How to Get Those Washboard Abs

We here at Forgotten Stories are well aware that millions can be made from authoring a successful weight loss book, or by crafting an workout program designed to melt away the excess pounds. Yet, in the interest of the readership, we are going to forego those untold millions, and present gratis our own exercise regimen designed to help you melt away those extra pounds, with a little help from 1912’s foremost exercise guru, Miss Villa Faulkner Page.

Villa Faulkner Page

According to Miss Page, “[h]ousweork is one of the most natural and wholesome of womanly occupations. It offers variety, opportunity for frequent breathing spells, and a chance to develop one’s individuality. It is performed among cheerful surroundings, in good air and with proper hygienic safeguards. Its different phases exercise every muscle in the body, and the mental qualities as well. And it is work done on a schedule and with a definite purpose, not casual calisthenics.”

Better than a Masseuse

The best upper body workout of all…the washtub. Let’s start with figure one. Here, “the young woman is following the example of all good housewives and putting the white clothes to soak in cold water the night before washing day…She wants to be sure that all the garments are completely immersed. Her whole body sways almost imperceptibly following the direction of her arms. The slight sidewise movement at the waist…is the exact exercise recommended by the obesity doctors for the taking off of surplus flesh.  The whole process is a gentle preparation for the more strenuous activities to follow.”

1 - Putting Clothes to Soak

Good, you’ve made it through the warm-up. Now to figure two, scrubbing the clothes along the washboard. “The body moves from the knees, up and down over the board. Then there is the splendid up and down swing of the arms. They go down straight from the shoulder to the very bottom of the board. Then they are drawn back to the top, so that the elbows are bent almost at right angles to the body, and the elbow muscles are brought into play. The motion is very similar to that of the pulley-and-weight machine in the gymnasium.”

2 - Rubbing Garments on Washboard

Now we get a bit of a cool down, as seen in figure three, where the woman daintily rests her hand upon the edge of the washtub.

3 - Rubbing Clothes with One Hand, Resting Other

But, not a long rest mind you, because we can move right on to our next exercise, which works out the forearms. “There are always obstinate spots on tablecloths and napkins. If these are rubbed on the board with the vigor necessary to remove them, a hole in the linen will result. So the young woman at the tub assumes another position in Illustration 4. She straightens up, draws a deep breath, and gives the napkin a gentle but effective rubbing between her closed fists.”

4 - Rubbing Stains out with Hands

Lest you think that the washtub workout ignores the biceps and shoulders, we move to figures five and six. Here, the clothes large and small are wrung out, and “the arms are extended to their full length, and there is a fine straight sweep of the shoulders.”

5 - Wringing out a small article

6 - WRinging out a large article

For our final step, we focus on the torso and pectoral muscles. Here, clothes are dipped in a tub of “blued[1]” water at least twice getting rid of the soap, with “a slow, even up and down movement of the arms and torso.”

7 - Rinsing Garments

“Where will you find a better course in calisthenics than a morning every week at the washtub?  The ‘poor washerwoman’ receives a lot of professional pity, but come to think of it, doesn’t she usually look healthy?” We agree, and hope that you’ll give the washtub workout a try. Let us know your results, won’t you?

Incorrect Way - Correct Way

[1] Before the advent of bleach, a blue-ing agent was used in washing. The agent, such as Mrs. Stewart’s blueing ( added a bit of blue dye to white fabric to offset the slight grey or yellow cast white clothes acquire after long usage.

Leave a comment


  1. So that’s been my problem. Just used that damn washing machine too much. Now I know, but at my age don’t really care 🙂

  2. Frankly, I blame our obesity epidemic entirely on washing machines, and I expect Washington to pass legislation in the near future to ban their use.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: