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Washerwomen of Danissini, Palermo, early 1900s

In the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the women of Danissini, in downtown Palermo, were renowned launderers for the rich and aristocratic. They took in the counts' and dukes' soiled, frilly white shirts, washed them in the stream you see here and ironed them. Danissini is one of the poorest parts of Palermo. It doesn't even have any city bus stops because there is no place for the bus to turn around. Its one and only day care center was closed years ago. One of my psychologist roommates told me she has treated many victims of incest from that part of town. It is literally a depressed region that was used as a quarry for the stones for the Phoenician walls, Norman Palace, La Zisa, the medieval Norman-Arab pleasure palace, for the cathedral, and in modern times for the Teatro Massimo opera house.

This neighborhood in Palermo's historic center, incredibly, still has a multi-acre farm in it watered by an ancient qanat.
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