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The Least Perfect Birthday Present

Dec 8, 2007
Ask any woman what is the one kitchen appliance she could not live without and the first thing she'll say is the washing machine.

Ask any woman what she wants for her birthday and the last thing she'll say is a new washing machine.

Ask any woman what she'd do if her husband bought her a washing machine for her birthday and I think a divorce would be the favourite answer.

However, this hasn't always been the case. The operation of kitchen appliances has long been the domain of women. Although with men's fascination for gadgets they have, for many years, been coming up with new machinery to make life easier for us. Or just to enable us to do even more in a day than we do already!
Unless you live in an unrealistic place like the East Enders set where no-one owns a washing machine and every one congregates in the local launderette, the washing machine is the one appliance that very few kitchens would be without.

In days gone by, women would take their family's laundry down to the nearest stream and pound it on rocks to clean it. Using sand as an abrasive, this was a very laborious and probably ineffectual task.

However, in 1874 William Blackstone did us all a favour with the invention of our favourite kitchen appliance - the first washing machine. Given to his wife as a birthday present (brave man!) this new gadget came with a wooden tub containing a flat piece of wood holding six small wooden pegs. Filled with hot, soapy water the clothes would be snagged on the pegs and dragged through the water via a system of a handle and cog arrangement.

Within five years, Blackstone had moved to Jamestown, New York and set up his company producing washing machines. They are still in operation today but have been joined by more than 200 competitors, thankfully keeping prices down.

It is thought the first 'launderette' came about in 1851 when a 12 shirt machine was operated by 10 donkeys. I am assured this was not run by Dot Cotton by I think that is a strong possibility.

A wringer was added to the washer in 1861 and metal tubs replaced wooden ones in 1900. Electric powered washing machines were introduced in 1906 thus making the system even easier. In 1922 The Maytag Company introduced a system of forcing water through clothes by means of an agitator and this, along with the cylinder system are the two main inventions that have survived to this day.

In the mid-1930's, John Chamberlain perfected this addition to kitchen appliances by coming up with a machine that would wash, rinse and extract water from clothes in one operation. This was followed in 1947 with the first top loader produced by the predecessors of Whirlpool.

With the system virtually perfected, advancements in recent years are now more concerned with energy saving - for the environment, not for the woman.

What I fail to understand now is, when its men coming up with all these kitchen appliance inventions, why can't they use them?
About the Author
Expert inventor Shaun Parker considers the top kitchen appliance to be the washing machine. To find out more please visit http://www.rtd.uk.com/
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