Kitty Wilkinson - The Inventor of the Laundromat
January 21, 2021
Who is Kitty Wilkinson you might ask? (OK, you would never ask that question but play along)
Kitty Wilkinson was an Irish woman who immigrated to the United Kingdom in 1797. Her journey was quite tragic, involving a shipwreck and the loss of a baby. But that aside, why do we care about Kitty Wilkinson? Because many consider her the creator of the first laundromat.
Kitty was a domestic servant, but she was also the only person in her neighborhood who had her own boiler. (This was after the loss of her first husband, before the loss of the second. That Kitty had quite the traumatic life.) During the cholera epidemic of 1832 that boiler became very important. Kitty began to let her neighbors wash their clothes in her yard, using the hot water from her boiler. The hot water that she provided killed the cholera bacteria, thus helping to reduce the spread of the disease. She also showed her neighbors how to use chloride of lime (bleach). And she only charged them a penny a week.
It was here that the idea of a public wash house originated. Previously known as the Saint of the Slums, fourteen years later Kitty and her husband were appointed the first ever public wash house superintendents.