The benefits provided an attractive reward for the hard labor involved in being a laundress. Although pay scales and benefits varied over time and from post to post, the women often earned more than the average enlisted man. As a company laundress, a woman made a contribution to the family both through income and food. Elizabeth Bacon Custer summed it up by saying marrying a laundress was a good investment for an enlisted man. Income earned for washing, along with the extra rations allotted by the military, plus other benefits, allowed the family of a soldier with a laundress for a wife to live in relative comfort.

Jennifer J. Lawrence, Soap Suds Row: The Bold Lives of Army Laundresses, 1802-1876 (2016)


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