Laundry beater

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Illustration by N. Carman from the novel Sévère éducation by René-Michel Desergy (1931).

A laundry beater is a wooden beater (like a paddle) used to beat soaked laundry in order to clean it.

Laundry beaters were once used in many cultures worldwide before the invention of the laundry machine, and are still used in less developed countries where laundry is done in the traditional way by hand, e.g. at a river. The laundry beater is made of wood, with a handle and a flattened, typically oval, rectangular or square, business end. It may have been one of the possible inspirations for the spanking paddle, and occasionally an ordinary laundry beater might have been used in homes for disciplinary purposes.

The French film Gervaise (1956), based on the Émile Zola novel L'Assommoir (1877), features a violent fight between two women working in a laundry. They strike and spank each other severely with laundry beaters. (This scene can be viewed on YouTube.)


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