My new favorite film is a 32-minute documentary short: Clotheslines.

My own mother hung out clothes even in New England winters (the dryer cost money). Here in LA. I hung my clothes for 18 years in the backyard of my Koreatown apartment, and we have a makeshift line I use in summer even now at my rental in Pasadena. Dryers in fact use huge amounts of electricity–so clotheslines are really a beautiful, thrifty, throwback. And as the film shows, doing laundry is a whole huge metaphysical/spiritual/social arena, especially for women.

You can watch the whole film HERE, on a well-worth-exploring site called Folkstreams (“Exploring the Stories of America”).

Don’t miss the interview with director Roberta Cantow in which she discusses the making of the movie. This is fascinating:

There’s one woman at the end who says “It’s just something we gotta’ do. There’s nobody else to do it.” And that’s over a shot of a Taiwanese community of women washing clothes in the river. The woman anthropologist that I was working with told me about a study that had been done where washing machines were introduced to a certain community that didn’t have them, and the whole social fabric fell apart as a result -when women were no longer going to the creek to do their laundry and exchange information.

6 Replies to “CLOTHESLINES”

  1. Kerry Ninemire says: Reply

    This reminds me of a comment I believe I heard once from the psychotherapist/author William Glasser. He said the invention of the dishwasher has really damaged the social fabric of marriage and family. His emphasis is on finding things we can do together. Thank you, Heather, for stretching us once again.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Oh that is interesting about the dishwasher, Kerry! Such a paradox–every invention that makes life easier also makes it harder, or more lonely somehow…Lovely to hear from you and I hope you’re keeping well…

  2. Ron Lewberg says: Reply

    This film brought back so many memories of my mother doing the laundry in her wringer washer, hanging them out, even on the coldest days of the year, and then ironing every item of clothing right down to my father’s boxers and socks. And people had the nerve to ask what a stay at home mother did all day.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      Exactly, Ron–when I think of my mother washing, ironing, cooking, cleaning for 8…unbelievable…

  3. Watched this with my grandma in early 80’s. We both loved hanging out the wash.

    1. HEATHER KING says: Reply

      I am in Ireland and hanging out my wash here! At home in Tucson, I just drape it over the ramada posts in the back yard and it dries in an hour or two! I was unbelievably taken with that film…glad you and your grandma loved it, too…


Discover more from HEATHER KING

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading