Then & Now: Laundry

Photos - 1968: MHC Archives and Special Collections; 2016: Millie Rossman


In 1908, The College Laundry business opened, repurposing a residential home where Torrey Hall now stands. A note from its manager states, “Fine articles are washed in net bags to prevent any possibility of tearing, and lace, net, and embroidered shirt waists are laundered entirely by hand.” The construction of Torrey in 1949 caused this service to be shut down, and students were instead encouraged to use the Highland Laundry Company in Holyoke, “contract launderers to the Mount Holyoke faculty and students.” After a while, students switched to primarily using the washing machines and driers in their dorms or the Village Commons, saving up their quarters to power them. Eloise Prescott Killeffer ’68 remembers that some wealthier students still used a laundry service, but learning to do her own laundry was a “good life lesson. And besides,” she adds, “My mother, Evelyn Dorr Prescott ’32, would have been taken aback more than a little, thinking she hadn’t prepared me adequately (or that I was spending my hard-earned money frivolously).”


Today, the all-powerful One Card allows students to use washers and driers in every dorm. The machines are Energy Star rated, using less water and energy in an effort to be green. Students swipe their One Cards, paying $1.50 per load, then select the machine they want to use. Starting in 2007, an online laundry room monitoring system has made it easy to check for open machines without making the trek down to a dorm basement. Students can sign up for email alerts to be sent when a machine finishes a load or when a new machine becomes available.

By Rowan Collins ’18

–1968 photo courtesy of MHC Archives and Special Collections; 2016 photo by Millie Rossman

This article appeared in the fall 2016 issue of the Alumnae Quarterly.

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3 responses to “Then & Now: Laundry”

  1. Lynda says:

    I’m looking for a picture of students doing laundry in the pond in the 1800’s when each was issued a large splint basket for that purpose.

  2. During my senior year when I was HP of Pearsons, I was called into the Dean’s office because someone in my dorm was using slugs in the washing machines (which only cost 50 cents at the time). When I called a house meeting to let people know this was a serious matter, I found out it was some of my friends. Apparently one of them had worked at a bank over the summer and instead of throwing out the slugs that came in with big coin deposits, she saved them to share at MHC to use “for free laundry service,” They had not realized this was as illegal as using counterfeit money. I was able to promise the Dean that it would never happen again, and we have all been having an email chuckle and they said I could send on this story to this laundry blog since it has been almost 40 years since it happened.

  3. Sarah Daniel says:

    Oh my goodness. A hand-washing laundry service? that’s some blue blood money right there.
    I’d like to hear about the evolution of dining halls, gracious dinners, etc.
    thanks for the read!

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