It may sound odd, but the Vatican has said that the washing machine did more to “liberate” women than the contraceptive pill.
In a long editorial marking International Women's Day, Vatican's official newspaper L'Osservatore Romano pronounced the washing machine more important for the liberation of women than the pill as it had freed generations from the drudgery of household chores.
“The washing machine and the emancipation of women: put in the powder, close the lid and relax,” reads the article headline, above a black and white picture of two women in the 1950s admiring a front-loading machine.
“In the 20th century, what contributed most to the emancipation of western women? 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 Daily Telegraph quoted the article as saying.
The first rudimentary washing machines appeared as far back as 1767, noted the article, with the first electrical models being produced at the beginning of the 20th century.
The eulogy to a domestic convenience which most women in developed countries now take for granted quoted the words of late American feminist Betty Friedan, who in 1963 described "the sublime mystique to being able to change the bed sheets twice a week instead of once".