Directed by Roberta Cantow • Documentary • 1981 • 32 minutes
Clotheslines presents an enduring, vivid account of “women’s work,” showing how the creative energies of women have often been zapped by mundane tasks—and, in turn, how such tasks often reflect a ritualistic approach to life and survival.
The clothesline is an emblematic image to represent the unseen work of women. We may look at a clothesline and consider it either utterly beautiful or ashamedly ugly, but we never see the work that went on before those items appeared on the line. Clotheslines examines many different aspects to this realm of housework , a realm which embraces pain, drudgery and isolation at the same time that it celebrates the wisdom in the generational links, the folklore, the humor and creativity that also mark these tasks.
Made in the 1980s as clotheslines were beginning to disappear from urban and even country landscapes, this film stands as a as classic for all the ways in which it documents a fading practice, the result of changing technology and changing attitudes about gender roles.