From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Modesty on the Clothesline

Hanging out the laundry



A lady told me about her recent vacation in San Francisco. She was shocked, she said, to see underwear hung out to dry on balconies above busy streets. She guessed she was old-fashioned because she would never pin her underwear to a clothesline and put it on display to the world. It wasn't modest.

This amused me a little because this lady is no shrinking violet. She spent a number of years driving 18-wheelers all over the nation with her husband. She's a plain-spoken person without airs, and she's about 15 years younger than me. Of all the things that she might have been shocked at in San Francisco, I wouldn't have predicted underwear on clotheslines.

When I thought about it, I couldn't remember seeing any sort of underwear hanging on the clotheslines at Mennonite and Amish homes. I can say with certainty that they hang cloth diapers outside to dry, but beyond that, I'm not sure.

When I used a clothesline faithfully for a number of years, I hung out the whole family's underwear. I usually hung the undergarments on an inside line, behind the sheets or towels.

We live in the country. The clothesline was barely visible from the road, but someone who drove into our yard might have seen the laundry well enough to identify individual pieces. To be honest, I wasn't too worried about it.

I asked Isaac (my 19-year-old son) what he thought about underwear hanging in plain view on the clothesline. He says that if he ever sees anything like that, he's going to lodge a complaint with the board of governors immediately. He also says that the only good weapon for fighting something like that is satire. Whatever, Isaac.

Laundry day at a Mennonite home

2 comments:

Collagemama said...

My mom hung the laundry out to dry whenever weather permitted, sometimes even when the clothes freeze-dried. Underwear was never, ever visible, being carefully hung between sheets, shirts, and nightgowns. Considering our current society's tendency toward Too Much Information, undies on the clothesline seem pretty tame.

Genevieve said...

Too Much Information. I think you're right, Collagemama. We all set the boundaries of our privacy, and sometimes it's shocking to others what we do or don't consider private.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.