In 1797, Mr. Board invented the scrubbing board. Then in 1851, Mr. Drum invented the first hand-operated washing machine with a revolving drum. Actually, Mrs. Jennie Drum invented it, and while all her friends loved it, none of the major manufacturers would talk to her (what with her being female and therefore not an inventor).
The first electric washing machine was invented in 1879, but had to wait until electricity was invented and available to go into production.
In 2009, the official Vatican newspaper declared that the washing machine did more to liberate women than the contraceptive pill or the right to work.
Not only was laundry pivotal in the women’s movement, it has always been an important part of combat. (Which in some areas were the same thing.)
Back in Revolutionary days, there was no reliable way for getting information from New York City to General George. The Culper Spy Ring on Long Island solved the intelligence gathering and dissemination situation through laundry. Anna Smith Strong used the laundry on her clothesline to leave signals regarding where the spies patriots should gather to share information.
During the Civil War, soldiers had to pay to have their laundry done. An enlisted man paid 50 cents monthly, unmarried officers paid $1-$2 monthly, and married officers paid $4 monthly (for his wife’s clothes? I don’t rightly know). All of this meant that a) soldiers’ clothes were (sort of) clean even if the soldier wasn’t and B) a washerwoman earned more than a soldier. Clean living and all that.
In military lingo, a laundry bag is a parachute.
During the war in Northern Ireland, the British were trying to figure out who was making bombs (and where they were making them). They opened a laundry shop and sent out color coded discount tickets (the color coding was based on specific streets). When people brought in laundry with the discount ticket, it was pretty easy to determine what part town they lived in.
Before the clothing was washed or cleaned, it was analyzed for bomb-making residue. When they had a positive result, the laundry would sent out another set of coupons with specific numbers. Once they had good addresses, military teams swooped in on several homes and arrested people (and nabbed the weapons, etc.). Coolest part: during the operation, no one was injured or killed. Cleanest part: the criminals all had spotless clothes.