“Woman Ironing” paintings

Published on: Author: Ms. Allesandrine 10 Comments

Sophomores:  Here are the two paintings we looked at in class today.  While this post is optional, we’d all love to read what each other wrote in class.  Remember to note which painting you had in mind.
Also, keep in mind that this writing exercise was intended to help us think more about the mother in “I Stand Here Ironing.”  What would it be like to stand in her shoes?
(The required assignment called “Three Great Videos” is below this one.) 

Edgar Degas, c. 1885 (1834-1917)


Pablo Picasso, 1901 (1881-1973)


10 Responses to “Woman Ironing” paintings Comments (RSS) Comments (RSS)

  1. “Yes. Hello.” And she said nothing more. I was struck by her bony, hunched frame. Almost frightened by her, but for her two words of greeting. I arrived to pick up the ironed linens for the winter ball at the hotel, and I instantly realized that my abrupt entrance was an invasion of her otherwise solitary space. She was not staking a personal claim on the room, but rather, she performed work for which no one ever thanked her. At least she had the peace she craved, but I took that without asking. (Picasso)

  2. I’ve been ironing for my master for years now, always up in my bedroom working on his clothing, and not once have I gotten a visitor while I was doing this. So you can expect how startled I am when I begin to hear footsteps that go up the stairs and into my room. Thud. Thud. Thud. I am also equally startled when I look up from my work and into the eyes of my master. How unexpected this was! A rush of questions scurry through my head, the one that kept repeating itself being, was there something I had done wrong? While thinking of what to say to him, I looked down and my eyes fell upon my raw and scorched hands from years of ironing. I’d become used to them now, sort of like my hands were fully made up of calluses that seemed never ending. I finally look up when he says, “Good morning.”
    “Good morning sir,” I replied, “Is there anything I can do for you?” I noticed he too had been looking down at my hands as well as what I had been doing, which was ironing of course.
    “No, no. You’re doing just fine, just doing a little check up.” And with that he just left me staring with a look of confusion on my face at his retreating figure.
    “How odd,” I mumbled to myself, settling back into the patterning of what I had previously been doing before that mysterious interruption.

    • Erin, this is a nice piece of writing. The sensory details, including the sounds in the house and the appearance of the woman’s hands, are vivid and creative. The woman’s interior monologue conveys her loneliness, but also a sense of indifference. She continues to iron with little reflection on unexpected visit. I would like to talk with this woman to learn more about her feelings and how she has coped with her monotonous work for so long.

  3. Here I go again-ironing once more. As the clothes become unwrinkled my palms are burning and blistering with the heat of it with every swipe of my arm. I hear the door open and slowly close as if debating whether or not it was OK to enter the room that I was in; thinking that once they saw that I was only a woman then they would leave, I kept my head down focused on my work. It wasn’t until I heard the footsteps coming closer to me that I looked up startled. It was just an ordinary girl perhaps 15 years of age looking down with her hands held behind her back as if to shy to meet my eyes, MY eyes. It was nice in a way not having to be the one to look away in inferiority. I placed the iron down and asked her for her name. I heard her softly murmur, “Kate” without lifting her head. When i did not respond right away she began to shuffle her feet in embarrassment, or was it anxiety? I smiled and asked her why she was here; hearing the soft tone of my voice she slowly looked up and smiled sheepishly answering, “I have come to help you work.” I smiled bigger saying, “well then you have come to the right place.” It was nice having a companion and as she came over to the ironing board I passed her a shirt and picked up the iron once more- somehow the day felt brighter as we helped each other and slowly began to build a conversation; neither one of us was able to talk much before and now that we could the conversation flowed effortlessly. As our friendship began to bloom, I murmured to myself, “To think this all happened with ironing,” and as I saw her yawn I smiled thinking to myself, perhaps ironing won’t be so bad anymore-with a little help. (Degas)

    • Nice job, Jessie! You develop a nice dialogue between the two individuals in the painting. The words “murmur,” “shuffle,” and “sheepishly” work well in this context, and I still like the phrase “began to build a conversation,” as I said in class. It appears that they are also building trust.

      Note that when you write dialogue, you need to start a new paragraph each time a new voice speaks. Peek in any story with dialogue to see an example.

  4. I walk into Pablo Picasso’s painting and see a thin, pale woman. Her tired hands and over-worked shoulders show me that she spends long ours leaning over the old and creaky ironing table. She hears me enter and looks up but doesn’t say anything. It’s as if she’s looking right through me; we both feel unnoticed. I can tell how she’s feeling as I observe her more. I can see through the wrinkles and blood-shot eyes, which are not from old age but from stress and lack of rest, that she is overwhelmed with sadness and regrets. She glances out the window every so often, probably thinking about taking a short break to get from fresh air. But there is too much work to do. There is no ring on her finger, meaning she is a single mother working very hard to support her young children at home. She appears to be in deep thought, in the same position as when I walked in, still ironing. Her distracted eyes are darting around now, but they never meet mine again. She needs help, but doesn’t know how to ask. This woman wants me to leave so she can be alone once more.

