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CCFB News» July 2024

At the Farm GateJosephine and Her Dishwashing Machine

07/02/2024 @ 8:30 am | By Joanie Stiers

On the occasion that the dishwasher is full before supper, we will dine on paper plates. I avoid generating dirty dishes that exceed the dishwasher’s capacity like I avoid snakes. I have a phobia for both.


We run our dishwasher daily. Sometimes twice a day when our daughter has a big job for her home-based bakery business. The appliance brings order to life. The machine spares our family excessive time and water at the kitchen sink. It sanitizes forks and spoons, dries glasses without spots and handles greasy cookware better than humans.


Some people find hand-washing dishes therapeutic. I find it dreadful and rather gain immense satisfaction from strategically filling the dishwasher as full as possible, starting it every night and emptying it every morning. A single night of forgetting to start the dishwasher disrupts the kitchen’s flow and my mental state the next day.


Thank you, Josephine Cochrane, who invented an appliance I can’t live without. Through Illinois Farm Bureau’s Ag in the Classroom program, I learned that this female entrepreneur from Shelbyville, Illinois, invented and marketed the first commercially successful dishwashing machine. The children’s book “Josephine and Her Dishwashing Machine” by Kate Hannigan tells the story of Josephine, who wanted a way to wash her fine china for entertaining guests while avoiding the time and chipping that came with handwashing.


Her dishwashing machine was patented in 1886 and won an award for design and durability at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Restaurants and hotels were early customers, but she died before the appliance gained ground at the consumer level in the 1950s when homes could supply the hot water that the machine demanded.


Nearly 140 years since her patent, my husband has installed several dishwashers, and I prioritize the dishwasher-safe symbol on any new cookware purchase. Cake-decorating tips exit spotless from the top rack. Skillets and stockpots fit well in the bottom, and the capacity has only improved. Two racks of our three-rack model fit 6-quart bowls from stand mixers.


Unfortunately, not all items rate dishwasher safe. Aluminum baking sheets discolor in the dishwasher. Food processor containers melt and misshapen. And rain gauges lose their numbers (I just wanted the grime out of the bottom). But the appliance earns an A+ for removing filth rings from flower vases and preparing label-less peanut butter jars for recycling.




About the author: Joanie Stiers farms with her family, growing corn, soybeans and hay and raising beef cattle and backyard chickens in West-Central Illinois.

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