Vestnik arheologii, antropologii i etnofrafii   ¹ 1 (52)  2021



“On the proper keeping of linen and clothes”: organization of laundry in urban noble-intellectual families of Russia

in the second half of the 19th — early 20th century  

Veremenko V.A. (Pushkin, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation)


             page 144153


The article is aimed at characterization of the ways of laundry organization in the urban noble-intellectual families of post-reform Russia, identification of the extent of innovations in this area, and of the degree of transition of this activity from the field of domestic labour to social production. The sources of the research include paperwork of laundry facilities, statistical data, numerous housekeeping manuals and instructions for laundry organization, memoirs, diaries and house books of urban nobles, especially noble women, and, finally, fiction and publicistic writings of this period. The study follows a methodological approach that combines research methods characteristic for the history of everyday life (first of all, historical reconstruction method), the theory of sociocultural dynamics, and the theory of “topochron”. The author concludes that, despite the significant increase of personal participation of educated housewives in household chores, which took place at the end of the 19th beginning of the 20th century, this change did not extend to laundry, which was completely delegated to a special person laundress. The employee herself could act as a single-family domestic servant, a worker who served in a laundry establishment or an independent day laborer who offered her services to all concerned. Moreover, the first group laundresses domestic servants was extremely rare in the post-reform period. Washing could be carried out both “at the owners’ home”, and “on the side”. “Home washing”, which provided a theoretical opportunity for the employer to control the employee’s activities, was regarded as more preferable, both in terms of service quality and price. Active development of the laundry networks in the late 19th early 20th century, some of which used machine washing, had little impact on lives of educated citizens. The laundries were oriented, first of all, to work with institutions, and among the “citizens” their services were mainly used by small noble-intellectual families who did not have an opportunity to invite a day labourer. Throughout the post-reform period, handwashing continued to be the most popular way to care for clothing, and the nature of the laundress’s labor remained virtually unchanged, still staying “backbreaking” and extremely poorly mechanized.

Key words: noble-intelligent families, mistress, domestic servants, laundress, laundry, mechanization, clothing, washing, rolling.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Accepted: 07.12.2020

Article is published: 26.02.2021


Veremenko V.A.

Pushkin Leningrad State University, St. Petersburg shosse, 10, Pushkin, St. Petersburg, 196605, Russian Federation