  5. After ironing my master’s belongings for what seems like days on end, I look up to get my breath stolen away from me. In the old, concrete doorway is a young girl, staring directly at me as if I was a wanted thief. I look into her eyes, stunned at the fact that I actually have a visitor. After gleaming at her, I watch as her eyes drop, almost as if pushed from a cliff. I follow her eyes down with my own, slowly until she stops at my hands. I look down at them with her, and it is almost as if they tell a story. My hands are calloused and dry, looking centuries old. There are ridges in every square inch of my skin, burns, wrinkles, even cuts that soon formed scars. After peering at my hands, I cannot take my eyes off of them. They read a story of an old woman, tireless and broken, with years of ironing inscribed into her. I realize what my life has become. I finally summon my eyes up, back up to the young girl at the doorway. When we make eye contact, she is startled and backs up a few steps. I say, “It is okay. Come.”

  6. When will all of this work be done? I’ve been working for hours but I still have such a large pile left and I know it will grow instead of shrink. My hands are so soar and cramped from holding this iron, my hands hot a burning, my shoulders tense, the muscles cramped; this is how I always feel. I’ve grown so used to this work that it has consumed me. While I’m ironing I don’t have a name, I have a purpose, I am not a women, but an iron. This will always be my fate, to push with all my weight onto this cloth to straighten it out, to smooth the lines, erasing the past to start clean again
    What’s that noise? A person is here, more items for my pile, more memories to erase and secrets to hide. She doesn’t care about me, that’s not why she’s here; she’s here to make me work. I’ll be here ironing when she is sitting comfortably sipping tea, I’ll be here ironing when she eats the supper already on the table for her put out by her parents. I will be here until my work is done. I hope her life does not shadow mine, that she may be free to life as she does now, so full of joy and light. I pray she may grow up to be a women, not an iron.
    Just one more thing added. It only ever grows by one. She dropped her garments into a plain brown bag and smiled at me. Does she think I’m happy to be here in this filthy, cracked, cement cell? Does she think I’m glad to stand here ironing, slowly burning my life away by the ironing board, burning myself constantly? I wish I had the time to smile, I don’t though. I stand here ironing with my hair in my face, my arms aching, my in knots. My pile only ever grows by one. She’s not important, I shouldn’t be thinking about her, I need to think about all this clothing and how I can finish before the sun goes down. Then I can finally go to sleep. When I finally was able to sleep only one thought ran through my head.
    When I wake up, it will only be to another day of ironing.

  7. Picasso’s woman ironing:

    I was quite taken aback when that girl walked in on me ironing. I’ve never had someone willing to accompany me in my misery. I don’t even know where she came from, but I do know that I’m glad to have the pleasure of another human being in my presence. She may be here to offer her help, but then again, who would do that? She’s probably just another tenant that my husband allowed into our house.
    My mind often roams while I’m working to the places and things I had once thought I would’ve seen and experienced at this point in my life and when she walked in with cheeks aglow from the winter cold, it was as if I had been woken out of a dream. My whole life I dreamed of rising out of the poverty and sadness, but here I am, ironing my life away for a man who couldn’t take a second to stop and think about my feelings. When we were first married, we shared the dream of one day getting out of here and spending out lives traveling the world together. Like the dreams of many others before us, we were never able to get enough money to leave this horrid place.
    While he’s off working in the city, I stay at home taking care of the children, cooking, and taking care of the house. The days go by at a turtles pace and I try to remember when we found out about my first pregnancy. We were madly in love, broke, and had come to the realization that we had nowhere else to go, so we decided to raise a family. I can see it like it was yesterday, his beaming smile after I came home with the news, so broad it looked as if it would come off his face, a smile full of the kind of joy he hasn’t shown me in years. A beautiful baby girl, I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life. She was our pride and joy, but as we continued to grow our family, we didn’t have the time to give her the attention she deserved, one of my biggest regrets as I look back.
    The day that she died, a piece of me died as well as a piece of my husband. The love you have for your first-born child is something more special than all else and can never be replaced. We will never again be that family that we once were. Instead of the boisterous fun-loving man that I married all those years ago, he has become a silent, gruff man with not much to say about anything. I long for that man who was once so full of life and adventure, but sadly, I can see that I will never again be able to see that side of my husband. As I stand here ironing, I continue to contemplate the life I had hoped to have and the life that I know I will never be able to enjoy.

  8. Picasso’s Women Ironing Painting:

    Why does this always happen day after day? I stand here ironing my life away. My life is dull, gloomy, and has no excitement to it but yet I still sit here hot as can be in the middle of a December’s Day. My husbands brawny work shirts, my son’s church pants. But yet do they ever thank me? The answer is no. My hands burn and sweat drips off my face. There is so much to be done, but yet I stand over their clothes ironing them, making sure there are no wrinkles to be found, making sure that all of the creases are in perfect alignment. As I stand over their garments my back begins to ache. I’m hunched over, and I can hear my spine telling me “stop take a breath.” But I Simply cannot, it must be done.
    Once I am finished I put my ironer back into the warm coals for tomorrow’s wash. Just as I sit down from all of this exhausting hard work, my husband and son walk in the door, as happy as can be. Just as I took a deep breath they yelled out to me “When is dinner going to be ready?”

Leave a Reply