More than half a century ago, incensed by the housecleaning that was a woman’s chronic lot, Ms. Gabe began to dream of a house that would see to its own hygiene: tenderly washing, rinsing and drying itself at the touch of a button.
“Housework is a thankless, unending job,” she told The Ottawa Citizen in 1996. “It’s a nerve-twangling bore. Who wants it? Nobody!”
And so, with her own money and her own hands, she built just such a house, receiving United States patent 4,428,085 in 1984.
In a 1982 column about Ms. Gabe’s work, the humorist Erma Bombeck proposed her as “a new face for Mount Rushmore.”
Yet her remarkable abode — a singular amalgam of “Walden,” Rube Goldberg and “The Jetsons” — remained the only one of its kind ever built. The reasons, recent interviews with her associates suggest, include the difficulties of maintaining the patent, the compromises required of the homeowner and, just possibly, Ms. Gabe’s contrary, proudly iconoclastic temperament.
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