Old Dutch Girl versus Handmaid’s Tale

A wimple is religious head wear. I became interested in wimples after watching A Handmaid’s Tale and finding an ad for the most popular cleaning product of the 1940s and 50s. See the resemblance?


In The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood published in 1985, the handmaids in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian and theocratic state that has replaced the United States of America following after killing the President and most of Congress, are slaves of the ruling fundamentalists. The coup is carried out by a Christian bible thumping movement calling itself the “Sons of Jacob” that suspends the Constitution and immediately abolishes all women’s rights. Because of dangerously low reproduction rates, these handmaids are assigned as breeders to bear children (and do light housework) for elite couples that have trouble conceiving.

The story is told in the first person by Offred (who wears a a Poke Bonnet, or Coal Scuttle Bonnet that was popular in the first half of the 19th century, not a wimple). belonging to a class of women with healthy reproductive systems and, therefore, are enslaved. They are called “handmaids”, based on a biblical story. Offred is a handmaid to Fred Waterford ( “The Commander”) and managed by government-trained overseers called “Aunts”. An award-winning adaptation of the Atwood novel, which just finished its second season, premiered on Hulu three months after the 2016 election.

The handmaids wear crimson cassak-robes and white wimples that cover their heads and obscure their faces. I was struck by the similarity to the  garb for a once ubiquitous trademark the Old Dutch Cleanser girl (below).

The Old Dutch name was born out of a long tradition rooted in Holland, whose residents were renowned for a fanatical preoccupation with immaculate cleanliness. That accounts for all the products in the Old Dutch family bear a label picturing a little Dutch lady brandishing a stick to drive away dust and dirt.

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