Washboards and tubs and a hand-operated wooden washing machine round out a display about washing in the Royal Oak Historical Society Museum’s newest exhibit, “A Woman’s Work is Never Done.” The exhibit opening will take place Feb. 17.

Washboards and tubs and a hand-operated wooden washing machine round out a display about washing in the Royal Oak Historical Society Museum’s newest exhibit, “A Woman’s Work is Never Done.” The exhibit opening will take place Feb. 17.

Photo by Sarah Wojcik


Royal Oak Historical Society’s newest exhibit to focus on women at work

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published February 12, 2019

 Old-fashioned irons and a collar press sit on display at the Royal Oak Historical Society Museum, part of the latest exhibit, “A Woman’s Work is Never Done.”

Old-fashioned irons and a collar press sit on display at the Royal Oak Historical Society Museum, part of the latest exhibit, “A Woman’s Work is Never Done.”

Photo by Sarah Wojcik

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ROYAL OAK — The Royal Oak Historical Society Museum volunteers are hard at work preparing their latest exhibit, “A Woman’s Work is Never Done.”

The exhibit opening will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17. Visitors will learn how the workweek changed for women from the 1860s to the 1960s, including a focus on changing fashions.

Admission to the museum is free, although donations are appreciated. During the opening, guests will be able to enjoy refreshments, including a hot chocolate bar.

The exhibit is largely organized under umbrellas represented by the day of the week — Monday washing, Tuesday ironing, Wednesday mending, Thursday marketing, Friday baking, Saturday cleaning and Sunday as a time for church and leisure — and how the workweek changed over the decades.

Museum curator Muriel Versagi said women often set strict schedules for what work was to be done and when. From domestic work to occupations outside the household, the exhibit details the one constant: that a woman’s work is never done.

“We have some amazing washboards and a metal tub, and also one of the very first washing machines — a wooden one operated by hand,” Versagi said. “It’s really unique. And then, of course, the irons and ironing boards and, when you get to Hoovering, we’ve got Bissell and carpet sweepers and all kinds of things.”

She said much of women’s work up until the 1950s focused on domestic duties, although women went to work in factories during the war years.

In Royal Oak, Versagi said, many families owned small businesses in the 1800s through the 1920s, including meat markets, bakeries and grocery stores, and families lived above their businesses.

Rita Simons, a lifelong Royal Oak resident, has volunteered with the Royal Oak Historical Society for the last eight years. For the latest exhibit, she is preparing a display about schools — specifically home economics class.

She said she is drawing from old yearbooks and is including an array of basic skills taught in home economics classes, including sewing, cooking and social graces.

“It’s a little bit of everything,” Simons said. “I think (this exhibit) is so important so that our younger generations can see the different things and just look at (how things used to be done).”

The Royal Oak Historical Society Museum is located at the old Northwood Fire Station, 1411 W. Webster Road, west of Crooks Road. Museum hours are 1-4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and group tours can be arranged by appointment.

For more information, call (248) 439-1501 or visit www.royaloakhistoricalsociety.com.

Call Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik at (586) 218-5006.

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