The army laundress was one of the few recognized female positions at a frontier fort. Two to four laundresses were assigned to each company of soldiers. They received daily rations of food and fuel, and some post services such as medical care and transportation when the company changed posts.
The military inherited the tradition of a laundress corps from the British. Besides washing and mending the soldiers’ clothing, laundresses performed some cooking and baking. In addition, they were called upon as midwives and nurses on occasion.
Since laundresses were paid indirectly out of the soldiers pay, Army paymasters often deducted laundry fees from the troopers’ pay. Depending on the rank of the soldier, the laundress was paid $1 to $4 dollars a month for each man and could do laundry for 19 to 20 men. An ambitious laundress could make several times the wage of thirteen dollars a month paid to a private.
Many laundresses were married to non-commissioned officers. Few single women remained unmarried, and most were married within a few months after going out west.
Fort Concho’s living history laundress unit works in conjunction with other military history programs at local and out-of-town events. For more information call (325) 657-4443 or email firstname.lastname@example.org