Foul Bodies

By Kathleen M. Brown,

Book cover of Foul Bodies: Cleanliness in Early America

Book description

In colonial times few Americans bathed regularly; by the mid-1800s, a cleanliness "revolution" had begun. Why this change, and what did it signify?

"It is the author's ability to appreciate and represent the almost tactile circumstantiality of life that makes Foul Bodies so special-and so readable."-Charles E. Rosenberg, author of…

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Why read it?

1 author picked Foul Bodies as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Kathleen Brown’s brilliant book interrogates conflicting ideas about how to take care of our bodies as Africans, Native Americans, and Europeans encountered each other in colonial North America. One of the fundamental transformations she tracks is that western priorities about cleanliness shifted from “bathing the body to changing its linens” in the 16th century. This vastly increased women’s physical work and their political burdens.


Doing laundry involved hauling water, heating it, and then getting rid of that water. Women tried to alleviate the burdens of the back-breaking labor by using water over again and then throwing the dirty water…

From Alison's list on the politics of doing the laundry.

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