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How the residents of the Porcupine Camp stayed clean and fed

In this edition of Remember This, the Timmins Museum and National Exhibition Center examines in a bit more detail some essential services provided in the early days of the Porcupine camp
Mélanie Bourguignon (fourth woman on the right) who is pictured here with her colleagues at the South Porcupine steam laundry in 1910, became one of the camp’s early female entrepreneurs. She went on to own and operate her own boarding house which was unfortunately destroyed along with many other up-and-coming businesses in the fire of 1911. Timmins Museum photo

From the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Center:

As one can imagine, Porcupine was disproportionately populated by a horde of bachelors flooding into the camp at the time of the gold rush. 

While no one can doubt their skill set and hardy nature, when it came down to the commonplace tasks of laundry and cooking it must be said most men were pretty helpless.

Remember, most were young bachelors, some leaving home for the first time and had no idea how to look after themselves properly nor were they expected to (a feeble excuse to be sure, but such were gender roles at the time).

A marketing opportunity presented itself in this special set of circumstances, giving rise to boarding houses offering accommodations and hot meals to the influx of prospectors coming from all over.

That for the most part solved the problem of housing and sustenance, but one dirty task still remained unattended to: laundry.

Many entrepreneurs established steam laundries and offered their much needed services to the budding community.  Investment into these small businesses provided opportunity to often overlooked or marginalized communities.

Women were frequently owners and operators of laundries and boarding houses, meaning their lives, while attached to the domestic sector, could be a lot more open and free considering they were self-employed and earning their own income. 

Each week, the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre provides TimminsToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Timmins Museum has to offer at and look for more Remember This? columns here.