Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ladies' Facilities in the 1700s to 1900s

Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Loretta reports:

In the course of trying to get a bit more information about this Victorian era public urinal, at the Museum of London, I wound up in a dead end. All I know about it is more or less what I’d learned about the public facilities in Paris.

However, I did discover more about how and where ladies answered Nature’s call during the 18th and 19th centuries. The short answer: It wasn't easy.

These days, we are frustrated by the long lines outside ladies’ lavatories: Why don’t they install more stalls? But at least we can find rather nice facilities. In London, for instance, I found such interesting and elegant ones that I started photographing them.

In the time of my stories, ladies’ public facilities were not so elegant, to the extent that they existed at all.

According to the Museum of London’s feature on Vauxhall Gardens:
“Respectable’ women, in particular, were suddenly in a situation where access to a discreet and reasonably hygienic toilet facility could not be taken for granted. In Vauxhall, a communal women’s privy appears to have existed, and was illustrated in a satirical print by the artist Thomas Rowlandson, although this may be an exaggerated representation – Rowlandson was known for his scatological and titillating images of women. Still, many women – and men – must have taken advantage of the garden’s dark corners and convenient plants.”
The Inside of Lady's Garden at Vauxhall (1788)
Susan has discussed this Rowlandson illustration in detail here. You can read the full Museum of London article here.

It's rather shocking to discover that it wasn’t until the 1920s that busineses began providing accommodations for women . This was also, I notice, about the time that women got the vote.

Rowlandson, Sympathy, or A Family On A Journey Laying The Dust (1784),
Images: Victorian urinal at Museum of London photograph by me; Rowlandson, The Inside of Lady's Garden at Vauxhall (1788), courtesy Yale University Library; Thomas Rowlandson, Sympathy, or A Family On A Journey Laying The Dust (1784), courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


Cherry said...

I grew up about 80 miles from London, with a convenient train ride of about 2 hours to get there. I remember a special day trip taken with my grandmother in 1965, I was just 15 and getting interested in fashion. My grandmother had been a Selfridges shop assistant in her youth and still had a fondness for the city.
Even in those days, the only toilet facilities were at the major stations and in the department stores. So, you went when you got off the train then didn’t drink much. None of this constant “hydrating”! I remember a leisurely pit stop in Selfridges before we headed to our theatre matinee.

Regencyresearcher said...

There is an article on the web about privies and the Opera. I don't have full title and url with me. Quite interesting . It is bad enough using a privy in daylight, doing so at night is scarey for a child -- and probably for adults. Probably where going to the John ion pairs started. One had to watch out for the perverts who hang around them but also for the rats and other critters and bugs that found such places enticing. \It must have been awkward trying to manage with those skirts..

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