Things have definitely changed since the 1950's. Our cars are no longer land yachts, rotary dial phones are in museums and computers aren't a monstrosity contained in a laboratory. Of course cloth diapers have evolved in that time as well!
Old fashioned cloth diapers were all one type - big sheets of flannel that were folded in intricate, Origami like fashions to fit onto baby's bum. Today's cloth diapers are as easy as just putting them on the bum, no tricky folding necessary. And because of the availability of different more absorbent fabrics, as well as the invention of materials that didn't even exist back then, our diapers are much trimmer, and don't have to look like baby has a whole load of junk in the trunk.
I am a clutz. Not just occasionally ungraceful, but like four stitches in my hand attempting to cut open a bagel that was already cut open clumsy. Therefore the thought of approaching my precious child with a sharp safety pin that was a necessity in older diapers was truly terrifying. Luckily those are no longer necessary! Most of the diapers today have self-contained closures, like snaps or hook and loop. For those diapers that do need a separate fastener (e.g. prefolds and flats) there are awesome inventions like the Snappi. It has teeth that hook into the diaper and hold it closed without any risk of stabbing your youngun'.
I don't (luckily) have any recollection of wearing these, but I would imagine that a crinkly pair of underwear that closely resembles a shower cap is not overly comfortable. As far as I know, these were mainly available in plain white, so were anything but fashionable. Fast forward to now, when the waterproof portion of most diapers is made of PUL, a soft laminated fabric. In many diaper styles it is built in, so there is no need for a separate cover.
Way back when, before washing machines were invented, all laundry, including diapers, had to be washed by hand. And since there was no such thing as dryers, everything had to be hung to dry, whatever the weather. Obviously the last generation had washing machines, but my mom (who is still young and gorgeous, and reads my blog) clearly remembers having to haul washing out of a laundry tub and through a wringer, so they haven't been around all that long. I'm pretty sure my great grandmother would smack me upside the head if I dared complain about how difficult it is to throw diapers in the machine and press start.
Dirty Diaper Storage
Does anyone with younger siblings remember having a big pail of bleach or vinegar water filled with dirty diapers sitting around? That's how dirty diapers were stored before wash day, and usually involved a strong lumberjack to haul the dirty diapers down to the laundry room. Modern cloth diaper manufacturers now strongly recommend against this system (it can break down fabrics quickly, and is a rather serious drowning hazard) instead recommending a dry pail system. Dirty diapers just go into a pail or pail liner, and wait until wash day. No nasty liquids necessary.
Dealing with poop
Back in the day, there was no other way to deal with poopy diapers other than to dunk and swish them in the toilet. Every household had a designated pair of rubber gloves next to the toilet. We are so lucky now that we have easier ways. Disposable, flushable liners and diaper sprayers make poop disposal a breeze.
Writing this comparison definitely made me appreciate my grandmothers' fortitude, especially the one who raised nine children! They didn't have the option to use disposable diapers (because they weren't invented yet) but they still rocked it, even without all of the modern advancements to make it even easier!