Why the Washing Machine Pushed Humanity Forward

Illustration for article titled Why the Washing Machine Pushed Humanity Forward

Once upon a time in the Western World, women lost countless hours heating up water and washing clothes. Then, an anonymous hero invented the electric washing machine at the beginning of the 20th century, and with it came freedom and progress for the entire human race. No, I'm not kidding.

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Click to viewThe electric washing machine affected women directly, and everyone else too. Liberated from that hard tedious job, women got time to do other more important things than washing their husbands and children's clothes by hand. And with that, the planet became a better place, like world health and statistics exper Hans Rosling says in this video, an ode to the washing machine. Ten minutes well spent. [TED]

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DISCUSSION

I just got back from a country where women still wash everything by hand, in cold water, hang it up to dry, collect it and iron it. Then they wash the dishes by hand, in cold water. They buy fresh produce and dairy in the morning and cook everything from scratch three times a day (they also bake warm bread with meals). Everything is spoiled in a few hours in the heat because most households don't have fridges. Then they wash their floors. They also have many children, so they do everything for the entire family until children grow up to help. And then they go do it for rich families for a pittance. These cleaning ladies make enough money to buy 3 gallons of milk per month. People who developed household items are heroes. That was the main point of Marx actually- that new technology would render human beings free because machines would do most of the work and we could enjoy the fruits of their productivity as well as free time. He thought people would work in the morning and go fishing in the afternoon, if only we could manage to distribute the wealth. He really underestimated greed, but he was partially right about machines.