Getting Around at Mount Vernon-Female Slaves

The Female Slave Quarters were located slightly farther from the manor house than the Male Slave Quarters. At any given time, 10-12 slaves would be working as housemaids in the home itself. Female slaves were also the cooks (working in the kitchen*) and 2-3 slaves would work in the wash house, requiring 25-30 buckets of water from the water pump per load of laundry. During the house tour at Mount Vernon, tour guides mention the guests coming to Mount Vernon and their “up to 677 overnight stays” in one year alone. Think about this: today, a typical family of four will usually require 1-2 loads of laundry per day. By today’s standards, even if performing washing duties for George and Martha Washington and Martha’s two living children would only require 2 loads of laundry per day, at the 55 steps from the wash House to the water Pump (110 steps round trip) would add up to 6600 steps, or about 3 1/2 miles walked per day. Add one load of laundry (minimum) for each of the 677 guests that Mount Vernon received during it’s prime and come up with 20,310 buckets of water, requiring approximately 2,234,100 steps back and forth from the wash house to the water pump, totaling around 1,117 miles walked per year (not including the 1,277 miles per year walked back and forth doing laundry for the Washington family alone).**

*House Butler slave Frank Lee was married to ‘Lucy’, a slave cook and they both lived in the Kitchen off of the manor house.
**The Wash House and Water Pump bars of the chart above are done in bright colors (yellow and orange) to highlight these facts.

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