Minerva Teichert (1888-1976), Washday on the Plains, 1938, oil on canvas, 40 x 94 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art, gift of the Teichert Family Collection, 1997.
In Washday on the Plains, the figures are spread across a shallow pictorial space as if part of a theatrical mural referencing Teichert’s love for the dramatic. The depiction of industrious pioneer women performing the mundane, yet necessary, task of laundry in a spirit of friendly cooperation shows the vital role of women in the settling of the West. The clean sheets stretched to dry on a line behind the women nearly hide a row of covered wagons, indicating that this is only a brief stop on their long journey. Despite what must have been a physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging trek, Teichert has captured these women in a happy moment of sisterhood underscored by the playful patterns and colors of their dresses. If we slow down and look longer, we can almost imagine the cheerful chatter that accompanies the clean scent of freshly laundered clothes.