Laundry beaters were once used in many cultures worldwide before the invention of the laundry machine, and are still used in less developed countries where laundry is done in the traditional way by hand, e.g. at a river. The laundry beater is made of wood, with a handle and a flattened, typically oval, rectangular or square, business end. It may have been one of the possible inspirations for the spanking paddle, and occasionally an ordinary laundry beater might have been used in homes for disciplinary purposes.
The French film Gervaise (1956), based on the Émile Zola novel L'Assommoir (1877), features a violent fight between two women working in a laundry. They strike and spank each other severely with laundry beaters. (This scene can be viewed on YouTube.)
Illustration of Émile Zola's L'Assommoir: two women mutually spanking each other with laundry beaters (1877).
A very similar illustration by Eugène Déte (1899).
Vintage laundry beaters from Iceland.
Laundry beater in the hand of a washerwoman, sculpture by Manon Bertrand (2005).
The laundry beater in the Nauheim coat of arms, Germany.
An old wooden paddle (laundry beater? butter paddle?) in a museum in Portugal.
- Wooden paddles, probably laundry beaters, in Stiftung Insel Hombroich Museum near Dusseldorf, Germany (photos)
- A laundry beater in a contemporary German web shop, c. 37 x 8 cm, referred to as Klopfholz