The Flat Iron
Of all the accoutrements of modern American life, there's one that their great-grandmothers would have found laughable: the dumbbell.
In the last two centuries, 15-pound flatirons taxed the women who used them. The idea that women who didn't have to iron would purchase and pump a set of free weights would have baffled our ancestors.
Typically, women would dedicate one day each week to do the ironing, and they kept several flatirons hot on the stove or in the fire to keep the job moving. The job was so demanding that even less affluent households hired laundresses to do it. They called it the "sad iron."
In the history of the fire-warmed device, the only advancement was the wooden handle, which kept down the rate of burns. The first gas- and coal-powered irons, which relied on internal combustion for heat, sometimes caught on fire or exploded [source: Carter]. Nonetheless, these appliances were welcomed despite the danger.