Valuable woman’s work
I once owned a mangle for a very short time. I bought it at a farm auction and had my husband and others haul it home. A mangle is the size of a small freezer, but in those days, because its chassis was mostly steel, it took four men to move it! Mine only ran one time before smoke bellowed from inside and it quit, the little red light went out and with it a small symbol of a less complicated living.
My grandmother turned her large brick home on the Hilltop in Columbus into a rooming house after her husband was killed in an accident at the Water Works; a manhole cover had blown off hitting him in the head. One of her roomers was George Steinbrenner, deceased owner of the New York Yankees. He lived at her home while finishing at OSU and courting his future wife.
As a child, I helped her clean the rooms upstairs and change beds. Her linen closet held stacks of sheets, pillow cases, embroidered dresser runners and hand and bath towels.
She pressed those linens into shape with the mangle she kept in her cool basement. Watching that red light come on when the roller was hot meant business.
Grandmother fed sprinkled, folded large sheets onto the clothed roller controlling the clamp with her foot. She knew just how and when to lift and feed, guide and reset, as the smooth ironed fabric emerged from the other side. She then folded the sheet again and sent it through once more. On a flowered oil cloth table next to the mangle, the linens piled up. They were orderly stacks ready to be put to use in a small privately-owned business of a middle-aged widow.
Watching my grandmother at work, swaying rhythmically with the opening and shutting of the roller clamp, smelling captured sundried clean sheets, seeing the steam rise from the moistened cloth soothed the soul of those hard times.
As a child, I knew women’s work was valuable even though small and insignificant it filled that basement with industry, activity, in service to others using talent and technology, a very nice combination my later years have taught me go a long way toward happiness.
Sylvia Zimmerman is the owner of Fulton Creek Jersey Cheese in Richwood. She holds two graduate degrees and, when not working on her farm or pursuing her interest in sustainable agriculture, writes her own blog.