Provencal Laundry all Washed up in France’s Lavoirs
Water sloshes against the sides of the shallow stone basin of the lavoir as weathered hands vigorously scrub at stubborn stains. Kneeling on their augets washerwomen exchange tidbits of town gossip as they work to brighten their laundry.
Before communal lavoirs, personal washing was done sparingly by the side of rivers or using precious well water. The washerwoman was often the lady of the house, or in instances of greater wealth, this was an outsourced activity. Laundry was done sparingly, often collected for many months in humidity-free attics or armoires.
This strenuous task was limited to a few times a year when the town’s washing was done over a three-day period a tradition called “la grande buée” or “la grande lessive” (the big wash).