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Villages across Europe that could afford it built a wash-house, sometimes known by the French name of lavoir.
Many of these village wash-houses are still standing, historic structures with no obvious modern purpose.The aim was to foster hygiene and thus reduce outbreaks of epidemics.Sometimes large metal cauldrons, often termed "coppers", even when not made of that metal, The Industrial Revolution completely transformed laundry technology.Indeed, this tradition is reflected in the Catalan idiom "fer safareig" (literally, "to do the laundry"), which means to gossip. The city authorities wanted to give the poorer population, who would otherwise not have access to laundry facilities, the opportunity to wash their clothes.
Sometimes these facilities were combined with public baths, see for example Baths and wash houses in Britain.
The job of doing the laundry was reserved for women, who washed all their family's laundry.