Women & Electricity (1916)
Every night last week a brilliant searchlight made giant gestures over New York City. It originated at the Grand Central Palace and marked the Electrical Exhibition - a vivid demonstration of recent progress in electricity.
Anything electrical interests many men. But this particular exhibition seemed to interest women even more. One found, as one might expect, exhibits of the massive machinery which lights cities and moves railway engines. But this machinery, in its immense and complicated detail, was mostly backed up against the sides of the great building.
A large part of the remaining space was taken up by exhibits of smaller household utensils. These proved to be of fascinating interest to crowds of women. Let us take one as an example - a washer. There was always a group of women standing about the various washer exhibits. Many of them knew the backbreaking labor of wash-day. Others were doubtless able to bear the expense of a washerwoman or of sending the wash to be laundered outside. But all of them looked as if they wished that it might be done in an easier and more economical way. And here was the solution—the solution in several forms, for competition was keen among the washer-makers at the Grand Central Palace show. All that needs to be done is to put the clothes in the rotary perforated cylinder, filled with water and soap, and turn on the electricity. The cylinder revolves rapidly, first in one direction and then in the other. The suds come surging through the clothes and around them. In about twenty minutes the clothes are washed. They are rinsed in fresh water, passed through the wringer (which is also run by electricity) into bluing water in an adjoining tub, then the wringer is reversed, the clothes passed through, and they are ready for the clothes-line. The women standing by were comparing this process with the old scrubbing-board, which ruined their laces and handkerchiefs.
If Monday is wash-day, Tuesday is ironing day. The housewife passes to the next booth and contemplates the electric iron, which can do more and better work in less time than can the old-fashioned flatiron— better work indeed, for the electric iron distributes the heat evenly over the ironing surface, thus eliminating "hot spots," and consequently scorched clothes.
Wednesday is baking-day, and the housewife is now lost in pleasant thought as she gazes on disc stoves and electric ranges. The disc stove is a four or six inch affair for light cooking in the home or hospital. In connection with such use there are so called “hot plates " - really electric stoves on a small scale, the use of which is evident. The use of the toaster stove is also evident, but what is not so well known is that it not only makes and uniformly browns the toast, but turns it over too. Put on an aluminum top and you can fry an egg or make a griddlecake.
Electric heat may be used also for the coffee percolator. With the toaster and the percolator a whole breakfast maybe made, and the average cost of electricity for it would be, the manufacturers claim, about two cents. To the housekeeper tired of dust and soot the electric range is inviting; but electric heat is not cheap, and housekeeping bills are unfortunately a part of housekeeping. Where water power is used for producing the electric current, however, even electric heating may not be regarded as a luxury. Electric power, on the other hand, ought to become more and more common in the household; and it is a real labor-saver, as many a housewife can testify who uses suction cleaners.
Enough has been said to indicate that electric household appliances are cleaner, more convenient, and safer than the old fashioned appliances. The new inventions greatly increase household efficiency.