Have you have ever complained about doing yet another load of washing? Next time spare a thought for the pioneer women of the Otways who had to contend with a hand plunger style washing machine.
Our latest acquisition, a washing machine circa 1919, is mounted on a 3 leg frame, with a central cone adjustable plunger and attached to a fulcrum point (adjustable in height) on the side with a long arm; a certain level of strength was necessary to operate it. The container is slightly coned shaped at the bottom and has a drain tap for emptying water. Although this washer doesn't have a wringer attachment, most of this style would have a provision for one and would attach to the piece of timber that can be seen on the side. The plunger is approx 37cm in diameter and has holes for water to be forced through. The container is made of galvanised steel and painted green.
This washing machine was a vast improvement from earlier methods of washing. Bessie Trevaskis, who lived in the Otways between 1897 - 1912 recalls "Every Monday without fail Mrs. Jarge did her washing, rain or sunshine. She washed the clothes in the wooden tubs on a form in her big kitchen, and boiled them in a huge cast iron boiler on her open fire. When she had finished washing the clothes she scrubbed the table and forms and then emptied the suds from the tubs and boiler onto the floor." (Trevaskis, 2001, p. 4)
Monday was typically wash day and dresses were worn below the knee to mid calf, with
drop-waists with a loose, straight fit. For the men when not working
on the farm, suits were worn. But for the farm, heavy plaid shirts and
canvas overalls. Tough, wet and muddy work & living conditions would mean Monday was likely a
Kindly donated to the Otway Districts Historical Society by the Towers family, Beech Forest.
Trevaskis, E B I (2001) A Bush Girl, Apollo Bay & District Historical Society, Apollo Bay, Victoria
Victorian Collections, accessed 8 August 2021, https://victoriancollections.net.au/items/4fc0e34a2162ef0fec33db6b