The washing machine 'liberated women'

As International Women’s Day is celebrated, the Vatican had a novel message for the women of the world: give thanks for the washing machine. This humble domestic appliance had done more for the women’s liberation movement than the contraceptive pill or working outside the home, said the the official Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano.

“In the 20th century, what contributed most to the emancipation of Western women?” questioned the article. “The debate is still open. Some say it was the pill, others the liberalisation of abortion, or being able to work outside the home. Others go even further: the washing machine.”

The article is entitled, “The washing machine and the emancipation of women: put in the powder, close the lid and relax”, taking its name from the Washy Talky, the Electrolux bilingual-talking washing-machine launched in India seven years ago, which would remind the absent-minded housewife how to use the appliance.

The Catholic Church was never likely to laud the pill for its transformative power on women’s lives. Since Pope Benedict became the leader of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics, he has published a religious document condemning contraception for “negating the intimate truth of conjugal love, with which the divine gift [of life] is communicated” and has urged pharmacists to refuse to dispense the morning-after pill. The Osservatore Romano held the pill responsible for polluting the environment and contributing to male infertility.