I have washed laundry, other than small and delicates by hand, but it was many years ago, in a power cut, when I last tackled bed linen by hand. I am glad I don't have to do it on a regular basis, it is back-breaking work. But then that might have been because all I had was my own company. I suppose amongst good friends and a chance to catch up on village gossip, it might not be such a bad way to spend a morning. And the possibility in a warmer climate of being able to dry items quickly - spreading laundry over mounds of lavender in the sunshine would be so much nicer than having to spray on lavender water while ironing... Since marking with initials was essential when doing a communal wash and is related to my love of samplers, I always make a point of visiting local lavoirs when I am travelling in France. The one above is an old lavoir in Maussane in the Alpilles - if you look on the right of the picture, you will be able to see the flat sloping ledge on which you could soap up your sheets.
Pont Aven on the south coast of Brittany - erstwhile home to painters and artists including Gauguin - is famous for its row of lavoirs on the River Aven - here you can see women working away in their own private lavoirs - such luxury, but not great for gossip! There is a web-site that lists all the known lavoirs, just in case you fancy following a lavoir trail when you are visitng France. Just click here for a visit.May all your whites be bright!