Ironing Tragedy

This weeks Sepia Saturday prompt shows women ironing.


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I never thought I would ever research irons in depth. I found irons that were heated on the stove, irons where coal was placed above the plate, gas irons and of course the ones I am familiar with, electric. I’m still trying to get my head around this type of iron. The ones that gas is put into a little ball and then a match is lit to ignite the iron to warm the plate. Below is an example of such a iron.

Photo courtesy of Larry Meeker of Patented Antiques

As you can see, there is an area above the plate with holes. That is where the flame would be heating the iron while ironing. I believe there is a u-shaped element in there where the gas feeds the flame.

So why am I writing about this? Well, I heard a story from my mom about a cousin of grandma. She was in her early 20s when her sleeve caught fire while ironing with a gas heated iron and she died from the burns. I don’t know the brand or model used but found an example of the type of iron that she would have been using. Below is a notice in the Chicago Daily Tribune from June 12, 1916, page 4:


It reads:

Iron Burns Fatal To Girl

Miss Dorothy Wood, 21 years old, of 4064 Oakland crescent, a telephone operator, died in the Lakeside hospital yesterday of burns sustained May 16 when ironing in her home with a heated gas iron.

This little blurb in the newspaper told me a lot more than I already knew. In addition to what can be read, I learned that she lived nearly one month after the accident. She died June 11, 1916. There was an obituary the same day that indicates the wake was at her Uncle Hugh Wilkin’s house and that she was buried at Mount Hope cemetery, Chicago.

Dorothy was an only child born to my 2x Great Aunt Teresa (Tess) McLean and Francis T Wood in the year 1895 in Massachusetts. Her parents divorced shortly after. They lived in Brooklyn, New York when she was young and eventually moved to Chicago, IL where  most of her mom’s family lived. Her mom was a poet and had one book published, Silver Crickets in 1938. One poem stands out surrounding this incident and I would like to end my post with it.

Dorothy 1895-1916

Within a flower -crowded room
The little casket lies
That held the jewel of my heart.
Closed are the deep blue eyes.
The smiling lips no longer weave
Their tender, mystic thrill—-
The little hands are quiet now,
The dear, sweet voice is still.

I gaze upon the form so sweet
That held my jewel here,
I stroke the forehead, white and cold,
But cannot shed a tear,
For somehow in my heart of hearts
I know our lives are planned
By one who holds the universe
Within His loving hand.

I know that life goes on and on
In some celestial place,
And that my dear one, glad and free
Beholds the Father’s face.
And so I will not grieve, lest she
Be hindered on her way;
God has her now and He is love—-
I had her yesterday.

9 thoughts on “Ironing Tragedy

  1. What a sad occurrence, but what a beautiful poem in response. That poem might have been written for me 12 years ago when one of my daughters lay in a coma after a terrible accident. But thankfully, as it turned out, she wasn’t meant to leave us. The poem, however, while surely moving for everyone, is especially meaningful for me because of how close we came to losing our daughter.


  2. Just reading the description of how that iron worked gave me a bad feeling. What a terrible story and such a heartbreaking poem. And we think electric irons are fire hazards!


  3. The story was great. Well put together. I remember my grandmother’s assortment of what she called “sad Irons.” The photo looked very familiar so perhaps she had one of the gas irons as well. She certainly was into ironing, and starching. My favorite was the tiny sad iron. I thought it was for kids, but no, for collars and hard to get to places.


  4. So sad for the girl and the family involved who had lost their only child.. I thought when I heard of gas heated irons that they were dangerous and also could explode. Until the electric iron came onto the market Ironing was such a hazardous task. My guess, their were probably many women with burns on hands and arms.


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