The Queens of Soap Suds Row

The Queens of Soap Suds Row (HM1MQM)

Location: Fort Laramie, WY 82212 Goshen County
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Country: United States of America
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N 42° 12.127', W 104° 33.386'

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Fort Laramie National Historic Site

With reddened knuckles and rolled up sleeves, an obscure corps served the 19th century army. Beginning in 1802, the army enlisted women aged 13 and older to wash soldiers' laundry. Laundresses received a wage, quarters, fuel, rations, and medical care. On average, a laundress washed for about 20 men. In 1868 enlisted men paid $1 per month for laundry services, with single officers paying $3 and married officers $6. Clothing repairs and tailoring were extra. Laundresses also earned extra income working as part-time cooks, servants, and midwives for officers' families.Laundresses often lived and worked in an area of substandard housing known as "Soap Suds Row." The post surgeon, commenting on one of these quarters wrote, "it has an adjoining room used as a cow pen by Sergeant Osborn . . . the effluvia escaping . . . through the partition walls is highly offensive and renders Mrs. Coyles' room at times scarcely inhabitable." Viewed as an expensive burden on the army by officers and members of Congress, the laundresses began to pass out of existence by the late 1870s. One army colonel explained, "All these little tribes have to be provided with shelter, cooking stoves, etc. . . . transportation of all the laundresses' paraphernalia, children, dogs, beds, cribs, tables, tubs, buckets, boards and Lord knows what not, amounts to a tremendous item of care and expense."The Army LaundressesUsually immigrants and commonly Irish, laundresses often married enlisted men and were a popular distraction, as evidenced by an order issued here, " . . . any noncommissioned officer, private soldier or citizen found loitering around the Laundress Quarters of this Post will be immediately arrested . . . "Raucous, bawdy, and colorful, these women frequently kept the officer of the day busy reprimanding them for activities ranging from brawling and drinking to spousal abuse.Rough in manner but kind at heart was how most frontier army veterans remember the laundresses. General Forsyth described them as "good, honest, industrious wives, usually well on in years, minutely familiar with their rights, which they dared to maintain with acrimonious volubility."
Placed ByNational Park Service
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Monday, August 10th, 2015 at 10:03pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)13T E 536618 N 4672312
Decimal Degrees42.20211667, -104.55643333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 42° 12.127', W 104° 33.386'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds42° 12' 7.62" N, 104° 33' 23.16" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)307
Which side of the road?Marker is on the right when traveling East
Closest Postal AddressAt or near Unnamed Road, Fort Laramie WY 82212, US
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