Tuesday, July 25, 2017

ODD BITS: Frances Gabe, Inventor of the world's only self-cleaning home, dies at 101

Frances Gabe, Inventor of the world's only self-cleaning home, 
dies at 101

Have you ever wished that your house could just clean itself, or that little
elves would come in while you sleep to do the dusting and washing up?
Well, Frances Gabe brought that fantasy into reality, and in the mid-1950s
invented the world's only self-cleaning house, seen in the photo above.

Gabe lived near Portland, OR and died recently at the age of 101, having remained a wildly creative, cantankerous and eminently quotable woman to the very end.
(By that time, I assume, she had stopped doing her yardwork in the nude,
annoying her neighbors as much as possible. )

"“Housework is a thankless, unending job,” she told The Ottawa Citizen 
in 1996. “It’s a nerve-twangling bore. Who wants it? Nobody!”

Mrs. Gabe shows off a model of her self-cleaning house, 1979.
In addition to being an inventor of numerous labor-saving devices,
she was an accomplished sculptor, ceramist, and jeweler.
She held 68 patents for her inventions, many of them related
to the famed house. 

“You can talk all you like about women’s liberation, but houses are still designed so women have to spend half their time on their knees or hanging their head in a hole,” Ms. Gabe told The Baltimore Sun in 1981. “Housework stuck in my craw even when I was a kid.” A recent NY Times remembrance referred to her
as "equal parts quixotic dreamer and accomplished visionary."

The leisurely life of "the housewife of 2000"...

Gabe's 30 by 45 foot house included: 

A closet that washed and dried clothes 
A kitchen cupboard that functioned as a dishwasher 
Dresser drawers with a “honeycomb” bottom to allow dust to fall  
to a slightly sloping floor and easily wash away. 
A fireplace that hosed its own ashes down a pipe and into the garden.

Her property was sold some years ago, though the house still stands. 
“There’s kind of a hippie guy living there and he likes the place,” a grandson
of hers commented to the NY Times.

Above: A model of Gabe’s house, which was acquired 
by the Hagley Museum in Delaware.
Photo courtesy of Hagley Museum.

A link to an amusing video of life in the self-cleaning house
can be found here.
Written and directed by Lily Benson; Music by Doron Sadja

Just after her divorce (“I didn’t like my husband anymore, so I kicked him out to 
 the backyard,”), Gabe was despondent. She "asked God to give me a big job" 
to take her mind off her troubles. "He gave me a lollapalooza."


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