09 February 2009

Mechanical Mollys

On this day in 1936, the New York Times reported that the Cunard White Star Line had employed the services of expert women homemakers to help cope with the enormous housekeeping tasks aboard its new liner, Queen Mary

Dining service was the first issue tackled by the ladies. According to their recommendations, a "Mechanical Molly" -- it washed, rinsed, polished and sterilized dishes, glasses, and silverware -- was employed in each of the ship's galleys in order to make food preparation quick and efficient. Conveyer belts also were installed to keep things moving between kitchens and dining rooms. 

As for keeping things tidy, the expert homemakers advised the use of the most modern of vacuum cleaners for the six miles of carpeting laid throughout the ship. (Making daily vacuuming easier, the ship's architects had designed hallways and staterooms with curved edges, providing no corners in which dirt could accumulate).

The women helped to select furniture as well. For the main cabin class restaurant, they examined eleven different designs before selecting one that combined armchair comfort with dining room utility; rose pink was then settled on as a superior fabric color, for its ability to complement ladies' dinner gowns. 

Another important aspect of design tackled by the home-management pros: closets. With their guidance and input, cabin class closets would be designed with full-length mirrors that lit up automatically when the door was opened. Also, hangers were molded in such a way as to protect the delicate fabric of evening gowns. And finally, roomy shoe compartments were added to accommodate a wide range of shapes and sizes. 

Additional touches suggested by the women were also adopted by Cunard White Star, such as private telephones, electric clocks, lighted vanities, and plugs for curling irons in every cabin class stateroom. 

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