caption, “A Monday’s Washing.”
Was Monday the city’s official laundry day? Apparently it was a traditional day to do the hard work of washing clothes, as this excerpt from Tyler Anbinder’s book about the city’s notorious 19th century slum, Five Points, explains.
“Hard wash-days”—typically Mondays—provided some of the most unpleasant memories for tenement housewives such as those in Five Points,” wrote Anbinder.
“They first made numerous trips up and down the stairs to haul water up from the yard. Then they heated the water on the stove and set to work scrubbing.”
“Drying the wash was actually the most dreaded task. . . .The advantage of living on a low floor (with fewer flights of stairs to climb) became a disadvantage on wash day, because when hanging your laundry out to dry, ‘someone else might put out a red wash or a blue wash over it, and it drips down and makes you do your wash all over again.’”
[Top postcard: LOC; second image: Mott Street; third image: Minetta Lane, via MCNY x2010.11.2570]